The next two months will probably be the busiest for the Warriors’ 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) route, which starts off on September 7 with a date away against Congo Brazzaville that will be followed by another trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on October 10.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
The DRC will return the Warriors’ visit on October 13 when they make the trip to the National Sports Stadium as Zimbabwe seek to make a second successive appearance at the Afcon finals.
The three matches — and the fourth away to Liberia that will come later on November 16 — will give a rough idea as to where the Warriors stand with regard to qualification for the continental football festival to be held in Cameroon in June 2019.
Although Zimbabwe will finish off their campaign in Congo Brazzaville way off on March 22, 2019, it is the three games that will come in September and October, which will be pivotal in determining Zimbabwe’s future in the four-team contest.
From the outset, the DRC are Zimbabwe’s biggest competitors in this group and if the Warriors can pick up at least four points from the Central Africans and three points from the trip to Congo Brazzaville and maximum points from their tour of Monrovia, they could get closer to qualification.
That is easier said than done unless those in authority are willing to change in the way they are doing their business and, more importantly, if the players themselves believe they can qualify for Afcon for the second time running following their romance in Gabon in 2017.
It is a fact that Zimbabwe need their best players for this journey but word that the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) are still making efforts to acquire passports for the likes of Tendai Darikwa, Admiral Muskwe, McCauley Bonne and Adam Chicksen does not show seriousness.
After agreeing to play for Zimbabwe way back in December, it would have been expected that by now, their passports would have been processed or, at least, a lot of headway would have been made with regard to the matter.
September 7 is not far away and with the way things are going, it would not be surprising to hear that the passports are not ready a few days before the Warriors’ departure for Kinshasa.
Zifa should move fast, not only as regards the passports issue, but also in making sure that all the players earmarked for the games are contacted and their air tickets are on the table.
The national football federation should also put in place measures to ensure that funds are available, not only for camping, but also for player bonuses.
There is no need for the national team to continue staying at the mice-infested, one-roomed five- bed Zifa Village or for the Warriors to stage sit-ins for non-payment of dues when there is leadership that should be taking care of their welfare.
There are a lot of companies out there willing to bankroll the Warriors, but what is required is the right approach and the right people to catch their attention. If modest Castle Lager Premier Soccer League teams like Chapungu and Black Rhinos can get themselves sponsors, why not the Zimbabwe national team?
This is the time to put everything in shape for the Warriors instead of waiting for a week or so before the game to start mobilising resources.
Former Bayern Munich coach Rudi Gutendorf during his first visit to Zimbabwe in 1989 said: “The national team is the pride and display window of the nation. There is nothing that can thrill the millions out there than the success of their national team in international football.”
On that premise, the results of the Warriors in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers could also have a strong bearing on the Zifa elections that will come on December 1.
Almost the entire Zifa leadership has indicated they would be seeking re-election in the December 1 polls. By then, the Warriors would have played four matches — two against the DRC, one against Congo Brazzaville and the other against Liberia.
The Warriors’ position on the road to the 2019 Afcon would also be clear by that time. Elimination would count heavily against those seeking re-election, while qualification would be a big plus to their campaign.
Others, however, could use the way the Warriors are treated during this period to their advantage. That is the politics of football.
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