It is rare that one speaks in glowing terms about the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), but credit should, however, be given where it is due.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
Although there have been problems like the passports issue for the Britain-based players, this time around problems have been fewer compared to what Zifa have done in the past ahead of today’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo Brazzaville.
The national football federation did everything they could to give the Warriors a conducive environment for them to succeed in this match and it is now up to the players themselves to deliver the required results.
Most, if not all, the players received their air tickets to come to Zimbabwe for camp in time. These included players who were nursing injuries, but got the chance to be assessed by the Warriors’ doctors before they could be declared fit to play or not fit enough to feature for the team.
The Warriors were also accommodated at a three-star hotel instead of the sub-standard Zifa Village, and the association have come out in the open that the players’ bonuses are guaranteed should they win against the Congo.
The players themselves have this time around not raised a word about their allowances in camp as has been customary over the past few years.
Even national team coach Sunday Chidzambwa has not complained of non-payment of his salary since December 13, 2017, when he was appointed to take charge of the team to replace Norman Mapeza, who was there on a caretaker basis following the departure of Kalisto Pasuwa.
In the run-up to today’s game, the entire Zifa board was also at the Warriors training session at the National Sports Stadium on Wednesday in what Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa said was a gesture aimed at giving the players “moral support”.
Whether this was a campaign gimmick for the forthcoming Zifa board elections is something else, but one thing for sure is that it raised the players’ spirits ahead of the game which they need to win or draw in order to keep themselves in the run for a place at the finals in Cameroon.
What was important was to keep the Warriors focused on the game and whatever the result will be today, it has nothing to do with the shambolic preparations that have always been associated with the Warriors in the past as a result of the administrative shortcomings at the football headquarters.
What was also heartening was the fact that the same improved Warriors treatment was also extended to the women’s team, the Mighty Warriors, who were in camp for the 2018 Cosafa Cup, who this time did not complain of poor food or bad treatment.
This sudden change in the manner the national teams are being treated should not begin and end there, but should remain the day- to-day life of all Zimbabwe national soccer teams whenever they are in camp for such international engagements.
This should also include the junior teams — the Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 teams — for both the women and men because that is where the future of Zimbabwean football lies.
It is now up to the Warriors to complement the efforts made by the authorities by picking up at least a point from Congo Brazzaville and put themselves in good standing ahead of the remaining matches.
With two teams now qualifying from this group, a point or an outright win would leave the Democratic Republic of Congo as the Warriors’ serious competitors for topping the group.
A draw or a win in Congo Brazzaville would also leave the Warriors with a strong chance of taking the second qualifying spot as they would only need to win their two home matches to guarantee themselves qualification.
The Warriors should also take revenge for that elimination in 1991 when Congo denied Zimbabwe their first ever appearance at the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Needing an outright win to qualify, a hideous error by goalkeeper John Sibanda allowed Congo to equalise a few minutes before the end of the game to send the Warriors crashing out.
After all that happened in the run-up to the Congo game, there should be no excuses for failure on the part of the Warriors, even though they are missing some vital cogs of their machine.
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