The Zimbabwe football public cannot wait for March 22 when the Warriors trot onto the National Sports Stadium to finish off the Red Devils of Congo and seal their place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be held in Egypt between 15 June and 13 July.
By MICHAEL KARIATI
The Warriors are only a point away from Egypt 2019 and chances are high that they will make the continental football rendezvous as they currently hold a strong advantage over all their other three rivals.
This is thanks to Norman Mapeza, Tonderai Ndiraya and Mandla Mpofu, for their good work in the 3-0 destruction of Liberia at the National Sports Stadium on June 11, 2017, that gave the Warriors the perfect start they needed.
Thanks too to Sunday Chidzambga, Rahman Gumbo, and Lloyd Mutasa, who continued with Mapeza’s ground work by picking up four points in hostile environments with that 2-1 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo and by another point at home in the 1-1 draw with the DRC at the National Sports Stadium.
The Warriors also managed a 1-1 away draw against Congo Brazzaville and while they lost 1-0 in their last qualifying group match against Liberia in Monrovia, they are on the verge of sealing their second successive Afcon qualification.
Sadly though, the new Zifa leadership headed by Felton Kamambo has decided to thank Gumbo and Mutasa for their good work by relieving them of their duties on the eve of the Warriors’ most crucial game against Congo on March 22.
Surely, it defies logic for one to fire coaches whose team is at the top and two points above their closest rivals with only one game left and for that matter at home. The question is: What exactly did Gumbo and Mutasa do wrong to deserve such drastic action?
The two sacrificed a lot and worked hard for the Warriors to be where they are right now. It is no exaggeration to say that had it not been for their contribution, the Warriors would not have been a point away from making the journey to Egypt.
To get rid of them at this stage when there is only one game left and deprive them of the honour they worked so hard for is not only unfair, but cruel.
After all they did for the Warriors, Gumbo and Mutasa will not be able to accompany the team to Egypt 2019 should the Warriors qualify — that is cruel!
Whoever made this decision should ask himself how he would have felt himself had he been the one in the position that Gumbo and Mutasa are in right now.
In fact, Tonderai Ndiraya and Bongani Mafu — who replaced them — should have turned down Zifa’s offer, contending that Gumbo and Mutasa finish off the
project they started instead of being bestowed with an honour that does not belong to them.
The explanation by Zifa vice-president Gift Banda that they want the Under 23 coach, Ndiraya, to be the assistant Warriors coach does not make any sense.
Where exactly is the connection between the Warriors’ 2019 Afcon campaign, and the Zimbabwe Under-23 team?
Where do the Young Warriors fit in in this senior team’s journey to Egypt?
What happened to the understanding that the national team coach chooses his own assistants? Has that gone with the changes that took place in the Zifa leadership following the December 16 elections?
Should the Warriors qualify for Egypt 2019, the next generation will one day ask: Who took the team to the 2019 Afcon finals? Zifa’s quick answer would surely be Chidzambga, Ndiraya and Mafu, but the truth is that it is Chidzambga, Gumbo and Mutasa.
Whatever, the case is, if this new Zifa leadership is making coaching changes in order to get credit for leading the Warriors to the 2019 Afcon finals, then they are getting it wrong. The whole nation knows where it all started and how it has gone all along since that June 11, 2017 afternoon, when
Mapeza’s side won 3-0.
The nation knows it is Chidzambwa, Gumbo and Mutasa who have put Zimbabwe where it is today and if the team qualifies, it is the trio that will get the credit, not Zifa, nor its newly appointed boys.
In fact, Zifa’s latest coaching appointments have raised eyebrows. Apart from the debate over the sacking of Gumbo and Mutasa, there is also the issue of the appointment of Eddie Chivero as both Under-23 team manager and Warriors liaison officer.
Surely in a country of more than 15 million people, how can one person hold two key positions in two different national teams? The truth is that there is nothing wrong in rewarding people for their role in an election that was won, but that return of favour should not be done so openly.
Right now, the composition of the Warriors or its coaches should not be Zifa’s concern, but to mobilise funds to ensure Zimbabwe’s successful hosting of the crucial 2019 Afcon qualifier against Congo on March 22.
The foreign-based players need money for air fares. The Warriors need money for camping. The Warriors need money for bonuses and allowances. That is where Zifa’s attention should be instead of destabilising a coaching set-up that was operating efficiently.
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