Inside sport with MICHAEL KARIATI
THERE are a lot of talking points in Zimbabwean football right now, but the most topical issue has been around the kit that the Warriors will use at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals, which looks like one for a foreign team.
Although kits do not play the game, teams all over the world are recognised by their identity, which comes in the form of their kit, which unfortunately will no longer be the case for the Warriors of Zimbabwe, who this time around, will be in stripped yellow and red colours.
In fact, the Warriors will be the only team at the 24-nation African football festival who will not be recognisable by their national flag colours to the extent that even their own followers will find it difficult to adapt to the new team colours.
Some from other parts of Africa might even mistake the Warriors for Esperance of Tunisia, who have a long association not only with similar colours, but with the same type of kit and are known as the Blood and Golds because of their stripped yellow and red colours.
One Zimbabwean football follower took to social media to jokingly suggest that whoever made that kit decision for Zifa was, in fact, a Barcelona fan and seemed to have been thinking of the Catalan giants when he made the kit choice for Zimbabwe. Barcelona have an identical kit which they use for their away games.
What is disturbing is the timing of the introduction of the new design, coming at a time when the Warriors are about to depart for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, raising questions about whether the players will feel comfortable in their newly-adopted dressing.
All over the world, a team kit means a lot for both the players and supporters and, more importantly, for a national team because its national flag colours are the pride, and the display window of the nation.
“The Warriors’ home kit was inspired by Zimbabwe’s traditional yellow with an added modern twist, using a mix of solid and gradient vertical stripes,” read a statement from the Zimbabwe Football Association.
The football governing body argues that the new Warriors’ kit was influenced by the need for a change and that Zimbabwean football followers and the nation at large would later on accept, like, and live with the new order.
That, however, is unlikely to be easy as the new kit has not been well-received by the football-loving public who feel that the yellow and red stripes are detached from the Warriors and, worse still, do not have anything in common with the kit of any other Zimbabwean national sports team.
In fact, Zimbabwe football followers are unanimous in their agreement that this jersey does not appeal to the Warriors of Zimbabwe as there is nothing Zimbabwean about it at all.
William Mahoko, a member of the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters’ Association, even suggested that if Zifa really needed to change the current kit, then they should have gone back and reintroduced the kit that was used by Reinhard Fabisch’s Dream Team, which, to him, was distinctly Zimbabwean with its Zimbabwean flag across the front.
What boggles the mind is: Why after 39 years, Zifa would change a brand that the Warriors have been known for on the international front for decades? How wide were their consultations to come to the conclusion that yellow and red vertical stripes are the best for the Warriors?
Did Zifa also look at the fact that the decision to change the Warriors colours was a business decision that would also have a say on how their replica jerseys would sell?
In conclusion, if there was need for change, then that change should have, in fact, not been in the design of the national team jersey, but in increased supply of replica jerseys for the millions of Warriors fans.
It is a fact that in every place — and everywhere — new leaders always want to be seen to be doing something by introducing changes, but if those changes are not necessary, it is better that they are left out.
The truth is that whatever good intentions Zifa had in trying to bring about change, they made a mess of it and they need to go back to the drawing board and see how best they can rescue the situation. The Nations Cup is still far away, and Zifa still have time, to make things right.
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