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Lessons from Liverpool

insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI

THE euphoria of Zimbabwe Gems’ splendid show at the 2019 Vitality World Cup might have died down, but the lessons from Liverpool are still echoing in all the four corners of the country, and will remain so for as long as sport lives in Zimbabwe.

Neglected before departure for Liverpool in favour of the Warriors, the Gems defied all odds and finished eighth overall when the government’s only financially supported team, the Warriors, was suffering humiliation at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.

It was a long and successful journey which brought the lesson that all national teams should be treated equally, and should be given the same financial
support, irrespective of gender or the sporting discipline they represent, be it football, volleyball, or table tennis.

In fact, sports analysts and critics alike have suggested that the Zimbabwean government should have a policy to bankroll all national teams that participate
in competitions like the World Cup, the World Championships, the Olympic Games and other international engagements.

Apart from the same Warriors who went to the 2004, 2006, 2017 and 2019 Africa Cup of Nations without success, the authorities do not have a history of
bankrolling any other national team or individual Zimbabwean sportsmen on the international stage.

Even top boxer, Charles Manyuchi had to relocate to Zambia after failing to get financial support in Zimbabwe. While fighting in Zambia under Oriental Boxing
Promotions, Manyuchi won the World Boxing Council’s silver belt, and the Africa Boxing Union title and that credit went to Zambia, as the boxer was regarded as
Zambian by the international world.

What is more disheartening is the fact that 39 years after admission to international sport, most Zimbabwean sporting associations do not have offices and
operate their sporting business from the boot of cars of their leadership.

Yet there are offices that can accommodate most if not all of the sporting associations affiliated to the Sport and Recreation Commission at the government
owned National Sports Stadium at the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation’s expense.
That is the model in England where all sporting associations are housed under the same building with the badminton association next to the chess federation,
and then the tennis association, but not necessarily in that order.

Upon appointment of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation minister, Kirsty Coventry promised to meet all sporting associations and look at what exactly their
grievances are, “I would like to reach out to all sporting associations to find out what their challenges are and see If there are things I can change,”
pledges Coventry.

However, a year later, the challenges of sport in the country still remain the same. The Zimbabwe’s kick boxers are still borrowing equipment from their competitors in international tournaments. A number of national teams are also withdrawing from international participation due to non-availability of funds.

Those who have managed to compete internationally have been doing so with limited finances and the results have been there for everyone to see as they are
being hit left, right, and centre.

Those associated with sport suspect that industry’s neglect has something to do with the top echelon of the country’s political leadership which has always
seen no value in bankrolling sport.

Instead of being delighted with the manner the Gems made good the nation’s name at the World Cup, the girls received a lukewarm welcome as evidenced by their
welcome home party that did not have the presence of senior members of government.

The question is: Why has Zimbabwe government been so resistant to change in its approach to sport? — The nation waits for answers.

No to three-coach band!

Word that the Zimbabwe Football Association is considering a three-man band of Lloyd Chitembwe, Joey Antipas and Norman Mapeza as joint national team coaches
has been spreading like a veld fire since the day Sunday Chidzambga threw in the towel.

If this is true, the Warriors of Zimbabwe are headed for a further fall as coaches with the same pride and ego as Mapeza, Antipas and Chitembwe cannot —with
equal powers — successfully work together even for the national team.

The three coaches have been successful in their own right and the question is who will have power over team selection, training, and substitution, as all of
them would want to have their decision to be final as to who is called to camp and who is to play.

Zimbabwe’s well documented football history is littered with such incidents which prove that such an arrangement does not work, the latest being what happened
in 2011 when Zifa came up with this funny idea of having Mapeza and Madinda Ndlovu as joint coaches of the Warriors.

The results were a disaster as the two clashed not only over team selection, but also on substitutions and the Warriors — who could easily had won the group —
lost out 2-1 to Cape Verde who went on to qualify for the finals which were held in South Africa.

Winding back to 1991, the Warriors had three coaches, Amando Ferreira, Ben Koufie, and Ashton Nyazika, and that too was a disaster as goalkeeper, John Sibanda’s last minute blunder gifted Congo Brazzaville an equaliser which they needed to qualify for the finals which were to be held in Senegal.

The coaches ended up blaming one another as to who had made the decision to field Sibanda at the expense of Peter Fanwell who had been the Warriors’ first
choice goalkeeper before the deciding match.

Then in 1995, Zifa had Gibson Homela, as national team coach, Reinhard Fabisch as technical advisor, and Rudi Gutendorf as technical director, and that too did
not work as Gutendorf felt he should be in charge while Zifa insisted Homela had overall control.

“All over the world, the system is that one man should be in charge, but here we have to consult each other when we make substitutions. That is a very
unprofessional way of doing things,” complained Gutendorf, a former coach of Bayern Munich, where he coached the great Kevin Keegan.

Such ridiculous suggestions of a three-man coach for the Warriors in their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and 2022 World Cup journey are not good for Zimbabwean
football and Zifa should stick to internationally proven practice that one man should be in charge of the Zimbabwe national team.

After all, the Warriors qualified for the 2004, 2006, 2017 and 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals under the control of one coach with Sunday Chidzambwa in 2004,
Charles Mhlauri in 2006, Kalisto Pasuwa in 2017, and Chidzambwa again in 2019, and in 1994, nearly qualified for the World Cup under Reinhard Fabisch.

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers are just around the corner in November and those in the driving seat at 53 Livingstone Avenue should move fast in
coming up with a coach who should handle the Zimbabwean team instead of the Mickey Mouse arrangements of interim coaches.

Algeria are the Africa champions, Zambia have improved greatly, and Botswana cannot easily be discounted, and Zifa, should ensure that everything — including
player bonuses — is in place to avoid a repeat of the scenes in Egypt. Without being repeatedly boring, the first thing to do right now, should be to appoint a
substantive senior national team coach.

For your comments, views and suggestions, email mkariati@gmail.com or WhatsApp on 077 3 266 779.

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