Inside sport with MICHAEL KARIATI
The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has finally settled on the trio of Joey Antipas, Lloyd Chitembwe and Tonderai Ndiraya to steer the Warriors ship across the waters of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
It was the best choices Zifa could come up with considering the wealth of football experience the three coaches have and the level of success they have achieved on the domestic scene.
Antipas has two league championships under his belt — with Motor Action in 2010 and with Chicken Inn in 2015 — while Chitembwe won his with CAPS United in 2016 and also helped the Harare club reach the group stages of the Caf Champions League in 2017.
What is even heartening is the fact that Zifa extended overtures to Zimbabwe’s top local coach, Norman Mapeza, but were discouraged from pursuing further by a financial problem which they themselves did not create.
Zifa have given Antipas, Chitembwe and Ndiraya up to December 31 when they would be in charge of the World Cup qualifier against Somalia and the Afcon matches against Botswana.
While the choice of coaches cannot be questioned, questions, however, have come up as to whether these appointments were done transparently or were influenced by some factors. Chitembwe was with CAPS United when the appointment came, and goalkeepers’ coach is Kembo Chuma from Highlanders, while Ndiraya is with Dynamos, the three most followed teams in the country.
Were Zifa trying to win the support of the fans of the popular teams in the wake of the fire that is burning in their house after the Afcon debacle in Egypt?
By appointing coaches who are employed elsewhere and are well looked after by their employers, were Zifa running away from appointing a full-time coach whom they would have the obligation to pay a salary?
That is not all. By giving Antipas, Chitembwe and Ndiraya, a short period of four months, wasn’t this a sign of lack of confidence in the same people they appointed? If they really believed in what Antipas is capable of doing, why then didn’t they give him the chance to begin and end his own Afcon and World Cup campaign?
The question is: What will happen to Antipas should he win all his games between now and December 31? Will Zifa ask him to leave? Obviously, no, but would, in fact, be forced to give the coach more time with the Warriors.
This system of appointing coaches on an interim basis does not work. What will then happen should Antipas fail to deliver the required results? He will obviously get fired and another interim coach brought into the fray.
This would mean the Warriors starting all over again under a new coach and under a new style of play and for that matter in the middle of a tournament, something that does not guarantee success in the end.
How do you expect a coach to concentrate fully on his national team assignment when he has a job elsewhere where he risks losing his livelihood should things not work out due to national team distractions?
What Zifa should do is to appoint a coach on a long-term contract, and with specific targets. If it is to qualify for the Afcon, then let it be. If it is to qualify for the World Cup, then let it be and let the coach run his race until the last game of the campaign.
The fact that Sunday Chidzambwa has not complained of non-payment of his salary during and after the days he was with the Warriors means the national football controlling body has the money and can afford to pay their own coach.
If Zifa are really serious about Antipas, then the football federation should offer him a contract to run and complete his 2021 and 2022 World Cup journeys in the same way, they did for Chidzambwa, and Kalisto Pasuwa before him.
Zimbabwe are in a tough 2021 Afcon group that also includes 2013 champions Zambia and reigning Africa champions Algeria and the task at hand demands seriousness rather that the experiments with coaches.
Going with what is there so far, the coaches are there — albeit on interim basis — the players are also there but what is not yet there are the finances which Zifa should ensure are available before the Warriors’ World Cup opener against Somalia early next month.
Zifa should also be reminded that it is this issue of finances that caused the national embarrassment in Egypt that nearly destroyed the whole 2019 Afcon tournament.
The nation is still nursing the wounds of the Warriors’ disastrous 2019 Afcon campaign and Zifa will this time around have no one to blame but themselves should the Warriors fall in the same dramatic way they did in Egypt.
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