insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
IT is rare that one sings praises of the domestic football controlling body, Zifa, but when they do something good, then credit should be given where it is due.
For the first time in years, there seems to be something positive coming out of 53 Livingstone Avenue as regards the Warriors, and come their back-to-back matches against Algeria’s Desert Foxes — on March 23 and 30 — the Warriors should be ready to rock-and-roll.
The team’s preparations are being treated as a matter of urgency and former team manager Wellington Mpandare has hit the ground running long before the Algerian show and has been in touch with some of Zimbabwe’s Europe-based stars who have confirmed their availability for the matches against the African champions.
What is even heartening is that the football association is willing to bring in any player around the globe the coaches feel they want to have a look at for both the 2021 Nations Cup and the 2022 World Cup.
With a new coach in the form of Croatian Zdravko Logarusic, this development will give the former Sudan coach time to monitor the players who have confirmed their availability and see whether they fit in his plans or not.
Mpandare, who is still handling Warriors matters until a team manager is confirmed has already spoken to Charlton Athletic’s Macauley Bonne and has assured the nation that the goal-scoring sensation would be in Zimbabwe’s colours come the Algerian double show.
In fact, continuity also helps and Mpandare has used his long association with Tino Kadewere to convince the Le Havre striker to come and play despite having recently suffered an injury.
Kadewere recently signed for a new club, Lyon, which is in the top French football tier, Ligue 1, before being loaned back to Le Havre for the remainder of the season.
In most cases, African footballers moving to new clubs are desperate to secure first team places at their new clubs and are reluctant to turn out for their countries in Afcon qualifiers for fear they might get injured.
However, that is not the story with Kadewere and the 24-year-old would — come March 23 — be in full force to try to transfer his club form to the national team.
Mpandare is also aware of possible problems and has also been in touch with Turkish club Yeni Malatyaspor to ensure the release of Teenage Hadebe after what happened the last time when the player’s return to Turkey — after doing duty for the Warriors — was delayed after pages in his passport ran out.
It should be placed on record that most of the players in the Warriors set up were part of the Young Warriors when Mpandare was the Zimbabwe Under-23 team manager and as such he has built a good relationship and has also built good ties with their clubs.
Sadly, though, Tendayi Darikwa of English Championship side Nottingham Forest whom Mpandare has been speaking to regularly is once again not available as he has not recovered from the injury that forced him out of the last two Warriors games.
What is happening with the Warriors right now is a departure from the past when players and their clubs were contacted at the last minute only to realise that the player was injured or did not have a Zimbabwean passport as was the case with Bradley Pritchard in 2012.
The player travelled all the way from England only to be told at the National Sports Stadium that he could not turn out for Zimbabwe using the British passport he possessed.
Zifa are also aware that too many changes bring with them a lot of problems, and have also stuck with the trusted trio of Joey Antipas, Lloyd Chitembwe and Tonderai Ndiraya as assistants to Logarusic, who is now in Zimbabwe to take up his new post.
Although there are still problems to be sorted out between Chicken Inn and Zifa over Antipas’ availability and the position of team manager, Zifa president Felton Kamambo has promised these would be sorted soon.
The truth is that Logarusic or Loga — as some might want to call him — does not know the Zimbabwean players all that well and admitted he will have to rely on those who have been there to pick up his team.
“I have heard a lot about the coaches who have been with the team. They have achieved something and I hope they will give me the support I need. Together, we will achieve something,” said Logarusic.
This gives the impression that there won’t be too many changes from the team that picked up four points in the goalless draw against Botswana and the 2-1 win over Zambia, and moved to second place, two points behind the Algerians.
Three or even two points from the two games against the North Africans would put the Warriors in an even stronger position to qualify for Cameroon 2021.
So far, the build-up to Algeria has been good, but Zifa also need to make the players and their coaches happy by ensuring that their bonuses and allowances are at hand and that their stay in camp would be problem free.
That there are two matches in a space of 10 days means the team would be in camp for a bit longer, which would demand extra financial resources.
Just like what they are doing with the players, Zifa should also hit the ground running right now with regards to seeking sponsorship for the team.
The national football federation should also not forget that they owe some people — some of whom have stuck with them despite their payment problems.
The home match against Algeria needs to be handled with the utmost professionalism because it presents Zifa with the opportunity to make money and reduce some of their debts.
There should be no excuse for failure to capitalise on revenue because the fans will be there in their thousands to rally behind their beloved Warriors as well as also watch one of Africa’s top players — Riyad Mahrez in action right on their door step.
As things stand right now Felton Kamambo and partners cannot claim that they qualified the Warriors to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals because the groundwork was done by Phillip Chiyangwa and crew.
So they need to write their own piece of history by qualifying the Warriors not only to the 2021 Nations Cup, but also to the 2022 World Cup — so far, they seem to be on the right path.
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