Zimbabwe’s Warriors are out of the 2021 Africa Nations Championships (Chan) in what could turn out to be the team’s worst showing since 2009.
Defeat against the Eagles of Mali — this evening — will see Zdravko Logarusic’s class of 2021 rank as Zimbabwe’s worst representatives at Chan — worse than Kalisto Pasuwa’s group of 2017 that came back home with a single point.
The Warriors fans do not even have to pull out their calculators to work out the permutations of the possibility of their team progressing as even a win won’t be enough to catch up with Mali or Cameroon who are already on four points.
Obituary writers are putting up the final touches to their script, but it would be dishonest to connect the Warriors’ failure to Covid-19 because all the teams at Chan 2021 were affected by the pandemic.
The Warriors are rock-bottom of Group A with no point from two matches. Cameroon and Mali are on four points while Burkina Faso have three points following their 3-1 win over Zimbabwe.
Although some of us did not see it, there are many who believe that the position the Warriors are in at Chan has long been coming.
They are of the opinion that the Warriors did not stand a chance at the competition as they last kicked a ball in a competitive match on November 16, 2019, when the curtain came down on the Premier Soccer League.
Who can disagree with their line of thinking? Taking into consideration that the Warriors’ first game in Cameroon came on January 16, 2021, simple mathematics would translate the Warriors’ period of inactivity to one year and two months.
The question is: What did we do to keep our players active during that period even in the limited time that was provided during the Covid-19 crisis ?
Why did it take us so long to pick up and assemble our team when we were selecting our squad on the basis of their 2019 performance?
Didn’t we have the chance to gather our team in August when the government lifted the ban on sporting activities, but decided to waste four months of training by assembling the team way after in November?
In fact, we could have been talking of the Chan adventure in glowing terms had the football authorities not paid too much attention to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) team forgetting that the Chan team was also important and needed to be driven.
Would it not have been of benefit had those running our football used the friendly match against the Flames of Malawi to fine-tune the Chan team than calling in the likes of Khama Billiat and Marvelous Nakamba ?
It is debatable whether the Chan team could have done better with international friendly matches, but there was nothing wrong in trying to play close-by against Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia, who had also qualified for Chan.
Fine, we might put Covid-19 as the obstacle to those plans, but how did the other teams manage to play their friendly matches under the same circumstances?
Surely, postmortems are important and those who run our football have learnt one or two things from Chan 2021. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that there are other serious international engagements that lie ahead.
There are the 2021 Afcon and the 2022 World Cup qualifiers to take care off, and the build-up to those should begin as soon as possible.
The Warriors’ performance at Chan has also raised questions over whether Zifa made the right decision in bringing in Logarusic to take charge of our Warriors.
Although there are mitigating factors in his team’s showing, doubting Thomases are growing by each day over the Croat’s ability to take the Warriors to the promised land. The fact remains that we invited Logarusic here at a fee to help us and help us he should. He has to be told in no uncertain terms that he does not belong here should Zimbabwe fail to succeed in the assignments standing in his way.
He has Afcon 2021 and World Cup 2022 to make things right and redeem the pride that was lost at Chan. Or else, he will find himself on the next plane home and once again looking for another job.
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