By Lawrence Tichaona Mangenje
The South Africa national soccer team shocked it’s ever-demanding faithful last week, by failing to qualify for Afcon 2021.
Bafana Bafana succumbed to a 0-2 defeat to Sudan in the last qualifier and will for the second time in the last three Afcon finals, not take part in the continental spectacle — a shocking reality considering the vast resources at their disposal.
The Molefi Ntseki-coached side went into battle for a ticket in Cameroon with all the arsenal needed, including Brighton and Hove’s Percy Tau, when many African sides, including Zimbabwe, did not have their England-based stars owing to harsh Covid-19 travelling laws enforced by the UK government.
In sharp contrast, the Warriors, given the supposed scarcity of funds at Zifa, very little time to prepare and unavailability of regular star players like Marvelous Nakamba, Tendayi Darikwa, Tino Kadewere, Marshall Munetsi and Khama Billiat due to travelling restrictions and injury respectively, booked a place and will be at the showpiece, for the third consecutive time.
It can then be concluded that the Warriors can do much more if they prepare better for football matches, especially before and during the Afcon finals.
Football commentator Charles Mabika even opines that they can even go all the way and win the tournament if they prepared better.
“Well done to Loga and the troops for another qualification at Afcon! With the proper preps and sound planning guys, we can win this thing!,” wrote Mabika on microblogging site Twitter.
Whether or not the veteran broadcaster’s assertion is justified, what cannot be questioned is the fact that he believes in the quality of players we have in the Warriors fold.
Zdravko Logarusic’ troops prepared for the decisive Botswana game for just three days yet the Zebras, who were also showered with bonuses prior to it, had three weeks to prepare.
Even pre-match frustrating tactics employed by the Botswana officials, who were playing hide-and-seek with the Warriors’ Covid-19 results, could not stop them from grabbing the crucial three points, which came courtesy of a solitary Perfect Chikwende first half header.
Zimbabwe’s participation at the Afcon finals in recent years has been marred by off-field problems.
Preparations for the 2017 edition in Gabon saw a stand-off over money between Warriors players and Zifa, then led by Philip Chiyangwa, and the regrettable setback repeated itself at the 2019 finals in Egypt, under current president Felton Kamambo.
If the aforesaid problems could have been avoided, maybe we wouldn’t have the record of appearing at the continental extravaganza four times and never going beyond the group stages.
Unlike in the past, Zifa should simply ensure preparations start on time and then run smoothly.
The Kamambo-led board should work hand-in-glove with all stakeholders in making sure that the team is well-equipped for the finals, which have been moved to January next year due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The postponement should not be a blessing in disguise for Zifa to put their house in order.
Players need to be remunerated accordingly for them to only focus on playing the game, rather than spending precious time quarrelling over money.
Kamambo and his men should also cast a deaf ear on the debate regarding Loga’s tactical prowess, but should instead give the firebrand Croat all that he needs, especially friendly games with competitive teams, to fine-tune preparations for both the Afcon finals and World Cup qualifiers.
Zimbabwe doing well in Cameroon or en-route to Qatar is not wishful thinking, but simply dependent on preparations.