Local football governing board Zifa has set the Warriors the Herculean target of winning this year’s African Nations Championship (Chan) tournament – failure which could spell the end of head coach Kallisto Pasuwa.
Zimbabwe leave Harare for Rwanda to participate at Chan 2016 on January 12.
The Warriors, from the Under-17 level to the senior side, have never won a continental football tourney. The closest they came was the 2014 Chan semi-final appearance in South Africa.
Pasuwa was part of that impressive 2014 run that was cruelly halted by eventual winners Libya via the penalty lottery. Then, he was first assistant to coach Ian Gorowa.
Pasuwa has won the Premiership four times and has had an impressive stint with the national Under-23 and senior sides, guiding the former to the All-Africa Games and the latter to the summit of Group L of the Afcon qualifiers.
His reputation for grinding results under the most hostile circumstances is not without basis – but the latest target set for him could prove a bar too high to jump.
Zifa has not arranged a single friendly international for the team to fine tune ahead of Chan, and preparations have been thrown into disarray following the strange decision to fire and re-hire Pasuwa just weeks before the tournament.
Zifa High Performance Committee chair and board member Edzai Kasinauyo said football’s governing body nonetheless wanted Pasuwa to bring the title home, but would not say what would happen to the gaffer should he fail to meet their expectation.
“Yes, that (winning Chan) is the target we have set the team,” confirmed the former Warriors midfielder.
“For now I don’t want to say what will happen to the coach or anybody should we fail because if I do what that means is we are not confident of attaining our goal and by extension we are preparing for failure.
“Let’s instead talk about winning the tournament because that is what we want,” said Kasinauyo.
A Zifa source told The Sunday Mail Sport that should Pasuwa fail to land the Chan trophy, he would be shown the exit door.
“The board wants that tournament won at all costs. If Pasuwa fails to bring the title he will be back on the job market,” said the source.
“Look, the association has told you officially that they have communicated to the coach that they want gold. What more confirmation do you want that they will fire him if he fails?” insisted another.
The former Dynamos coach was yesterday not taking calls on his mobile but had previously stated his ambition to win Chan with the Warriors.
However, questions will linger as to whether or not this is a realistic target considering the lack of experience in the playing arsenal and the highly disruptive lead up to the tourney.
With Captain Danny Phiri out, his replacement Hardlife Zvirekwi is the only surviving member of the 2014 campaign. Winger Hillary Bakacheza, Tafadzwa Kutinyu and defender Teenage Hadebe have been withdrawn.
The national association have offered Pasuwa a contract worth US$3 000 a month, a figure below what some eight local Premier League coaches get.
Pasuwa’s manager Gibson Mahachi confirmed meeting the association on Friday evening but said he would only comment on the contract talks after meeting the coach.
On the bright side, midfielder Ronald “Rooney” Chitiyo – who missed training on Tuesday with ankle and back injuries – was back in the thick of things and trained normally with the squad on Friday.
Striker Rodreck “The Prince” Mutuma and hardman Gerald “General” Takwara missed training yesterday with a bout of flu, but were expected to be back in training today. Mutuma also had a troublesome tooth taken off but was in good spirits yesterday.
The Warriors open their Chan 2016 campaign with a tricky fixture against neighbours Zambia on January 19.
Chipolopolo are camping in South Africa and coach George Lwandamina has included the 2012 Afcon winning duo of captain Christopher Katongo and veteran Isaac Chansa in his Rwanda-bound squad.
On January 23 Pasuwa’s men face West African giants Mali before rounding off their group fixtures with a date against Uganda on the 27th.
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