The Sunday Mail
WARRIORS interim coach Norman Mapeza has ended the uncertainty that had engulfed the set-up of his backroom staff ahead of Zimbabwe’s Africa Cup of Nations finals campaign in Cameroon next month.
It has emerged that The FC Platinum gaffer has kept faith with the pair of Taurai Mangwiro and Mandla Mpofu as well as goalkeepers’ trainer Energy Murambadoro with the only addition to the technical bench being former Zimbabwe striker Benjani Mwaruwari.
Although a decision to retain Mapeza had long been agreed upon by the ZIFA board before their suspension by the Sport and Recreation Commission on November 16, an air of confusion seemed to have gripped the senior team set up following some reports that the coach was set to choose new assistants.
ZIFA’s day to day affairs are currently being run by the secretariat and not the board as should be the norm in international best practices.
It also emerged that Mwaruwari will sit on the Warriors bench by virtue of him being the recommended Under-23 coach.
Mapeza’s initial contract with ZIFA had expired on November 30, with the former captain having been tasked with completing the last four matches of the Warriors’ doomed World Cup qualifying campaign.
Despite a winless run in those remaining four games, Mapeza was granted the mandate to continue to be in charge of the national team and on Thursday, the ZIFA secretariat issued a statement confirming that the coach would be leading the Warriors at the Nations Cup.
The suspended board then sought to add more confusion to the Warriors preparations on Friday when they disowned both the secretariat and Mapeza’s appointment.
In a move that has widely been viewed as an act of sabotage driven by selfish interests, suspended ZIFA president Felton Kamambo and board member finance Philemon Machana having been leading the fight against the SRC suspension.
But to their credit, the secretariat have worked to ensure football continues to function despite the on-going tiff between the Sports Commission and the ZIFA board.
Yesterday, the secretariat, who have also struck a deal with Aston Villa over the release of Marvelous Nakamba for the Nations Cup and have noted the withdrawals of such key players like Tendayi Darikwa from the tournament, confirmed that Mapeza had retained his lieutenants for the Cameroon tour of duty.
“Norman Mapeza is coming back with the technical team he worked with during the World Cup qualifiers and Benjani Mwaruwari is coming in as the third assistant coach by virtue of him being the recommended Under-23 coach.
“It is the norm that the Under-23 coach sits on the senior national team bench, the same way the Under-20 coach sits on the Under-23 bench,” the secretariat said.
Former Portsmouth and Manchester City forward Mwaruwari is already in the country and is expected to join his colleagues when the AFCON camp begins in Harare on December 23.
Apart from Darikwa who pulled out on personal grounds, the Warriors are set to be without the injured pair of Marshall Munetsi and Brendan Galloway.
Tendai Masvanhise, who is on the books of Leicester’s junior side, is a major doubt as he is yet to secure a Zimbabwean passport.
National teams’ general manager, Wellington Mpandare, confirmed the developments adding that Masvanhise is yet to make good his application for a Zimbabwean passport.
“Because of his busy schedule Tendai has not been able to go to the Embassy (in London) to kick start the passport process.
“I am sure you are also aware that we have other players like Darikwa, Munetsi and Galloway who are not part of the squad,” he said.
Mpandare and his colleagues are set to face a busy schedule in the coming weeks as the Warriors preparations move a gear up.
The Warriors, who are in Group B, open their account with a date against Sadio Mane’s Senegal on January 10 before playing the Malawi Flames four days later.
They will complete their group fixtures with a clash against Guinea on January 18.
Despite the boardroom problems that have rocked the game, the Warriors are still expected to atone for their poor World Cup show with a better performance at the Nations Cup.
Zimbabwe have never gone beyond the group stage at the Nations Cup and have actually been on a slide in terms of overall performance at the tourney.
On their debut in 2004, they registered a win in their group games and repeated the same feat two years later in Egypt.
But in the 2017 (Gabon) and 2019 (Egypt) editions, the Warriors found the going tough and returned home without having managed any win.