The Sunday Mail
|SUNDAY “MHOFU” CHIDZAMBWA is probably the world’s finest maker of lemonade.|
Give him lemons and he makes the stuff in gallons. Give him average soccer players and he makes winners.
When he led Dynamos to the 1998 Champions League final, the veteran coach had the likes of Ernest Masango and Tonderayi Mtambikwa in his ranks.
With all due respect to the duo, they were not the most gifted footballers.
But under Chidzambwa, they looked like the real deal, going toe-to-toe with lads who had graduated from the famed Asec Mimosas Academy.
Zimbabwe’s trip to their first Africa Cup of Nation in Tunisia 2004 had one Lazarus Muhoni playing an unlikely key role.
Muhoni’s inclusion in the Warriors set up was beyond shocking as he was not really setting the stage alight at Black Rhinos then.
However, Chidzambwa — as national team coach — quietly stuck by his choice, and Muhoni played a crucial role in taking the Warriors to Tunisia.
“One of the first things Mhofu told me when I got into the Warriors camp was that he believed in me and that made me believe that I could do,” Muhoni, who went on to score a winning goal against Mali, revealed.
Chidzambwa’s critics accuse him of being old school; a 65-year-old who sacrifices artistry for artisanship.
When he was confirmed as the substantive Warriors coach towards the end of last year, some argued that the former Dynamos coach would take Zimbabwe back to the Stone Age.
Yet Chidzambwa had earlier shown signs that he is ready to waltz his way to glory provided he has the twinkle-toed players — not just lemons.
The way Zimbabwe powered their way to the 2017 Cosafa Cup in South Africa showed us the other side of the man. He loves slick football.
Ovidy Karuru played with freedom, co-skipper Ocean Mushure was deployed in an offensive role, while Talent Chawapihwa was given the license to put on the after-burners.
Zimbabwe were irresistible at Cosafa and can become even better if Chidzambwa finds a way of making punch and not just lemonade.
The football gods are bring kind. There is some fine talent, fine fruit, that can be blended to oil Zimbabwe’s way back to the table where continental football aristocrats dine once every two years.
The purple patches some Zimbabwean football players have been hitting are enough to make a nation believe; believe that the Warriors can be both ruthless and easy on the eye when the Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign resumes later this year; believe that the pains caused Zifa’s comical administration can be soothed by good results on the pitch.
Chawapihwa has not looked back since that glorious Cosafa outing and is carrying Baroka FC with him in South Africa’s Absa Premiership.
The 25-year-old former FC Platinum man been involved in four of his team’s goals this season and is making a case for the slot that Kudakwashe Mahachi has come close to personalising in the national team.
Mahachi has found the net four times for Golden Arrows this term while teammate Knox Mtizwa has just as many in the Absa Premiership.
Khama Billiat is back in the Mamelodi Sundowns mix, nutmegging opponents like he is possessed and reminding many that he is a gem.
Evans Rusike has struggled to pin down a starting XI place in the national team with Knowledge Musona and Tendai Ndoro often getting the nod ahead of him.
But the striker, who recently moved from Maritzburg United to Superport after scoring eight and having a hand in another three, will be happy to hear that Chidzambwa will make his calls “based on current form and not history”.
Musona has been involved in 10 of KV Oostende’s 10 goals this term, scoring five and creating an equal number. He remains Zimbabwe’s main man.
Musona’s younger brother, Walter, is slowly turning into a man at South African side Polokwane City and has scored four times in the 15 matches he has featured in.
Growing up, the Musona siblings dreamt of sharing the national team dressing room and that dream doesn’t look farfetched anymore.
Marvelous Nakamba bounced back into Club Brugge’s starting XI after a few weeks of having to make do with a place on the bench.
The holding midfielder went all the way as his side were hammered 1-4 at Standard Liege in a Belgian cup tie.
In the Czech Republic, Costa Nhamoinesu is said to be battling injury at Sparta Prague.
These are just some of the sweet fruits at Chidzambwa’s disposal. And they well could ensure his one-year performance-based contract is not a long, tedious task of squeezing lemons for lemonade.