Story behind Warriors coaching chaos

26 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Story behind Warriors coaching chaos

The Sunday Mail

Zimpapers Sports Hub

SHARP disagreements between the ZIFA Normalisation Committee and the FIFA head of development programmes for Africa, Solomon Mudege, resulted in the delay in the appointment of the Warriors coach, and scuttled the return of Baltemar Brito to the helm.

Mudenge, working with FIFA Forward manager Kudzi Chitima and ZIFA chief executive officer Yvonne Mapika Manwa, had already given Brito the job, at least verbally, to the extent that they asked him to choose his players for the two 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and South Africa next month.

But when ZIFA Normalisation Committee chairperson Lincoln Mutasa and his executive realised Brito had sharply criticised how they handled the previous 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda and Nigeria in Butare, Rwanda, they refused to process the papers.

This means newly appointed Warriors interim coach Jairos Tapera will have to make do with the squad Brito chose, and adjust his tactics to fit what is at his disposal, when Zimbabwe face Lesotho and South Africa.

Tapera became the fourth interim coach to take charge of the Warriors since the appointment of the ZIFA Normalisation Committee on July 11 last year.

Sunday Chidzambwa, Brito and Norman Mapeza have served the Warriors on an interim basis on different assignments within the last year.

Although the ZIFA Normalisation Committee has tightly guarded the names of the players called for the two matches by Brito, what is in the public domain, for now, is that English Premiership side Wolves’ starlet Tawanda Chirewa has been included in the squad.

The 20-year-old midfielder had his first Warriors call-up for a four-nation tournament in Malawi in March, which featured the hosts, the Warriors, Zambia and Kenya, but withdrew, citing club commitments.

The other players confirmed by sources as having been invited are Jordan Zemura, Teenage Hadebe, skipper Marvelous Nakamba, Tino Kadewere, Marshall Munetsi, Donavan Bernard, Martin Mapisa, Emmanuel Jalai and Andy Rinomhota.

ZIFA sources told Zimpapers Sports Hub that the stage had been set for Brito to return to the Warriors fold, with the move having the blessings of Mudege.

Mudege has since the Normalisation Committee’s appointment been highly involved in all the key decisions being made at ZIFA, where he works closely with Chitima and Manwa.

But somehow, the trio struggled to convince Mutasa and his executive to rehire Brito following a damning report released by the former Highlanders coach in the wake of Zimbabwe’s back-to-back draws against Rwanda and Nigeria.

“There was a lot of optimism from FIFA’s Mudege and Chitima that the reappointment of Brito would sail through, hence he was tasked with selecting the players with the help of Chitima,” said sources.

“But when the matter was brought to the Normalisation Committee, they stood their ground and rejected Brito’s re-engagement as he had already fallen out with the committee after the Rwanda trip.

“It was then that an initial decision to hire Joey Antipas was made, but the Chicken Inn coach does not have a CAF A Licence badge and when the Normalisation Committee put Lloyd Chitembwe’s name forward, it was rejected by the FIFA guys.

“Chitembwe also has his challenges of being blacklisted from entering South Africa, so, in the end, a compromise was reached to settle for the three coaches who had been identified as Chitembwe’s assistants, who are Jairos, Chiragwi and Chaminuka.’’

Tapera was only confirmed coach on Friday, via a statement that Mutasa released.

But by then, Chitima had already sent letters to local and foreign clubs requesting the release of players.

“Another long meeting was held by the Normalisation Committee to decide on the coaches to preside over the upcoming matches and during that meeting, the chairman, Mutasa, insisted that Mhofu (Sunday Chidzambwa) should be in the setup as technical adviser because he rates him highly,” said the sources.

Just like Brito before him, England-based young player Tivonge Rushesha has reportedly been left out of the Warriors squad for the upcoming qualifiers because of being critical of how ZIFA handled the players’ welfare at the four-nation tournament in Malawi.

It is understood Rushesha had until recently not received his allowances for that tournament in Malawi. He was paid after the intervention of his handlers.

This did not go down well with the officials within ZIFA, leading to his exclusion.

Zimpapers Sport has it on good authority that Rushesha was supposed to be part of the squad to play against Lesotho and South Africa.

“Members of the ZIFA NC are a divided lot,’’ added the sources. “But they have one thing in common. They don’t like those who criticise them.

“Rushesha was set to be part of the Warriors to play in the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa, but after criticising the leadership for delays in the dispatch of his allowances, he had to be left out.

“Brito was dropped as a possible choice for the coaching for reasons aligned to criticism of the establishment as well.

“But I can tell you that Brito was the favourite for the job and he was even seconded to pick the squad he wanted to work with. So, he, together with Kudzi Chitima, were responsible for selecting and inviting the players.

“This interim technical team to lead the squad will have no say on which players to use since they have already been selected, especially for the World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and South Africa.

“Maybe they will have a say, but not much, for the players they will use in the COSAFA tournament, which they will also take charge of.”

The COSAFA tourney is scheduled for South Africa soon after the World Cup qualifiers. Although ZIFA said they are negotiating with a coach they want to appoint on a substantive basis after finalising the selection process, there are strong indications that the upcoming games will also serve as an audition for Tapera and his assistants.

If they impress, they could be upgraded to a permanent basis.

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