The Sunday Mail
WITH the African Cup of Nations qualifiers on ice until March, focus has shifted to the African Nations Championships (CHAN) finals which kick off in Cameroon, 55 days from now.
The CHAN tournament will be played from January 16 to February 7, 2021.
National team coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic is expected to announce the squad soon to allow ZIFA time to arrange preparations for the team, but with no Premier Soccer League action since December 2019, it remains to be seen which criteria the Croat will base his selection on.
How ZIFA will prepare the CHAN squad could be a major talking point in the coming weeks, as the clock ticks towards the finals.
The proposed mini-league tournament, which is supposed to start in December, is now a major doubt amid revelations that funding for the competition, which could gobble at least US$1 million, is uncertain.
ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo revealed that the dates for the bio-bubble tournament were still not certain.
“We can’t confirm the kick-off date for now,” Kamambo told The Sunday Mail Sport yesterday.
“A lot is being done to make sure this bio-bubble tournament goes on.
“We have approached a number of corporates for funding, but nothing concrete has come out. The PSL is looking for potential sponsors as well.
“It is still work in progress”.
ZIFA received US$1,8 million from FIFA and CAF as part of Covid-19 relief funds and were expected to use part of that money for the resumption of football.
The association paid a substantial amount to its affiliates from that fund, while national team assignments for both women and men are said to have gobbled a significant chunk.
“ZIFA paid for the medical expenses for most of the PSL players to be tested. Teams are training and that is all in preparation for the bio-bubble tournament,” Kamambo said.
ZIFA intends to use the mini-league tournament as part of preparations for the CHAN finals, but uncertainty continues to dog the much-touted competition.
With no dates for the mini-league kick-off, it will be difficult for the coaches to prepare the players.
Currently, coaches do not know what they are preparing the players for.
Some PSL coaches who spoke to The Sunday Mail Sport during the week are worried about the poor fitness levels of players, and most of them believe a six-week pre-season might not be sufficient to get the players back into shape.
Given that some teams only began training last week, the pre-season might spill into early January, a few days before the CHAN finals kick-off.
Fears are growing that Zimbabwe might field players who will not be match fit if the mini-league fails to kick off, or ZIFA fails to arrange some competitive friendly matches for the team.
ZPC Kariba coach, Godfrey Tamirepi, whose team has been training for the past week, did his own assessment and the results “were not good”.
“It takes a player two weeks to lose shape. So after this long lay-off of more than eight months, we had to conduct some tests so as to evaluate the players’ level of fitness and the results were not good.
“Some of the players have gained weight and are underperforming despite having given them individual training programmes,” said Tamirepi, who was a hot favourite to win the 2019 Castle Lager PSL Coach of the Year award, which was eventually scooped by Chicken Inn’s Joey Antipas.
In fact, Tamirepi thinks his players might need eight weeks of pre-season.
“The first two weeks are dedicated to the physical block, addressing the general and specific conditioning.
“We would then need to step into the technical aspect before we play friendly matches and go for team bonding sessions,” he said.
Although Ngezi Platinum Stars players, who featured in a friendly against champions FC Platinum last week, generally adhered to individual training programmes and their fitness levels are not low, coach Rodwell Dhlakama has one concern.
The veteran gaffer is anxiously waiting for news on the mini-league tournament.
“It was good to get the information (dates) because they impact positively on our preparations and you can only prepare a team based on competition dates,” said Dhlakama.
“General fitness is okay, but we need to do a further assessment on functional screening which is based on the tests we administrated after lockdown.
“On the whole, the fitness level is not very bad, but what I see which is on the negative again is the match fitness which can only be attained by games which would be hard to come by, especially under the difficult period which we are currently living under.”
Black Rhinos coach, Herbert Maruwa, concurs with Tamirepi that the pre-season could be longer than the anticipated six weeks and might spill into January.
“The fitness level is very low, even mentally the boys are down,” says Maruwa.
“We need more than eight weeks for the boys to get back into shape. We have a lot of work to do for the players to get back to the required level of fitness”.
Some of the clubs, like Lowveld based side Triangle, are yet to resume training.
“Maybe we start Monday (tomorrow),” said Triangle coach, Taurai Mangwiro.