Warriors disaster: Time for reflection, action

16 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Warriors disaster: Time for reflection, action

The Sunday Mail

ZIFA, which is currently being run by a so-called Normalisation Committee (NC) appointed by FIFA, needs to put its house in order to avoid the streak of embarrassing results for our national teams, as witnessed in the last two weeks against lowly ranked Lesotho and perennial rivals South Africa.

The two results — a 2-0 loss to Lesotho and a 3-1 loss to South Africa — meant that, barring a miracle, Zimbabwe will not make it to the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States.

It is unquestionable that the NC contributed immensely to the Warriors’ disastrous performances.

The late appointment of the coach — and an interim one for that matter — had a bearing on preparations and, by extension, cohesion of the team.

The handpicked coach, Jairos Tapera, had to scramble Richard Hachiro from Zimbabwe to join the team that was to play South Africa after selectors had glaringly omitted a defensive midfielder in the squad.

This alone betrays the confusion that characterised preparations in the lead-up to the encounter against Bafana Bafana.

For Tapera, making six changes to a team in four days clearly indicated the depth of challenges the team faced.

The coach has since indicated that he will reconstitute the team announced by ZIFA for next week’s Cosafa Cup and select players agreed to by his technical team, which includes Ngezi Platinum coach Takesure Chiragwi, Green Fuel’s Saul Chaminuka and technical adviser Sunday Chidzambwa.

But, again, no one knows how long Tapera’s tenure would be, as ZIFA is expected to announce a substantive coach for the national team any time from now. If this is not confusion, we do not know what else is.

The only silver lining for the Warriors after the latest round of matches is the emergence of young players such as Tawanda Chirewa, which is proof of the abundant talent that Zimbabwe has.

There is urgent need to sort out our football structures and governance.

Sport, which is now a multi-billion-dollar money-spinning business the world over, has to be taken with the seriousness it deserves.

For perspective, according to the English Premier League, the contribution of Premier League clubs to the UK economy grew to £8 billion (about US$10,1 billion) in 2021/2022 — a 1 000 percent increase from the 1998/1999 season.

This is massive!

And this necessarily means we need to identify and nurture talent by promoting junior football development, put up solid structures that incubate talent and invest in facilities for athletes.

The Warriors, for example, need to start to play their homes games in Zimbabwe.

It is, therefore, heartening that the Government is now working on rehabilitating the National Sports Stadium (NSS) to acceptable standards.

But this must go beyond the NSS and extend to other football facilities around the country.

The Warriors return to action in September, and this time for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The time between now and then should afford us the opportunity to reflect on how far we have come with our reforms and what action needs to be taken going forward.

The ball is squarely in the Normalisation Committee’s court.

They are the ones who will shape and determine the fate of local football going forward.

They, too, need to reflect on the mandate they were given by FIFA.

For now, they seem to be accelerating in the wrong direction.

We have not heard about how far they have gone in reviewing ZIFA’s statutes, nor the progress in restructuring the association’s administration, as well as preparations for elections of a new board.

This is worrying considering that they were initially expected to complete their mandate by June 30 this year.

Failure to reform local sport in general and football in particular will unfortunately condemn a generation of budding talented athletes.

It will also prevent local sport from realising its full potential.

Suffice to say that sport, too, is integral to our aspirations of establishing an empowered, modern, prosperous and highly industrialised country by 2030.

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