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Opinion / Columnist

Mhofu: The nation still needs answers

14 Jul 2019 at 14:57hrs | Views
IT IS hard to forget the day the Warriors of Zimbabwe crashed out of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals and the manner they exited the 24-team foootball competition and the ghost of that humiliation is refusing to die.

There are too many versions circulating as to what exactly led the Warriors to move through the disastrous path of picking up only one point, conceding six goals and scoring only one goal.

On July 2, the nation was told that the Warriors were paid — allegedly by wealthy DRC businessman and politician Moise Katumbi — to throw away the game in favour of the Simbas which the Zimbabweans lost 4-0. The reports proved to be false.

Then on Thursday, Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Felton Kamambo told the whole of Zimbabwe that former Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa headed a cartel that infiltrated the players and led them to lose focus on the tournament.

The question is: Which is which? Were the Warriors really paid to throw away the game or if it was Chiyangwa, what exactly did he do to win the players' faith because Kamambo does not clearly explain exactly what Chiyangwa's hand was in the whole saga?

Or is it simply that Zifa are trying to divert attention by using Chiyangwa — a popular figure — as a scapegoat for their failure to take good care of Zimbabwe's most popular sports team?

Whatever the case is, Zimbabwean football should be spared from the wars that go way back to the Zifa presidential polls, and Zifa should admit that they shoulder the larger part of blame for what happened in Egypt, and should concentrate on real issues.

The most important question right now is: Which direction are the Warriors heading to after the fall in Egypt?

History has its own uses and upon reflection of the Warriors' overall performance in Egypt, and also in Gabon in 2017, Zimbabweans should now be asking themselves whether the country should continue to rely on the same players who picked up only one point in three games — both in 2017 and 2019.

Twelve of the players who were in Egypt with Sunday Chidzambwa — Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, Danny Phiri, George Chigova, Evans Rusike, Talent Chawapihwa, Kuda Mahachi, Nyasha Mushekwi, Marvelous Nakamba, and Tino Kadewere — were also part of Kalisto Pasuwa's team that also picked up only one point in three matches in 2017.

It can be argued, but it is evidently clear that it is during this period of this generation of players that Zimbabwean football has gone off the boil. Over this period, the Warriors have lost the sort of respectability they used to have in the past to the extent that even the Comoros can give them a run for their money.

The Zimbabweans have also been overtaken by the likes of Kenya and Uganda and are now miles behind Madagascar and have, in fact, lost their way in African football and have sunk to the levels of Namibia, Burundi, Mauritania and Guinea Bissau.

In fact, while the gap between the big and small powers in African football has narrowed, the gap between Zimbabwe and the elite is widening by each tournament that comes along the way.

However, as Zimbabweans look forward to the future, there is need to look at whether the players at the Warriors' disposal right now are good enough to see the Warriors at the next Africa Cup of Nations or good enough for the challenges ahead.

The fact remains that immediate results are important, but it does not matter right now whether Zimbabwe fail to qualify for the 2021 Africa Nations Cup or the 2022 World Cup, but what is important is to build a new team that will guarantee success in future.

There is consensus that the likes of Musona, Thabani Kamusoko, Chigova, Rusike, Phiri, Mushekwi, Kadewere, Sibanda and others had their fine moments with the Warriors but cannot do more than what they have already done.

In fact, football followers are unanimous in their agreement that the Warriors need fresh inspiration instead of the old, tired legs if they are to successfully handle the pressure of the competition ahead.

They are also in agreement that there is a starting point in the buildup for the future in the form of Marvelous Nakamba and Billiat who should be the foundation from where a far much different and stronger Warriors squad should be built.

This, however, is not to say there cannot be others in the current set-up who can be considered as the likes of Tendayi Darikwa and Divine Lunga can still be useful, and not forgetting giving chance to Macauley Bonne.

There should also be changes in the manner Zimbabwe are doing their things in order to maintain a consistent supply of talent to the senior national team. One of which is to take full advantage of the Cosafa Cup by giving talented young players the chance to develop themselves into better senior national team players instead of the current emphasis — which is winning the tournament and gloating about it.

There should also be a change of attitude towards our own Castle Lager Premier Soccer League. There is need to respect the PSL and abandon this system that foreign-based players are always better when events on the ground show that some of them have nothing to show for being based in foreign lands.

Zimbabwe should also adopt the system of successful African football teams, who have a well-oriented conveyor belt junior development programme that sees players graduate from the Under-17, Under-20, Under-23, and ultimately to the senior team.

The most crucial decision right now is whether to stick with Chidzambwa or bring in a new coach to revive the ailing Warriors.

For your comments, views and suggestions, email mkariati@gmail.com or WhatsApp on 077 3 266 779.

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