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Why Zimbabwean football is struggling

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Goal takes a look at why Zimbabwean football has continuously struggled despite having some of the best players on the continent.
By Phumzile Ngcatshe

They are one of the enriched countries when it comes to football talent, yet Zimbabwe continues to struggle in becoming one of the best in continental football.

Also known as the Warriors, they have seen their development in the beautiful game on a downward spiral and have failed to live up to their reputation based on the finest players they continue to produce.

Their abundance of talent goes back to the days of legends such as Peter Ndlovu, Benjamin (Benjani) Mwaruwari, Adam Ndlovu and Norman Mapeza to mention but a few.

However, there are many issues we can try and interrogate apart from looking at the talent alone because to gain success, one also has to look at matters beyond the field of play.

Goal takes a look at why the Zimbabwean football has failed to take off despite all the signs and promises of becoming one of the best in Africa.

Zimbabwe Algeria

The football’s association in the country, the Zimbabwean Football Association (Zifa), are the custodians of the game in the country but they have also had their fair share of troubles in as far as leadership is concerned.

Under the guidance of Philip Chiyangwa, who doubles up as the president of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa), has been involved in several fights, leadership incompetencies, financial mismanagement and a lack of focus to the national side.

On a number of occasions, the embattled FA boss has made headlines for a number of wrong reasons as media reports in the country suggested that some in the game have called for his resignation.

As a businessman, Chiyangwa is the right man to lead the country’s football, especially considering the fact that he can manage the FA’s monies better and place the country’s interests ahead of his own.

However, just in the past few weeks, stories emerged that Chiyangwa tried to bribe a lawyer to manipulate the FA’s financial statements and sway the audit reports in his favour.

The outspoken boss took office in December 2015 and there are countless scandals that have rocked the Zimbabwe’s FA and perhaps he should consider stepping down and allow a new leadership to take the baton and run with it.

Just across the border, the South African Football Association (Safa) had issues in their run up to the now put on hold presidential election and Fifa called on him to intervene and find solutions between candidates Dr. Danny Jordaan and Ace Ncobo as Cosafa boss.

Based on that, it shows he is a man of integrity, but the question why is he failing to lead his own association by example and do it for the country’s best interest.

Before the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon, he came under heavy criticism for his failure to support the national team as they prepared where matters such as bonuses, match allowances among others forced the players to go on strike and he was to blame for all these issues.

Chiyangwa must resign and allow new faces to run the game and legends such as (Peter) Ndlovu, Mapeza can do the job. They are best suited to address facing the players and coaches, because of their technical know-how of the game.

Callisto Pasuwa

Just like in their ability to produce talented players, Zimbabwe have one of the best coaches on the continent; coaches who have led the national team in the past.

For example, Kalisto Pasuwa is the man who led the Warriors to the (Afcon) tournament in Gabon, for the first time since 2006, but they failed to go beyond the group stages.

Despite his good work on the field of play and ensuring that the country participated at the tournament, he was reportedly not paid his salary and was later sacked as head coach.

Under Chiyangwa, coaches have come and gone, but Pasuwa was the right man for the job and perhaps he should have been given more time to remain in the hot seat.

Several coaches such as Mapeza, Sunday Chidzambwa (who replaced Pasuwa), Ian Gorowa, Rahman Gumbo and many others, but they are still found wanting.

In most cases, coaches have left due to outstanding salaries with the FA or the government which was under the guidance of ex-president, Robert Mugabe.

However, with the new government in charge since Emmerson Mnangangwa’s entry into the office, many expect changes regarding government support to the Warriors team.

There was a time where Zifa appointed three coaches in charge of the national team and that suggested leadership shortfalls and lack of planning on the part of the FA.

Mapeza was appointed to lead the team during the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers, Gumbo to coach the 2018 Caf African Nations Championship squad whilst Chidzambwa was in charge of the CosafaCup side (he went on to win it in South Africa last year). Is that normal in modern football?

This led to confusion because one can expect a single coach to lead the team for continuity, planning and yes, he can consult his counterparts in the Zimbabwean Premier Soccer League regarding scouting and so on.

Should they sort out their off the field issues, Zimbabwe will and has the potential of becoming one of the best in the Cosafa region, on the continent and in the world.

Knowledge Musona & Khama Billiat of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is one of the best in producing players and many of their players are plying their trade in foreign leagues.

The South African Premier Soccer League is a beneficiary in this case – they are not the only though.

Players such as Tinashe Nengomasha, Thomas Sweswe, Gilbert Mushangazhike, Robson Muchichwa, the new blood which includes the likes of Tendai Ndoro, Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, Nyasha Mushekwi, Ovidy Karuru, Evans Rusike, Willard Katsande, Ronald Pfumbidzai and many more – they all make headlines in South Africa.

However, one struggles to think of their struggles as a national team and it pains to the ordinary Zimbabwean fan on the streets of Harare to see their pride not up where it belongs among the world’s finest as they are blessed with talent.

This raises questions as to when will Zimbabwean football take off or why it fails to take off when they are compared to Bafana Bafana and sometimes better on quality.

The Zimbabwean PSL is slowly becoming competitive where we see clubs such as Caps United, Highlanders, Dynamos and FC Platinum wrestling for the league title, but they will also need to, perhaps stop the idea of developing to sell their players.

Money will always be tempting from foreign clubs and players cannot resist the urge to remain in the country, but that will keep stalling their progress as these clubs fail to make their mark in Caf inter-club tournaments which goes back to helping the national team.

Perhaps an improvement of salaries and professionalism in the Zim PSL can help curb the temptations of players going to play in foreign leagues.

Another scandal which rocked the country in the past few years was the match fixing issue where a number of players were targeted to throw a match between the Warriors and Swaziland.

If a player is paid well and looked after by his club and country, will he consider taking a bribe? No, and that scandal suggested that things are bad in the country because players will definitely be tempted to consider such shortcuts in earning an extra cash.

Until Chiyangwa or a new leadership takes office, that is when Zimbabwean football will take off and restore pride in their die-hard fans and beyond the borders. – This article was first published by Goal