LOCAL FOOTBALL: ZIFA stuck in shell

Shame on you ZIFA!

\n

LEADING BLINDLY . . .  Zifa president Cuthbert Dube’s leadership has cost the country its football stability

LEADING BLINDLY . . . Zifa president Cuthbert Dube’s leadership has cost the country its football stability

\n

As the continent’s top football playing nations converge for the 30th edition of the African Nations Cup finals that kicks off in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday, one cannot help but feel for the Warriors, who once again will not have a place on African football’s top table.

\n

Zimbabweans will be reduced to armchair supporters while the likes of Cape Verde, Congo, neighbours South Africa and Zambia battle with the continent’s heavyweights.

\n

The Warriors, who have been disbanded — whatever that means — by the football mother body, sadly crashed out of the 2015 afcon qualifiers in the first round, at the hands of minnows Tanzania on that Black Sunday of June 1, 2014.

\n

They remain stuck outside the top 100 for three consecutive years, according to the latest FIFA world rankings released last Thursday.

\n

Zimbabwe are ranked 107, worse off than Botswana, little known Dominican Republic, Tanzania and the tiny Faroe Islands.

\n

The 2015 afcon finals should serve as a timely reminder for the country’s football mother body, to take stock, but worryingly, the maladministered association still does not have a strategic blueprint, despite numerous promises.

\n

zifa president Cuthbert Dube and his lieutenants have remained stuck in their shell, with the same old mindset — a quick-fix approach to the ailments stalking the national game. The national association has sadly developed a tendency of waking up a few weeks before national assignments before going back to sleep soon after, a glaring shortcoming that has cost the country its football stability.

\n

Dube on Thursday told our sister paper The Herald that they had a ,2 million budget for the national teams’ assignments in 2015, turning once again to Government to become the major funder of the country’s bid for places at the All-Africa Games and ultimately the Olympic Games set for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil next year.

\n

The All-Africa Games qualifiers kick off in a month’s time and Dube, for the umpteenth time, has waited for the eleventh hour to lay out his budget.

\n

The draws for the All-Africa Games and the Under-23 African Championships, which will serve as qualifiers for the Olympic Games, were conducted last year and the national association should have known by then what the programme would entail.

\n

The Young Warriors play Swaziland in Mbabane during the weekend of February 20-22 in the first round of the All-Africa Games with the Under-23 Championships qualifiers beginning a month later.

\n

It’s sad to note that while zifa remain entangled in their short-term web, some countries on the continent, who have suffered the same fate as the Warriors, have kick-started long-term corrective measures aimed at achieving consistent qualification for both the afcon and World Cup tournaments.

\n

The zifa board has the 2017 afcon and the 2018 World Cup before its term of office expires and analysts fear the Dube-led board could once again be found wanting.

\n

Football critic and coach Philip Zulu, who has been exposed to high level football during his long stint in the United Kingdom, believes now is the time for zifa to accept its failures, reconvene and plan for the future.

\n

“Success is not accidental, it is planned for. We can’t just wake up and say we want to qualify for these big tournaments without the necessary planning and support structures: that is a big joke.

\n

“afcon 2015 finals should be a timely reminder for our local football leaders as to where exactly we are, where this game is going. It is time to accept our failures and start from the bottom.

\n

“Considering where we are and where we are coming from as a football nation, we should start planning for the long-term, World Cup 2022 should be our target and work has to start now.

\n

“The interim afcon qualifiers for 2017, 2019 and 2021 should serve as the barometer of our progress, in fact zifa by now should have a plan in place for the 2017 Nations Cup.

\n

“We should start to have an obsession for junior football, we need a national academy that brings together the best young talent we have. In countries like Ghana they all talk of junior development, in Germany it is an abomination not to have national junior football structures, in South Africa their junior national teams are doing well . . . it is only here that we see it as normal not to have junior programmes,” said Zulu, who has worked with Leeds United junior teams.

\n

While zifa are still to wake up and smell the coffee, other football associations on the continent have made remarkable football progress in recent years.

\n

Cape Verde, the small West African island country with a population of just over 500 000 people, could serve as a motivational story for zifa.

\n

From nowhere, Cape Verde’s national team the Blue Sharks, has risen to become a perennial afcon fixture and are now a threat at the finals. Five years ago, they were ranked outside the top 100 in the world but a revamp has seen them rise to 40th and seventh in Africa.

\n

Tanzania have learnt their lessons well as reports reveal that the East African country is set for a major football transformation.

\n

The Tanzanian Football Federation, TFF, has launched a Football Development Fund headed by the association’s former president Leodogar Tenga, aimed at reviving youth football.

\n

The TFF is also entering into a partnership with the South African Football Association, SAFA, which will involve youth football development, event management, referees development and sponsorship packages.

\n

Sadly, Dube and his administrative chief Jonathan Mashingaidze, cannot see beyond a single year and only seem to be concerned with their favourite subject — Asiagate.

\n

As has become the norm, but very awkward for a public office bearer, Dube could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone typically went unanswered.

\n

Why Dube, an experienced corporate administrator in his own right, would want a knock on his door for him to reveal the path that the national game should take, as he promised in his election manifesto just last year, remains a mystery only him or perhaps the equally evasive Mashingaidze can answer.

\n

Worryingly, the Sports Minister Andrew Langa keeps on treating zifa with kid gloves and questions are being raised whether he really knows what football in general and the Warriors in particular mean to this country.

\n

Whether Dube’s administration can revive the national team to the levels of April 1995, when the Warriors were ranked the 40th best team in the world remains a bold doubt.

\n

What Dube and his troops have failed to achieve in over five years, across the Limpopo River, South Africa’s football supremo Danny Jordaan has attained with just over a year in office.

\n

From a “bunch of losers” in January 2014, Bafana Bafana have transformed into the team to beat in Africa thanks to Jordaan’s programmes and the shrewd appointment of Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba as coach of the national team.

\n

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has now referred to Bafana Bafana as a “bunch of winners” following Mashaba’s revolution.

\n

Jordaan has also launched what is termed “Vision 2022”, a technical master plan whose goal is to have all SAFA national teams ranked in the top three in Africa and top 20 in the world over the next 10 years.

\n

As Bafana Bafana brace for another dance on the continent’s biggest football stage, their Under-20 side is also preparing to take part in the African Youth Championship, AYC, set for Senegal in March while the Under-17 squad will also be part of the continental jamboree when the games kick off in Niger later this year. And Zimbabwe’s junior football is virtually dead.

\n

Veteran soccer commentator and TV personality Charles Mabika, who also hosts the analytical football program Game Plan, had this to say:

\n

“Perhaps this is the time to realise how much we have fallen from those glory years when we qualified for the first time in 2004 and made it again to Egypt in 2006.

\n

“Since 2008 it has been a downhill fall, the Warriors have been strangely disbanded and we wait to hear when they will be reconstituted.

\n

“We cannot talk about Dynamos, ZPC Kariba or Highlanders and forget about the nation’s number one team.

\n

“The ball is in zifa’s court, they have to reignite interest in the national teams and they have to start rolling the ball now.

\n

“zifa always cry about lack of sponsorship to drive their programmes but if I may ask, what have they done to engage our all-weather football friends like Delta, Mbada Diamonds, Nyaradzo, NetOne and BancABC.

\n

“The whole country is hurting, the players are hurting, and everybody is in grief. We do not know where we are going. For now, we just hope the Under-23s will be able to do something in the African Championships,” lamented Mabika, regarded by many as the local football bible.

\n

zifa has been blamed in some sections for not doing enough to harness talent dotted across the globe, especially in the United Kingdom where over 10 players of Zimbabwean origin are plying their trade in English Leagues.

\n

Jonathan Fusco (Sheffield Wednesday), Admiral Muskwe (Leicester City), Tendai Darikwa (Chesterfield), Bradley Pritchard (Leyton Orient) and Brendan Galloway (Everton) are some of the players available.