WHEN we disappeared from the real battles of the Nations Cup qualifiers, enduring the pain of seeing what used to be a six-game, 540-minute campaign, reduced to just a two-match 180-minute horror show, some people dismissed it as just a fluke.
That was last year, when a challenge provided by Tanzania, of all football nations, proved too much for us, and our quest to try and play at the 2015 Nations Cup finals collapsed at the very first hurdle.
From having been used to seeing their Warriors play, on average, three home matches, spread over 270 minutes, in the Nations Cup qualifiers, the team’s long-suffering fans now had to endure the nightmare of watching just one match, in their backyard.
And those 90 minutes at the National Sports Stadium became the be-all-and-end-all of the sights and sounds of their 2015 AFCON campaign, their dreams shattered, in an instant, their hopes quashed in just one-and-half hours.
In just 10 years, a mere decade, it had all come to this — from the boundless joy of watching their Warriors dine with the heavyweights of African football, for the first time, at the 2004 Nations Cup finals, to enduring the horror of a first-round, preliminary round elimination.
From cheering King Peter at our first AFCON appearance, scoring against the Pharaohs of Egypt, and everything great that his goal represented, to now mourning the failure by the Warriors on the first stage of the preliminary round, and everything horrible that this stood for.
And from memories created by a three-goal blitz against Cameroon, then the champions of Africa, in a losing cause, to the doom of failure, in our backyard, against an opponent so lightweight, it even joined us in being humiliated from the COSAFA Cup in the preliminary round.
Or from the joy of celebrating an historic win over Algeria, thanks to goals from Adamski, may his soul rest in peace, and the Dubai Express, our first on the grand stage, to counting the costs of failing to beat Tanzania, home and away, in the backwaters of a preliminary round of an AFCON qualifier?
But, if those spin-doctors fooled you that the humbling at the hands of Tanzania was a fluke, then you have to think again, and accept, as painful as it is, that this was our reality check, the day when our decline as a competitive football nation was finally confirmed.
Now, just a year after we drowned in the preliminary round stages of the Nations Cup qualifiers, as some fans even found comedy in that tragedy by singing, “maWarriors angu handichaaoni,” we have disappeared from the knockout stages of the COSAFA Cup.
We didn’t only fail to win a group that contained the likes of Seychelles and Mauritius but we even suffered the humiliation of a sound beating at the hands of Namibia, who swung the knock-out punch, that provided a reminder that Tanzania wasn’t a fluke but this is where we now belong.
If the difference between our humbling by Tanzania, and our first appearance at the Nations Cup finals, was 10 years, then it’s ironic that there was a decade between our humiliation by Namibia and the time we were celebrating being COSAFA Cup champions, in the same North West province of South Africa.
Back then, those who were leading our game, could rightly say they were building a team, and Charles Mhlauri didn’t need foreign-based players to win that COSAFA Cup in 2005 in Mafikeng while, in the chaos that is now the DNA of our football leadership today, we can even field foreign-based players and crash out in the preliminary round.
Method Mwanjali lifted the COSAFA Cup, in 2009, his men hammering Zambia 3-1 at Rufaro but those who believe that the centreback represents a cancer to football, and have been using every available excuse to try and hide their fatal shortcomings, including dissolving teams now and again when the Warriors come short, have now turned us into such a punching bag we even can’t qualify from the preliminary round of the tournament.
Everyone, except themselves, has been the Achilles Heel and the only surprise, after the humiliation on Thursday, is that they haven’t announced the dissolution of that team which was hammered by Namibia.
There comes a time, in everyone’s life, when you have to confront the brutal truth, even if it’s so hard to swallow and, for our football administrators – Cuthbert Dube and Jonathan Mashingaidze – the time has come for them to concede that, probably, they are the Achilles Heel in this journey where they are trying to take this nation.
I will give them their credit, they have tried their best, in difficult circumstances, Dube has splashed his fortune in the game, Mashingaidze has tried to run the office at 53 Livingstone Avenue where his boss hasn’t stepped a foot, in the five years he has been ZIFA president, in what should be something for the Guinness Book of Records for a leader of a National Football Association in the history of this game.
But there comes a time when one has to say that, maybe, my best hasn’t been good enough and I might be the problem, and I believe that, for Dube and Mashingaidze, that time has probably come.
SURELY, CAN ALL THE COACHES BE WRONG?
We have had more than half-a-dozen coaches for the Warriors, since Dube took over as ZIFA president, and they have all met the same fate — failure, with most of them kicked out and humiliated as if they were the problem, while we ignore the administrative paralysis that has turned some of them from very good gaffers into average ones.
We have tried coaches from here, the best of the emerging crop that we had, coaches from South Africa, who came with a lot of promise before they were swallowed by the inefficiency of the crippled leadership and coaches from Europe, who were alarmed by the shortcomings of the leadership they are even writing a book about it.
And, all this time, the Warriors have been going into decline, the common denominators have remained around, and they can’t be asked to step aside because they have either privatised this national game or are protected by some heavyweights in Europe.
Maybe Mapeza wasn’t good enough for the Warriors but he took his men to within a win of the final qualifying game, for a place at the 2012 Nations Cup finals, even against the depressing background where the very same leadership disrupted his campaign by smuggling some European coaches into the set-up and even coming up with a bizarre arrangement of having co-coaches — one for the first half, and the other for the second.
Tose two dropped points, in that confusion at home in the game against Cape Verde, cost Mapeza dearly and his men could not recover but, to their credit, they even went into the final game, against the same opponents, knowing that a win would take them to the Nations Cup finals.
Of course, by then, just a year into the leadership of the new regime that promised us heaven and earth, the poison it had injected into the game, had not taken effect but, now, four years down the line, there is no questioning how much it has turned the Warriors into lifeless and harmless hunters.
Maybe, Rahman Gumbo wasn’t good enough but, to his credit, he took his team to within just a goal, in Luanda, of a place at the 2013 Nations Cup finals before he, too, like Mapeza, was elbowed out of the system, blamed for the failure, and suffering the humiliation of not even getting paid for his services.
Maybe, Gorowa wasn’t good enough but it’s now that we know that he took a team whose life had been sucked out by the shortcomings of an administration that specialises on destroying, instead of building, and that is divorced from the reality of what is needed to take this game forward they live in their own world.
Now, Saul, the man we crowned King just a few months ago when his team came very close to winning the league championship in its first season in the Premiership, has now joined the group of those coaches who will be blamed, for not being good enough, while the leadership dance and dine in Zurich.
By the time we get to the next ZIFA elections in 2018, we would have had about half-a-dozen other coaches who would have been brought into the system and then, after they fail — not because they incapable but because it’s impossible to deliver in the current climate – they would be dumped to join the likes of Mapeza, Gumbo, Gorowa.
At least, Callisto Pasuwa was courageous enough yesterday on the main news on national television to say that the Warriors didn’t fail in South Africa because they were not good enough but because their leadership did not give them the right conditions for them to do well.
We need a lot of such courageous men in this game if we are to arrest this slide because, George Chigova hasn’t become a bad ‘keeper overnight, Partson Jaure hasn’t become a bad defender overnight, Danny Phiri hasn’t become a bad defensive midfielder overnight, Hardlife Zvirekwi hasn’t become a bad rightback overnight.
Only last year, when the conditions were right, and they had the right preparations, they went all the way to the CHAN semi-finals, they fought gallantly for their nation, and then someone decided they could only play FC Platinum, to prepare for COSAFA and, as a reward, that person will be dining with the heavyweights of world football in Zurich.
THERE IS A CRISIS IN ZIM FOOTBALL
The good thing is that FIFA concedes that there is a crisis in our football right now and I am not here to side with the ZIFA Councillors who tried to topple Cuthbert Dube last Saturday but I think, as a leader, when you have lost the support of almost half of those that voted you into office — whether or not their gathering was constitutional — it should remind you that the time has come to move on.
Of course, Dube is right to be concerned about what will happen to his huge investment where he made a massive financial outlay into the game, whether he will get his money back, and stuff like that.
But if you are a true leader, and you came preaching the gospel that you want to leave a legacy of a very successful football family, pregnant with sponsors, including international ones, and all that fails in five forgettable years, there is a lot of honour in walking away and letting others remain to sort out issues related to what you put into the game.
After all, if that money was injected, out of the love of seeing the game keep moving forward, as we have been told all this time, a good leader will say, okay guys, I did my best, I did my part, but it was not good enough and let someone take over the baton but, please, don’t forget my investment and pay me when you get the funds.
Because, the way things are going, when the Warriors have become a team that is not good enough to even get out of the preliminary round stages of the COSAFA Cup, there is no hope that tomorrow will be better, and more funds will flow into the game, and there is a guarantee that he will be paid.
After all, if we are going to face the truth, the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors have become teams that owe their travels, in recent months, to the bailout that comes from Prophet Magaya and this is a man who is not giving the game a loan but just pouring funds into the coffers because he loves his nation.
In just less than two months, he has poured in more than $100 000 and, if this game is loved so much by people, who don’t even want to be part of its leadership, why then would its leader hold on to power simply because he claims he put $800 000, in five years?
Those are the questions that Dube should ask himself, on that flight to Zurich, where he has made more appearances than we have seen him at Rufaro or any other stadium in this country, and if he is honest to himself, he will know that the time has come to walk away honourably.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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