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Independent Sports View

Fasten seat belts for successful 2005

With Enoch Muchinjo

IF, as they say, failure is the only highway to success, Zimbabwe’s various sporting disciplines must fasten their seat

belts for a successful ride on the international circuit this year.

After a difficult 2004 season in which their world seemed to crumble around them, the country’s major sporting disciplines must deliver positive results.

Not only do they have to redeem lost pride and appease the multitude of supporters who had to endure mediocre performances last year, but they also have to justify their selection to represent the country.

The Zimbabwe senior national team, the Warriors, will resume their combined World Cup/Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying campaign in March, needing to win their reverse fixtures to guarantee a berth at next year’s Nations Cup in Egypt. World Cup qualification is now a futile dream after two consecutive defeats to Nigeria and Angola.

If the Angola match last year was anything to go by, then the Warriors can be optimistic about this year’s prospects. New coach Charles Mhlauri was thrust into the hot seat barely five days before the match. Mhlauri introduced a more acceptable offensive style of play and discipline that was glaringly missing during the Sunday Marimo and Rahman Gumbo reigns.

This time around the Caps United championship-winning coach will have all the time in the world to prepare his charges for the first game of the year against Angola at home in March. The clear message that must be sent to the Warriors, the technical department and Zifa is that nothing short of a place at Afcon will be accepted. You already have been pardoned for failing to make it to Germany for the World Cup!

The ever-growing culture of failure in Zimbabwe football must be stemmed with the vigour it requires. Zimbabwe’s continental representative, Caps United, also have a job to do this the year. Against a background of failure by Highlanders and Amazulu in the last five years, Caps need to make amends or else confirm the mediocrity of domestic football standards that has been a subject of many bitter debates. Failure by Caps to progress past the preliminary stages will confirm our worst fears.

After another traumatic season in rugby last year, we hope that everyone has learnt a lesson and all that selfish internal squabbling won’t return to haunt the game again.

The Rugby World Cup qualifiers are upon us again with two crucial matches lined up in 2005. The Sables must win both games to progress to the all-important mini-league phase of the qualifiers.

The Sables will definitely go past the first round. Their opponents will come from one of three countries, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon, who can all be regarded as emerging rugby nations. They are nonetheless still toddlers when compared to Zimbabwe.

Stern testing will come in the second round away to Ivory Coast, but then again, it’s high time Zimbabwe rugby re-established itself as a continental powerhouse and stopped priding itself in little and insignificant rivalries with countries we used to dispatch with great ease in the past.

Rugby fans will remember when the Ivorians made it to the 1995 World Cup in South Africa at our expense. That was when local rugby was slowly becoming a pale shadow of its former self. All measures must be taken to make sure that the best Sables side runs onto the field in the this year’s crucial ties. The vision of Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Bryn Williams brings a glimmer of hope. But his seemingly positive ideas have always been there in the ZRU during the leadership of Basil Forster-Jones and Lawrence Majuru before him. Only this time we hope it will bear fruit.

Now that the young Sables sides, the Under 19’s and Under 21’s, will be taking part in the Youth World Cups, this great opportunity to develop Zimbabwe rugby must not be missed.

Zimbabwe cricket has been enjoying unprecedented media coverage in the past eight months, albeit for the wrong reasons. Endless disputes and poor results on the field have been given acres of space in local and international media. Noone wants to lose, but if you are not fielding your strongest side at the highest level of competition you are bound to fail.

In all fairness, the Zimbabwe cricket team was never world-beaters even when the “rebels” were in the side. But losing the way the current team has been doing, and worst of all losing to Bangladesh, clarion calls to overhaul the approach are growing louder by the day.

There is no doubt that Tatenda Taibu (hats off to him for his personal achievements) and his boys showed great character to put themselves in a winning position in the drawn second Tests. But the open truth is Zimbabwe would have never lost that Test series if our strongest side had played.

The Zimbabwe Davis Cup team returns to the battle-front in March against Serbia and Montenegro in the Euro-Africa Zone. It’s a match that has to be won if any hopes of fighting for a return to the prestigious world group are to be entertained.

Good luck to all Zimbabwe’s sports ambassadors in 2005, and here’s hoping for more seriousness and professionalism from you.

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