Since reaching the semifinals of the 2014 Africa Nations Championships, we have been living in dreamland. We have been lying to ourselves that we are among the best locally-based national soccer teams Africa has to offer.
The results of the 2016 tournament have, however, crudely exposed us for what we really are — dreamers. Our dismal show in Rwanda put us in our rightful place, way down on the ladder of African football excellence. Our Warriors could not stand up and be counted among the best — managing to pick just one point after scoring only one goal in a group that was not all that tight.
To be honest, the Warriors were put in their rightful place and can easily be described as having been one of the weakest teams at the 16-team contest. Their nearest rivals in their weakness were Gabon, Ethiopia and Niger, who also finished with only one point.
Pasuwa’s team will also go into history as the worst Zimbabwean team to take part in the African Nations Championships. The one point garnered and the goal difference of minus-two is not a good record when compared to Zimbabwe’s previous three representatives.
Sunday Chidzambwa’s 2009 side drew all their three group games and finished third. The 2011 team, which was qualified by Norman Mapeza but handled at the finals by Madinda Ndlovu, won one game and lost the other two and in the process also finished third.
In 2014, Ian Gorowa’s side broke the record and reached the semi-finals of the competition and set a benchmark for which Pasuwa’s team, was expected to build on but failed.
All sorts of theories are being peddled around as Zimbabweans try to come to terms with the Warriors’ miserable performance.
Some say Zimbabwe no longer has quality players to contest at such a high level of competition. Former Zimbabwe Football Association Protocol Committee member, Peter Ndowa argues that Zimbabwe no longer has good strikers, as evidenced by the dwindling number of goals our top scorers are accumulating at the end of every Premier Soccer League season.
Ndowa’s argument is supported by the fact that the Warriors did not find the target in the first 180 minutes of play at the ongoing tournament and by the end of the second game had already been eliminated.
Others are of the opinion that Kalisto Pasuwa is a good coach but only at club and domestic level, not at national level. They claim that he fell short of tactics and ideas when it mattered most, especially at half time.
However, the general consensus is that the reason for Zimbabwe’s demise was lack of match practice as the Warriors did not have a single friendly match ahead of such an important tournament.
That exactly is the crux of the matter. Zifa should be commended for sourcing funds to bankroll the team. However, money becomes nothing when it is accompanied by wrong choices for its use.
Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa handed $30 000 in cash to the Warriors on the eve of their departure for Rwanda. The question is: Did the Warriors need that $1 000 each in their pockets when they were going for a football tournament.
If that money was meant to make the Warriors happy while in Rwanda, then it was a misplaced priority. Were the players going for shopping or to play football?
Logic dictates that the $30 000 the players received would have been enough for the Warriors to travel for a number of friendly matches, either to Botswana or Mozambique, or even to Malawi where there is a strong team of locally-based players.
The players could simply have been paid upon return from Rwanda, and for that matter, holding in hand what they would have achieved from the tournament.
Whatever Zifa did to make the Warriors and their coach happy while in camp now counts for nothing as the authorities did not provide the most important requirement of that camping — match practice.
If the events leading to the 2016 Africa Nations Championships are what we are going to see in the next few months, then we should forget about qualification to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
As long as the Warriors are not given enough time in camp and enough preparatory matches, Zimbabwe should forget about success on the international front.
However, there is the phrase that goes “people learn from their mistakes”. The experiences of the Africa Nations Championship should be a wake-up call for those at Zifa.
We hope they have learnt from the mistakes they made.
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