BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
THE Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has expressed optimism in the future of Zimbabwe football despite the country’s disappointing performance at the on-going Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon.
Zimbabwe failed to progress beyond the Group stages of the competition for the fifth time since their debut appearance at Tunisia 2004.
The Warriors team had an unusually smooth run up to the competition, bereft of sideshows and boycotts threats due to allowances and match fees after the government provided about US$800 000 and $2 million for the cause.
However, the country’s participation at the continental championships remained in doubt amid fears of a ban by the football governing Fifa following the suspension of the Zifa by the SRC in November last year.
Drawn in Group G alongside Senegal, Guinea and Malawi who have all made it to the knockout stages hopes were high that the Warriors would storm into the second round.
But the Norman Mapeza coached side, missing a number of top players at the tournament, suffered a last-gasp heart break in the Group B opener against giants Senegal after conceding a penalty in the final seconds of stoppage time.
A shock defeat to Malawi in the second match sealed the Warriors fate in Cameroon but the team impressively beat Guinea 2 – 1 before booking the next flight home.
Ironically Zimbabwe was the highest scoring team from the Group with three goals despite finishing bottom of the standings while the group winners Senegal managed just a single goal.
“The Warriors were extremely unlucky to lose against Senegal. Obviously the Malawian game was a disappointment for most Zimbabweans. Against Guinea, the Warriors potential was on full display. We need to continue to nurture that potential in order that the rewards, in the form of trophies, become the order of the day,” SRC board chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa told Standardsport in an exclusive interview yesterday.
“This can only happen if football has the right support structures. That can only ever happen if the game is administered by those with the interests of the game at heart.
“For us at the SRC, AFCON revealed to us what was truly possible for the game and what needs to be done in attending to the many afflictions bedevilling its administration. We will get there if we all pull in the same direction. Just like the nation did in the build up to the Malawi game,” Mlotshwa added.
Some of the players who impressed for the Warriors include Kundai Benyu who was an eleventh hour inclusion to the team while Ishmael Wadi and Gerald Takwara showed promise.
Captain Knowledge Musona struggled at the tournament but managed to score a goal against Guinea while Tino Kadewere was largely anonymous in his third consecutive appearance at the finals.
It should be noted that the threat of Fifa continues to ominously cast its dark shadow on the positives that can be drawn from Zimbabwe’s participation at the Afcon final.
SRC has however said they are in constant touch with the global football body.
The last known Fifa position was when they demanded that the SRC reinstate the Zifa board by January 3, failure of which would see the case submitted to the Bureau of FIFA Council for “consideration and decision”.
A number of issues with regards to the future have to be attended to as a matter of urgency with the 2023 Afcon qualifiers set to begin in March.
One of the key issues is the appointment of a technical team for the Warriors after Mapeza’s mandate ended with the country’s exit from the Afcon finals.
Zimbabwe no longer has a home ground after Caf condemned the National Sports Stadium until outstanding grey areas are fully addressed following the final World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia late last year.