BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
WARRIORS coach Norman Mapeza believes the threat of a Fifa ban ahead of the Afcon finals may have weighed heavily on some of the players resulting in a disappointing show at the premier Africa football extravaganza.
Zimbabwe’s fifth appearance at the Afcon finals was shrouded in doubt after the world football governing body threatened to impose sanctions on the country if the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) did not reinstate the suspended Zifa board.
SRC had wielded the axe on Zifa soon after a disastrous World Cup qualification campaign in November citing a number of transgressions against the football body.
Mapeza and his Warriors failed to rise to the occasion when they were expected to progress to the knockout stages for the first time in the history of the Afcon competition.
“My biggest worry for them (the players) was that they would be asking me, ‘coach are we going to be banned, are we going to go home now?’” Mapeza said on the sidelines of the event where FBC bank was handing over the money they pledged for the team.
“I think psychologically some of them got affected but I spoke to them and said look guys let’s focus on what is at hand at the moment. If we put more focus on what is going to happen, whether we are going to get banned or what, it’s not going to help us.
“I think after that talk it helped us a lot in terms of the psychological side of the game,” he said.
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Zimbabwe lost the first two matches against Senegal and Malawi to end hopes of progressing to the knockout stages in a group that also included Guinea.
However, the team concluded its participation at the event on a high note after beating Guinea 2 – 1 in a dead rubber.
Mapeza gave an overview of the teams’ performance at the Afcon finals in Cameroon.
“Against Senegal I think we did very well. We looked organised defensively and getting into midfield, people were asking who Benyu was but I think Benyu gave us a good shift but we didn’t create many opportunities.
“Then when we played Malawi we had our game plan, it wasn’t about sitting back but it was about going forward more and we showed in the first half. We had four or five opportunities where we could have wrapped up the game but then we ended up conceding soft goals.
“You know I am not someone who wants to put the blame on players but I do understand such things happening in a game of football. There were so many positives against Malawi despite us losing that match
“Against Guinea again we had the same approach. Let’s go out there, let’s play for our pride, let’s not put ourselves under pressure and we managed to get a positive result. It was late but it was something very encouraging even for the players,” he said.
The 50-year-old coach’s contract with the Warriors ended after the team’s Afcon exit but speculation is rife that Mapeza will be allowed to continue with the team despite a dismal record in his recent stint.
“At the end of the day I am not the one who makes decisions but when I was appointed for those last few matches in the World Cup qualifiers of course the objective was to do well and see we were going to progress. It didn’t work to my liking.
“These guys asked me again to take the team to Afcon so the decision lies definitely on them so we will see what is going to happen. My wish is to see football develop regardless of whoever is going to take over.
“I had my opportunity and statistics don’t lie there is no way that I am going to say I had seven matches and won ten, statistics are clear for all to see,” he said.