HARARE – A broad spectrum of Zimbabwean football stakeholders — outraged fans, former players and administrators — have called for the resignation of the Cuthbert Dube-led Zifa board as well as coach Rahman Gumbo following the Warriors’ failure to qualify for next year’s African Nations Cup finals in South Africa.
The events that unfolded at Luanda’s 11 Novembro Stadium on Sunday — a shattering 2-0 defeat that overturned Zimbabwe’s 3-1 first leg lead to hand Angola passage to Afcon 2013 — has left many questioning Zifa’s administrative skills and Gumbo’s technical astuteness.
Fired by Castle Premiership side FC Platinum for a spate of poor results and given shelter by Zifa, it was always going to be a tall order for the former Warriors midfielder to take the team to South Africa next January.
However, it is not only Gumbo’s world that is crumbling, but the entire Zifa board, which had been banking on Afcon qualification as vindication against a growing band of critics which has always called for the executives’ heads.
Zifa, suffering a battered image, huge debt problems and a chaotic handling of the Asiagate match-fixing scandal, threw their last dice days before Zimbabwe’s second leg encounter to Angola by exonerating seven players from the shackles of Asiagate scam.
Yet still, a third Afcon qualification remained elusive in the cauldron of November 11 on Sunday evening.
Following the devastating defeat, several stakeholders threw down the gauntlet and blamed Zifa for the catastrophic result.
Former CAPS United player Alois Bunjira, who earned a few Warriors caps during his playing career, called for a change of personnel at Zifa House.
“I think it’s the same old story. Our preparations were in shambles.
After the first leg, there was a month to prepare for Angola, yet still there was no friendly match in sight. We are joking,” Bunjira told the Daily News yesterday.
“What can we achieve in such circumstances? It’s either we change Zifa or Zifa should change their ways, one of the two should happen. We can’t carry on doing the same thing and expect different results.”
Warriors fan Tongai Dodo found it hard to take the Warriors’ defeat.
“Some folk need to resign. Zimbabwe football needs a fresh start. Who on earth throws away a 3-1 lead in that fashion. I said it earlier that football is an art which needs to be mastered not fantasised,” he said.
Sports minister David Coltart says the problems bedevilling Zimbabwean football were more deep-rooted than what meets the eye.
“Now we need to analyse the Asiagate report out this week and continue the process of cleaning up and de-politicising Zimbabwe football,” Coltart Tweeted.
Happiness Salije, another fan, called for the disbandment of the national team.
“We should start again; we should disband the national team. We are not even prepared for 2014 World Cup. Let’s set long term goals. For we are clueless about our future.”
Former Zimbabwe international Lazarus Muhoni, a member of the Warriors squad that took the country to its maiden Afcon finals in 2004, expressed “shock” at the failure.
“We knew the answers for the exam but we still failed,” the in-form Black Rhinos Muhoni forward said.
“We played with Angola here and we saw our shortcomings. The coach was supposed to strategize, knowing the kind of players Angola has.
Everyone knew about Manucho, yet our defence did not.”
Muhoni’s comments were echoed by Adam Ndlovu, another former international and the Zimbabwe national side’s second leading goal scorer of all time after his young brother Peter. Ndlovu, who now coaches local club side Chicken Inn, went a step further by questioning the players’ commitment to national duty.
“When you put on the Zimbabwe colours you have to have pride, that was not there on Sunday,” Ndlovu slammed the players.
Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches Association chairman Bhekimpilo Nyoni blamed the failure on “shoddy preparations and poor coaching strategies.”
Nyoni also took aim at events before the Warriors’ departure for Angola last week.
“Before the match, the hype was as if we had already qualified for Afcon,” Nyoni said, drawing support from Bunjira.
Bunjira said: “We are back to square one. They are going to look for donations again. At this rate, I will not be surprised if the Under-17 team fail to travel to Congo for the second leg (of an African Youth Championships qualifier) because there will be no money.”