HARARE – Three years into the reign of the current Zifa administration, Zimbabwean football is at its lowest ebb since the Cuthbert Dube-led board swept into office in March 2010 amid high expectations they would be able to take the game to the next level.
After the most discouraging World Cup qualification campaign we have ever endured came the most embarrassing boobs of them all when the national side, the Warriors, reached their destination without their full complement of squad members.
This country has witness bizarre events in the past such as the hyperinflation which turned the nation into a laughing stock of the world, but in football bizarre, the Warriors’ anarchic trip to Guinea for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier is the absolute epitome of incompetence by a national sport governing body.
Before that had been Zimbabwe’s biggest defeat at home in a competitive match, the 4-2 loss to Egypt when the Warriors were handicapped by an awkward attempt at a football style clearly alien to them.
What else could go wrong?
The saddest thing from developments of the last months is that the team seemed to look more competitive after Klaus-Dieter Pagels’ men lost gallantly to record African champions Egypt back in March.
Coach Pagels had seemed to find his feet in the coaching role, but has not had time to make much impact.
The new crops of Warriors were still settling into their role. The commendable performance in Egypt was due almost entirely to the fact that the Warriors were well-prepared for that match, having spent five days in the coastal city of Alexandria, acclimatising to local conditions and getting to gel as a team.
Preparation and attitude can never be underestimated at this level of football, and it has been hardly surprising that the Warriors’ performances on the field in the last two games, in the absence of that kind of professionalism, have bee so poor.
As a result of these slapdash preparations, the Warriors have not been able to maintain the momentum because Zifa have failed to create an environment which allows for consistency.
The time to build morale and a positive attitude before a match is weeks and even months before a match, not hours before as was the case in Conakry on Sunday.
Not surprisingly, the Warriors, in their last two matches, have never really managed to produce the best football of which they are capable of, as exhibited in Alexandria.
Buy the of Alexandria, it was clear that Zimbabwe is well capable of shortening the odds between them and the best on the continent, but the support system has let terribly let the team down.
For a team to flourish, players need to operate in an environment which has some kind of order and professionalism.
Fixtures of this magnitude are set well in advance. For Zifa to bungle bookings, to the extent of leaving some members of delegation stuck in transit and unable to reach the destination, calls for stern action against those responsible for disgracing the nation in such despicable manner.
Zifa has been on and on about a rebuilding exercise, putting together a team for the future, but their handling of Sunday’s trips makes even their sympathises doubt the association’s sincerity.
If you are genuinely serious about rebuilding for the future, a competitive match away to a very good side like Guinea, who beat us at home in the first game of the campaign, is a wonderful opportunity to measure progress. You get a feeling that Sunday’s trip to Conakry was unwillingly and fulfilled, face-saver so to speak.
Zifa’s argument will always be lack of funding. Granted, it every FA’s duty to secure sponsorship, and not opportune and ad-hoc donations as is the norm in Zimbabwe.
In sponsor in modern sports takes care of basically all the team’s needs, from salaries to airfares, from kits to lodging. For years different Zifa administrations have failed to tie down such partners.
With board elections around the corner, here that people with the clearest vision for football win. If the current administration wants a fresh mandate, they will have to address the flaws in their leadership of the last three years, articulate a revised vision and tell the nation how they intend to fund football in their new term.