Brutal reality check…FCP struggles in CL highlight Zim problems
While FC Platinum have bossed the domestic league winning the title for the last three season, they have however, struggled to replicate the same form in continental club football where they remain winless in 12 African Champions League group stage matches.
The Zvishavane-based side finished bottom of Group B with only a single point after a 1-1 draw with Egyptian giants Al Ahly at Barbourfields Stadium.
That run by Pure Platinum Play means for the past 12 years, Dynamos were the only local team to progress past the group stages in Africa’s premier inter-club competition when they reached the semi-finals of the tournament in 2008 under David Mandigora.
Since then, the now defunct Monomotapa were knocked out in the group stages the following year while other extinct sides Gunners and Motor Action failed to make into the group stages in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
DeMbare then went onto dominate the local game between 2011 and 2014 but in all those years, the Glamour Boys were unable to make an impact in the Champions League as they were unable to reach the group stages.
Chicken Inn won the 2015 championship but they could only reach the first qualifying round and lost to eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
Harare giants CAPS United won the 2016 title and the following year they did well to reach the group stages by knocking out five-time African champions TP Mazembe of the DR Congo in the qualifiers.
In the group stages, Makepekepe held their own and narrowly missed out on reaching the knockout stages.
Apparently, there is a notion that since 2008, the standard of football in the domestic league has plummeted along with the country’s economy, with players migrating en masse to South Africa and most recently to Zambia and Tanzania where they are offered better remuneration.
Former Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa, who led Dynamos to 1998 Champions League final before losing to Ivorian giants ASEC Mimosa, feels local teams need to invest heavily in players if they to excel against other top teams in Africa.
“First of all, I think our biggest problem at the moment is the exodus of players out of the country owing to different reasons. The moment you lose some of your best players from the previous season, it means you have been weakened,” Chidzambwa told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Consistency is very key in football. Being able to keep your best players and being able to bring few additions is the only way that can make teams competitive.
“During the 1998 campaign, it’s also something that militated against winning that tournament. We could have easily won that cup but we had lost the core of our squad in Vitalis Takawira, Claudius Zviripayi, Kaitano Tembo, Tauya Murehwa and Bheki Mhlotshwa.”
With most big teams on the continent investing heavily on recruiting players, Chidzambwa feels until such a time when our local teams start doing the same, it will be difficult for them to compete at that level.
Tunisian clubs reportedly spent in excess of US$10 million in recruiting players while Egyptian
giants Al Ahly, alone spent over US$1 million on new players over the past transfer window.
“Our clubs need to start investing in players. There is need to have proper development structures that feed into the first team,” said Chidzambwa.
“Again, you find that most of these clubs they buy some quality players from across the continent and our teams should be seen doing that. Clubs need to offer players better packages otherwise it will remain difficult to compete.”
David Mandigora, who was the Soccer Star of the Year in 1980, and led the Glamour Boys to the Champions League semi-finals in 2008, concurs with Chidzambwa saying experience and funding are two key aspects when participating in Africa.
Under Mandigora, Dynamos beat Egyptian giants Zamalek and Asec Mimosa in the group stages to reach the last four.
At that time, the White Knights as Zamalek are known employed German coach Reiner Hollmann while the late Ghana international Junior Agogo was their star player on a salary of £300 000 per year.
In the preliminary rounds to reach the group stages, the Glamour Boys had also dumped Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel by winning both matches.
“I think Dynamos played these matches for quite a long time thus gaining a lot of experience along the way. It’s something that comes with experience to excel at that level,” Mandigora told the Daily News on Sunday.
“During our time you find that my technical director was Sunday Chidzambwa a guy, who had seen it all so his knowledge was very useful.
“Also, the mentality of players we had then was something else, we had Murape Murape, Benjamin Marere, Desmond Maringwa, Edward Sadomba among other players. These days it’s difficult because most players after one season they move out of the country and it makes it difficult for clubs to build on continuity. Seeing players flocking to Zambia gives a worrying image to the league.
“Our clubs really need to do something to ensure they compete with some of the best teams in Africa.”
Another aspect which has seen local clubs fail to compete with the aristocrats of continental football like Al Ahly, Al Hilal, Mamelodi Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca, Zamalek, MC Algiers and TP Mazembe is their failure to embrace sports science.
All these top African teams employ sports scientists, data and videos analysts, biokineticists, masseuses and dieticians as part of their backroom staff.
There are now a lot of factors which affect teams and individual player performances with all these specialists coming on board to ensure optimum execution.
However, Zimbabwean teams are still operating in medieval eras with coaches still relying on the same tactics from the past despite the new trends in football. What is so disappointing is that local teams even leave behind key personnel like kits managers, medics and medical officers when travelling away for Champions League and Confederation Cup assignments.
A huge mental shift is needed in order for Zimbabwean clubs to compete on the continent again because if they keep on going on this path, nothing will change.