A LOT of things happened on our football scene this week to inject confidence that there might be some light at the end of the darkness that followed our Warriors’ poor showing at the 2016 African Nations Championship finals in Rwanda.
Day after day, our back pages were pregnant with refreshing stories that suggest tomorrow might not be as dark as yesterday and our country’s biggest sporting discipline, weighed down by a past dominated by negativity, could be moving in the right direction.
ZIFA’s decision to finally get Warriors’ coach Callisto Pasuwa to sign a two-year contract, after months of disagreements and a public fallout which some fans believe was the cause of the Warriors’ poor showing in Rwanda, was very progressive.
Given all the speculation that followed the Warriors’ early elimination from the 2016 CHAN finals, including reports that Pasuwa would be replaced by a new coach, it was important that the ZIFA leadership come out clearly with their position on the gaffer.
Did they still have confidence in him, were they going to give him another run in charge of the team, was Pasuwa going to be in charge of the Warriors’ 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers, which resume next month with back-to-back matches against Swaziland, or someone else was going to take over the hot seat?
Refreshingly, we now have the answer and Pasuwa, who remains very popular among the fans who feel that right now he is the best man to lead the team, has been given a two-year contract which he signed on Monday.
Now our coach can have the sense of security that his job is safe and all that he can do is to concentrate on preparing for the games against Swaziland which, should we take maximum points from the two matches, will place us in a very strong position to qualify for the Nations Cup finals for the first time since 2006.
The coach can start to look at how his players, those who can represent us in the battlefields of the Nations Cup, are doing at their clubs — especially those who are based in foreign countries — and try and see how they can fit into the system that he intends to play against the Swazis.
He can also spend his time looking at his opponents, the matches that they played against Guinea in Morocco and Malawi in Swaziland, to try and see where their weaknesses lie, which are their strengths and how best we can destroy them when we meet in those two decisive matches.
Pasuwa now has peace of mind to concentrate on his job and also arrange his programme, which might need the Warriors to play a game or two, as part of their preparations so that he can try his combinations in a real match situation.
We commend both ZIFA and Pasuwa, including the coach’s management team led by Gibson Mahachi, for putting the interests of the nation ahead of their own interests and finding a way to bury their differences so that they work together for the good of our football.
We also applaud the efforts of ZIFA partner, Wicknell Chivayo, the young Harare businessman who has changed the face of our national association with his fiery commitment to ensure that everything is in order and Pasuwa and his team have the right ammunition needed to confront and defeat our opponents in our bid for a place at the 2017 Nations Cup finals.
Chivayo has impressed us with his commitment to the national cause, something that we don’t see in many of our successful businessmen, including multi-millionaires who have reaped a fortune from the resources of this country.
He has blazed a trail by unveiling a $1 million sponsorship package for ZIFA and so far he has not only paid the debt owed to Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet, which was threatening our 2022 World Cup campaign even before a ball has been kicked, and also secured a brand new vehicle for Pasuwa, which was handed to the coach on Monday, shaming those who said he would not deliver on his promises. By getting a brand new 4×4 vehicle, it means that our coach doesn’t only feel appreciated by the system that employs him but he is now able to move across the country to see how some of the players, whom he can call for national duty, are doing.
Chivayo has even gone further to also secure a brand new car for Mighty Warriors coach, Shadreck Mlauzi, and we salute him for that gesture.
People like Chivayo need to be supported because they look at the wider interests of this nation and they know that football is very important, in cheering the spirits of our people, and we challenge other businessmen to follow what this young businessman is doing.
Imagine if we had about four or five such businessmen, who are making millions from the country’s resources, pouring back into our football, surely, our national game would be in better health than it is today.
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa might have had a number of critics who questioned if he was the right man for the job, the right man to clean our game after the forgettable era when we stumbled from one crisis to another under Cuthbert Dube, culminating in our expulsion from the 2018 World Cup finals, but with each passing week, he is proving them wrong.
Now, even our referees, who for a long time have been ignored by CAF and FIFA when it comes to international assignments, are getting direct appointments and a number of them will be in action across the continent this weekend.
Surely, there is a breath of fresh air in our football right now and long may that continue.