THE Zimbabwe Warriors left Harare yesterday for Namibia, to begin another qualifying campaign for a place at the African Championship of Nations (CHAN) finals, buoyed by their brilliant performance at the COSAFA Castle Cup which helped us win that tournament for a record fifth time.
Coach Sunday Chidzambwa, who took our Warriors to the finals of the inaugural CHAN finals in Cote d’Ivoire in 2009, is also expected to guide his men to another appearance at the 2018 CHAN finals in Kenya.
The veteran gaffer, the most successful Zimbabwean football coach in history, showed at the COSAFA Castle Cup that, like wine, he appears to be getting better with age as our boys turned into the toast of the tournament with a refreshing style of attacking football that saw them scoring 19 goals in six matches.
After years of poor showings at this regional tournament, which resulted in us being relegated into the group qualifiers, the ZIFA leadership decided that enough was enough and turned to a coach who has the pedigree at such events, giving him the mandate to stop the rot and bring the trophy back home.
And Chidzambwa, who has never lost a COSAFA Castle Cup match in the 16 matches that he has taken charge, winning 13 and drawing three, duly delivered in convincing style with his men destroying a competitive Zambia 3-1 in the final.
Now, the focus shifts to the CHAN qualifiers and we know that our boys are under the guidance of a coach who knows this terrain well and we have confidence that our Warriors will not only beat Namibia but also make it to the finals in Kenya next year.
With the Warriors having ended a decade of waiting for a dance at the AFCON finals, when they took part at the continent’s biggest football festival in Gabon earlier this year, and CAPS United also ending recent disappointing performances by our clubs in the Champions League by making the group stages of the tournament, there is no doubt that this is a purple patch for our national game.
There is something that we are doing right, which is bringing in these good results, and a new ZIFA leadership that has made it clear it won’t tolerate under-achievement, has led the way in changing the mindset of both the players and coaches who now know what is expected of them when they fly our flag in these battles.
The Warriors are very important to this country, with their unrivalled power to unite us all and also improve our mood, even in times when we are having our challenges. One only has to look at those delirious Zimbabwean fans at the Royal Bafokeng Palace in South Africa last Sunday, and millions who partied back home, to understand that.
But, for the Warriors to keep doing well, they need to get the right preparations and ZIFA, who have their own financial challenges, including a huge $7 million debt hanging over their head, cannot do it alone.
The association needs partners to help them and that is why we have been charmed by the benevolence of Prophet Walter Magaya who, on two occasions now, has come to ZIFA’s rescue by availing his five-star hotel complex to the Warriors to use for their camping free of charge and also giving them food and a training ground at no cost.
Sadly, we are disturbed by the noises that we keep hearing from some critics, who have done nothing to help this team in the past, who have turned themselves into rabid critics of the arrangement between Magaya and ZIFA.
We don’t understand where they derive their venom from, given they have never done anything to help our Warriors, but only thrive in being armchair critics who cannot offer any alternative.
These same people were there when these Warriors were disqualified from the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, for failing to settle a debt owed to former coach Valinhos, and did nothing to come on board to help the association.
They were there when our Under-20 and Under-17 national sides were banned from participating in the African Youth Championships, after ZIFA failed to send them to Angola and Congo-Brazzaville for the return legs of their qualifiers, and still these armchair critics did nothing to help the association.
It’s a shame that in this country we have people who are only good at being critics, without providing an alternative, and we have been watching with disappointment as they generate cheap publicity for themselves as they criticise an arrangement that has been beneficial to ZIFA and our boys.
ZIFA revealed, after the AFCON qualifier against Liberia, that they saved more than $60 000 by staying at Magaya’s hotel for free yet some people still find the voices to criticise such an arrangement, for the sake of hearing their voices of shame, without providing an alternative.
Right now, what we need is to be united, for the sake of our boys who are doing well, and Magaya is doing his part and needs to be commended.