THE SPECTACULAR FALLOUT BETWEEN ZIFA AND PASUWA HAS LEFT MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
THE public outrage that has greeted ZIFA’s ill-timed and shock decision to fire Callisto Pasuwa from his job as Warriors coach, barely a month before the country plunges into another African Nations Championships final battle, is understandable.The anger that has exploded among some of the fans, who feel that the ZIFA board is rapidly losing the plot, just a few weeks after the new leadership took over as the guardians of our national game, is quite justified.
That some of the fans are now even beginning to think that the hugely unpopular, hopeless and useless ZIFA board, ousted in disgrace by the Councillors who finally came to their senses and realised that their leadership had evolved into a cancer that was devouring the game, was a better devil, is an indictment on the new leadership.
That there is growing pessimism among the supporters, about where our football is heading, at a time when there should be boundless optimism, is a sign that something is not right and the sooner that our new leaders realise that then the better for our national game.
Of course, things can never get any worse than what happened during Cuthbert Dube’s five-year demolition job of our national game when the hopeless leadership dragged us from one crisis to another with things coming to a head when we were kicked out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, without even kicking a ball, for failing to pay one of the worst coaches to ever take charge of the Warriors.
Valinhos, or whatever you prefer to call him, was an insult to everything that Brazil represents as a football nation, a coach so out of touch with the demands of the game at national team level, let alone this continent, he was either a sick joke or a mockery to what expatriate coaches — especially those from the Samba Fields — should bring.
That we have ended up paying the ultimate price, for failing to settle the dues of a gaffer so useless he only managed one victory in six World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers, is one of this game’s striking ironies.
What is even worse is that, for five years, we had a leadership that failed to pay $67 000, despite repeated reminders from FIFA about the dangers of not doing so, and an entire nation ended up paying a huge price for that with a generation of its footballers being denied the chance to battle for a place at the World Cup finals.
The Valinhos debacle, and its disastrous consequences, was one of the main issues that eventually convinced the ZIFA Councillors that their ship was being led by men who could not be trusted anymore to provide such leadership and the time had come for them to stop the rot and relieve them of their mandate to lead them.
And when Dube and his leadership eventually fell, not without a fight of course, with those who were pushing for their ouster twice being frustrated by a global football system that seemed to protect him, and his hopeless band of lieutenants, a wave of joy swept across the domestic football community that believed this would usher in a new era for a game that has so much potential but which had been weighed down, and choked, by leaders plucked from hell.
However, just a few weeks after a fresh crop of leaders were given the mandate of cleaning that mess, and bringing a breath of fresh air into the game, there are concerns among some of the fans that things are not going the way they had expected and tomorrow might not bring better tidings.
The spectacular fallout between the new ZIFA leaders and Pasuwa, which led to the coach being booted out in dramatic fashion on Thursday, barely a month before he was expected to lead us at the CHAN finals in Rwanda, has left more questions than answers and left thousands, if not millions, of this game’s fans wondering where their football is heading to.
That Pasuwa is very popular among the fans is not even questionable and his record, where he has guided our Warriors to a number of key victories, while working under very difficult circumstances, has endeared him to those who now believe that he is the man who could take their beloved team to the Promised Land again.
And, when he was unceremoniously booted out of his job on Thursday, there was a tsunami of both sympathy, and support, which flowed into his corner with social media exploding in rage yesterday as fans cried foul and felt that they had been betrayed by the people who are leading their game.
There is a reason why the fans are concerned about a change of leadership for their national team, especially with barely a month before they play at a very big tournament, and all the acrimony that sparked the divorce, because they have been there before and they know the possible consequences.
A JOURNEY BACK INTO THE PAST
They say that it’s not a mistake to make a mistake but it’s a mistake to repeat a mistake and history should always provide us with lessons so that we know where and when we erred and, as we march into the future, we don’t make those same errors.
Five years ago, Norman Mapeza guided the Warriors to a place at the 2011 CHAN finals in impressive fashion, with his men thrashing Swaziland — the very team that today now leads our 2017 Nations Cup qualifying group —5-1 on aggregate in the first qualifying round.
Then, in the second qualifying round, the Warriors even did better as they thrashed Seychelles 6-2 on aggregate to book their ticket to the CHAN finals in Sudan and ensure that, until that stage, we had never lost a match in the competition.
Our team had started off with an unbeaten run in the 2009 CHAN qualifiers, eliminating Namibia and South Africa, who were comprehensively beaten 0-3 on aggregate, to secure their ticket to the finals, held in Cote d’Ivoire, where they also didn’t lose a game despite playing in a very tough group that featured the two teams which eventually battled in the final — the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana.
And Mapeza kept our proud unbeaten run intact, in the qualifiers for a place at the 2011 CHAN finals, but — just before the tournament got underway in Sudan — the coach was pushed out of his job and replaced by Madinda Ndlovu during a period of turmoil within the ZIFA Board.
But this didn’t work out, as many experts had rightly predicted, and the Warriors suffered their first loss, in a CHAN game, at the finals in Sudan as they lost to Niger and were also beaten 1-2 by South Africa, the very team that we had comprehensively thrashed 0-3 in the qualifiers two years earlier, as the ZIFA experiment horribly backfired.
The Warriors, who hadn’t lost a game at the 2009 CHAN finals in Cote d’Ivoire, drawing all their three matches against Ghana and the DRC, the two teams that eventually played in the final, and Libya, had suddenly turned into a hopeless outfit they now lost two of their three group games in Sudan.
Mapeza, watching from his home in Harare as this happened, could only imagine what could have been, had the game’s leaders left him to take charge of a team that he had led into those finals, rather than stroke their ego by dumping him, when he had done all the donkey work, and destroying a nation’s dream.
The fans, watching all this unfold, could only imagine what could have been, had their game’s leaders not let emotions guide them and let the national interests overshadow everything else, by leaving Mapeza to take charge of the team in Sudan.
And it wasn’t only our 2011 CHAN dreams that suffered.
Mapeza, just like Pasuwa today, had also led his men to a good start in the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers, after picking a point on the road in West Africa, before the ZIFA leaders turned against him and brought in Tom Saintfiet into the system and all the chaos that it brought, ahead of the game against Cape Verde.
Even though Saintfiet only lasted one day, deported by immigration authorities for rushing to work without securing a work permit, the confusion that his arrival, and sudden departure created a lot of chaos in the team and, for the first time in the history of the Warriors, we had the laughable arrangement of having co-coaches for the game against Cape Verde.
Mapeza, the man that the ZIFA leaders didn’t want to lead the team, despite his impressive record, and Madinda Ndlovu, were thrust to take charge of the Warriors and, in that confusion, all we could do was just pick a point, or rather to put it correctly, drop two points, at home against Cape Verde.
And, after that, we never recovered and a 2012 Nations Cup campaign that had started promisingly, ended in failure as an entire nation paid for the sins, or the stupidity, of those who had been entrusted to lead their national game.
Today, five years later, it looks like history is about to repeat itself and the nightmare that we endured, could return to haunt us again.
That is why the fans of the team are worried, very worried about what has just happened, the fallout between ZIFA and Pasuwa and the possible consequences of their public divorce.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE
TO MEND BRIDGES
That Pasuwa has done well, under very difficult circumstances, is not even questionable and, given that he isn’t being paid for his services, his dedication for national duty, and the good results that he has posted, have made him a firm favourite among the fans.
They love him because, in him, they see their version of the Special One, the super coach who can deliver their Warriors to the Promised Land, the way that he led Dynamos to four straight league titles.
When he emerged out of the team’s lodge, with that two-in-one blanket wrapped around him ahead of the road trip to Malawi for their 2017 Nations Cup battle, we all felt that he was one of us, so down to earth, we had hundreds, if not thousands, of fans posting images of themselves, on social media platforms, wrapped in their two-in-one blankets.
For that period, we were all Pasuwa, and the nation exploded in joy when he led his men to an improbable victory over the Malawians, despite having arrived in Blantyre just a few hours before the start of the game.
It’s sad that it has come to this, a public divorce between him and his employers, but it’s not too late for bridges to be built and for national interests to take precedence over everything else.
ZIFA should not interfere in Pasuwa’s job but the coach also needs to understand that there are some authorities, who are in charge of the national game, and whose interests, in terms of how they believe the national team can be improved, need to be taken into account.
If the authorities feel there is need to change the way the team is being managed, which has nothing to do with direct interference in the way the coach is doing his job, it’s very important for the gaffer to take note of their wishes.
Surely, there is no way that the choice of a team manager, in the national side, can lead to a disintegration of relations between the coach and his employers unless, of course, there are other deeper underlying issues at stake.
After all, this is not the first time that we have seen national team managers being changed while Pasuwa has been in charge of the team.
The Warriors didn’t even have a team manager when they went on that road trip to Malawi and powered their way to an impressive win in their 2017 Nations Cup campaign.
When the team went to the COSAFA Cup in South Africa this year, the team manager was someone else, Charles Mukaronda.
When the Young Warriors travelled to South Africa, for their CAF Under-23 Championship qualifier, under Pasuwa’s guidance, the team didn’t even have a welfare manager.
The national team belongs to all of us and, for now, Pasuwa is the best man to take charge of our team.
Pasuwa didn’t bring the team manager when he was appointed as national coach, he found him there, and the people who appoint this person, can make decisions related to whether he stays, or goes, depending on how they see things.
It’s important that Pasuwa embraces the ideas of his employers, if those who were chosen to lead our game believe they are best way to make the team better, as long as that doesn’t get to the level of them dictating to him the players that he should pick.
There is need for the two parties to understand that they need each other, for the sake of our football, and mend bridges so that we don’t destroy what we have started to build.
WHAT ARE THEY SMOKING AT THE SPORTS COMMISSION?
Surely, there is something that they are smoking at the Sports Commission and, whatever it is, it’s not the stuff that is legalised, which we see being sold in shops or on the markets.
For these guys to tell us that the Mighty Warriors were not the best team in this country this year, for them to tell us that their achievements of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the first time that this has happened in the history of this country, is an insult to all those brave women who flew our national flag high.
For these guys to say that qualifying for the Olympic Games is a smaller achievement than the netball team winning an African championship that did not feature the giants of the game on the continent, South Africa and Malawi, is fraudulent.
South Africa and Malawi played at the Netball World Cup this year because they are the best teams on the continent.
Cameroon played at the Women World Cup this year, because they are one of the best teams on the continent, and our Mighty Warriors beat them, for a place at the Olympic Games next year, and we turn around and tell them that their achievement was not great, that’s very, very sad.
We have a team that has been listed for Team of the Year, by CAF, and we tell them that they are not even good enough to be given the Team of the Year award in this country, that is ridiculous, to say the least.
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