EDITORIAL COMMENT: ZIFA should do thorough screening for national team coaching posts Lincoln Mutasa

THE ZIFA Normalisation Committee this week made a serious intention in terms of the appointment of the national football teams to get the nation competing again on the international stage.

The move comes barely a month after FIFA had lifted the suspension of Zimbabwe from the global football family following serious breaches in the administration of the game.

The suspension, which was confirmed on 24 February 2022, on the basis of ‘third party interference’, was only repealed last month, much to the relief and joyous approval of the Zimbabwean football stakeholders.

The appointment of the Normalisation Committee, led by former Dynamos chairman Lincoln Mutasa, to take charge of the football affairs at ZIFA leading to the setting up of the structures by June 30 next year, was well-received by the majority in the football sector.

Simply put, the five-member committee was tasked with the running of the day to day affairs of ZIFA, restructure the association’s administration and lastly organise elections that will usher in a substantive executive committee to fill the vacuum that was created by the chaos left by the previous leadership led by Felton Kamambo.

All that now is water under the bridge. Zimbabwe has to fill its space again in international football.

The first step for the Normalisation Committee is the setting up of the structures.

But while they are at it, international assignments are coming up thick and fast, hence the importance of preparing for such.

Zimbabwe senior men are set to play in the 2024 CHAN qualifiers beginning next month and then the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in November.

The women’s teams and the junior age-group teams also have international assignments lined up in the coming months, hence the need to assemble the technical personnel as a matter of urgency.

According to the ZIFA job advertisement, prospective applicants have one week, up to August 11 to tender applications for the 14 national team coaching vacancies from the junior age-group teams to the seniors for both men and women.

Naturally, the discussion has centred mostly on the appointment of the senior men team’s coach, the Warriors, as the flagship team. 

Of course with the goodwill around Zimbabwean football at the moment, the Warriors job is going to attract some of the best coaches locally and beyond borders.

The role represents a key position in the Zimbabwe national team set up in the cycle 2023-2028

While there is a general clamour among the majority of Zimbabwean football enthusiasts for a foreign coach, ZIFA has also encouraged local coaches to apply for the job.

There is always this debate out there: ‘who is the best placed coach to take the Warriors to the Promised land between a local coach and a foreign coach?’

This is a topic that can be argued forever and ever but without coming to a consensus. 

In the past local coaches like Sunday Chidzambwa, Charles Mhlauri and Callisto Pasuwa succeeded in qualifying the Warriors for AFCON tournaments.

 Joey Antipas also built a good foundation when Zimbabwe qualified for last year’s AFCON finals in Cameroon, but the credit goes to Croatian Zdravko Logarusic, who was in charge of the remainder of the campaign.

The Croatian, however, completed the campaign with a great deal of difficulty.

But Zimbabwe enjoyed one of their best periods of international football in the 1990s under German coach Reinhard Fabisch, whose ‘Dream Team’ era always evokes nostalgic memories among a wider section of football enthusiasts.

Fabisch managed to bring Zimbabwean football to life, with some spectacular results and the stadium filled to capacity.

Never again has Zimbabwean football experienced such passion.

Unfortunately, the warriors under Fabisch never got to qualify for any major tournament.

A lot of other foreign coaches like Rudi Gutendorf, Ian Porterfield, Clemens Westerhof, Wieslaw Grabowski, Valinhos, Tom Saintfiet, Klause-Dieter Pagels and lately Logarusic also came to the party at some point, with varying consequences.

Unlike our neighbours like South Africa and Zambia that have achieved some success with expatriate coaches, it is probably the calibre of foreign coaches that the previous ZIFA administrations targeted.

The ones that are ‘cheap’ and always ready to jump on board but without offering much in terms of the technical expertise that suits African football.

The flawed recruitment of coaches has been the major difference between Zimbabwe and their neighbours like South Africa and Zambia.

South Africa have enjoyed relative success with former AFCON-winning coach, Belgian Hugo Broos, while Zambia are on the up again with travelled ex-Chelsea manager Avram Grant, who boasts of huge experience with both European and African football.

Likewise, if the ZIFA Normalisation Committee decides to employ an expatriate, Zimbabwe needs a coach with a reputation.

Hopefully the lessons are still fresh in mind, especially the ill-fated experiment with Logarusic which was not only disastrous on the field of play, but also cost the association a cumulative bill of over US$223 000 in salaries and bonuses over a period of 20 months.   

ZIFA had to pay off the money to avoid the fiascos faced in the past involving foreign coaches like Valinhos and Tom Saintfiet when the association was ordered to pay damages through the nose, and even got suspended for the 2018 World Cup, for breaches of contracts.

Loga was given the long rope by ZIFA despite the poor statistics during his reign.

He left with only one win from the 14 games he was in charge of the team.

This was the worst record by any coach to lead the Warriors.

So, the Normalisation Committee, as they hunt for substantive coaches, due diligence is needed.

Zimbabwean football has to go back to the top again and the right appointments have to be made

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