Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
SERBIAN coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic has promised to turn around Zimbabwe’s fortunes and lead the country to the 2022 World Cup finals. Micho is one of the several local, and foreign coaches, who have applied for the vacant Warriors job.
The position fell vacant following the resignation of veteran gaffer, Sunday Chidzambwa, this year on the back of a failed campaign at the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt.
Micho, who has never hidden admiration for Zimbabwean football from long back, told the South African media he sees Zimbabwe as a “project” that need to be developed first by qualifying for the 2021 AFCON tournament in Cameroon.
Then, the Serb said, the Warriors should be in prime shape to take a crack at making the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.
The Warriors have never qualified for the global football showcase with the closest they got to playing there coming during the Dream Team era in the ‘90s.
Then, under the guidance of German coach Reinhard Fabisch, the Dream Team topped a tough group that featured the Pharaohs of Egypt to qualify for the final phase of the battles for the ‘94 World Cup finals.
They were thrust into a three-team group that had the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, fresh from their success story at Italia ‘90 where they became the first African country to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
The Sylie National of Guinea were the other team in the group where the winning team would book a ticket to the ‘94 World Cup finals in the United States.
Fabisch and his men fought long, and hard, in their quest for a place at the global football showcase and, by the time they arrived in Yaounde for their final match, a victory would have been enough to take them to the United States.
However, in a match marred by questionable officiating, the Dream Team went down 1-3 with Fabisch later being sanctioned by CAF for tossing some United States dollar notes at the match officials.
The insinuation by the German coach was that the match officials had allegedly been bribed to ensure the Indomitable Lions won the winner-take-all match.
Micho, who took Uganda to their first AFCON finals in 29 years in Gabon two years ago, said he was confident he could write a success story with the Warriors.
“I am interested in the project, not just the job,’’ he told the Daily Sun newspaper of South Africa from Qatar where he is watching the FIFA Club World Cup.
“If I go there, I will come with the system and strategy that will ensure the abundance in talent and quality Zimbabwe has can turn into performance and results to take them to Africa Cup of Nations 2021 and World Cup 2022.’’
The Warriors began their World Cup and AFCON qualifying campaign this year under the guidance of interim coach, Joey Antipas.
They managed to go past the preliminary round of the World Cup qualifiers after edging minnows Somalia in a close two-legged affair.
The Warriors first fell to a shock 0-1 defeat, in the first leg at a neutral venue in Djibouti, before turning the tables with a nervy 3-1 win at the National Sports Stadium.
They now wait to know their opponents in the next phase of the qualifiers when the draw for the 10 groups is conducted next month in Egypt.
Zimbabwe are returning to the World Cup after missing the 2018 edition due to a FIFA ban over the delays by ZIFA to resolve a longstanding payment dispute with Brazilian coach Valinhos.
This is a special opportunity for the current crop of Warriors, most of whom are now in their late 20s and early 30s, to probably make their final attempt for a place at the World Cup finals.
Micho has vast knowledge of most of the Warriors based in South Africa from his stint with Supa Disk giants, Orlando Pirates.
The man, who calls himself “The Wolf of Serbia”, also has had coaching stints across the continent and his experience with African football places him in a strong position to get the job.
He has been at the helm of clubs like SC Villa (Uganda), St George (Ethiopia), Orlando Pirates (South Africa), Young Africans (Tanzania), Al Hilal (Sudan) and, most recently, Egyptian giants Zamalek.
He has also coached the national teams of Rwanda and Uganda.
The jostling for the Warriors job has also seen applications coming as far afield as Germany, Netherlands and Spain.
Deadline for the applications was December 13.
Dutch football coach Erol Akaby, who has coached local sides Highlanders and Ngezi Platinum, German Hans Michael Weiss, 51-year old Spanish coach Marquez Roca and Antipas are among the applicants.
But, it is still not clear if ZIFA can afford to hire a foreign coach because of their poor financial standing.
“As you might be aware, the deadline for the receipt of applications has since passed and quite a number of coaches from all over the world applied for the Warriors job,” said ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela.
“The first procedure is for the (High Performance) Committee to analyse the applications and then candidates will be shortisted.
“They will then be called for interviews and then the successful candidates will be announced.
“We are going to do everything in line with the proper recruitment procedures.’’