Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter—
ZIMBABWEAN fans could be in for another dose of entertainment galore should plans to bring on Liverpool greats for a date with the Warriors legends in Harare materialise. A near capacity crowd was at the National Sports Stadium for the match between the Barcelona legends and their Warriors counterparts in November last year. The match was also being used by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation to market brand Zimbabwe and increase the volume of sport tourism. Now there is a strong possibility that some of the greats who illuminated the English Premiership in the colours of former European champions Liverpool could be headed for Harare should all the parties involved agree to a deal.
Visiting former Zimbabwe and Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar expressed his keenness to help facilitate a tour to this country by his former Anfield teammates. Grobbelaar starred for Liverpool in a colourful career in which he spent 13 years at the Reds. This week The Herald said should the local authorities express interest, he was willing to facilitate a tour by some of the big names that featured in the Liverpool side during his time with the Reds.
The Jungleman said he is ready to use his contacts to facilitate for that tour. Grobbelaar back in the country after 11 years in exile also said he is keen to give back to Zimbabwe as an appreciation for the love lavished on him during his career with the national team.
“If Zimbabwe make the request I will put it through to the club’s former players and they will make a determination. It’s a process which has to go through the club’s negotiating team and the former players themselves,” said Grobbelaar.
The 60-year old also said he was happy to use his connections to help local players find foreign clubs to further their careers. Grobbelaar also believes that despite their low rating on the FIFA World rankings, the Warriors have the talent to turn around their fortunes. “I have been following the Warriors for a long time. They are playing good football, they beat Liberia 3-0 recently and that was a good result on their part. They just need to keep focused on the AFCON qualifiers,” said Grobbelaar.
The former eccentric goalkeeper also revealed his eagerness to meet with ZIFA officials and find ways in which he can assist the association in their football programmes. While Grobbelaar is exploring ways in which he could assist the national game, the former Zimbabwe goalkeeper could be touched to note that the Warriors long spells of inactivity have continued to haunt them by contributing to their slide on the FIFA rankings.
The Warriors dropped three places down the ladder on the latest rankings released yesterday. Zimbabwe are now tied at number 106 in the world, together with West Africans Niger.
The Warriors also slid one place on the continental rankings where they are now 26th in Africa. Zimbabwe gave way to the likes of Kenya, Georgia and India who made slight gains on the global rankings table, according to the latest statistics. Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa recently expressed concern with his team’s inactivity and hinted that ZIFA needed to come up with concrete plans to help the nation recover lost ground after they ended the 2017 season outside the top 100 for the sixth year running.
The jinx is likely to continue to impact on the team as long as FIFA sanctioned games are sparse. Zimbabwe have over the years failed to make full use of the FIFA calendar and utilise the opportunities for international friendlies and only fulfilling the mandatory CAF and World Cup games. Last year the Warriors games also became limited because of their expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers by FIFA.
The expulsion came the country was expelled because of the failure by the previous ZIFA executive to settle a long standing debt with the Warriors former coach Valinhos.
Ousted ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze has largely been blamed for failing to settle the Valinhos debt despite ZIFA having also received funds from the Premier Soccer League to assist in paying off the Brazilian.
ZIFA have since instituted legal action against their former chief executive over the Valinhos matter and a host of allegations bordering fraud and misappropriation of funds.
Chidzambwa on his part has since submitted his plan to ZIFA which also highlights the need for the national team to engage in international friendlies in the period before their next competitive assignment in September.
Following CAF’s decision to postpone the resumption of the 2019 Nations Cup qualifiers to September the Warriors would now have to rely on international friendlies matches to stay in shape. The Nations Cup qualifiers had initially been scheduled for March before CAF switched the dates to allow Africa’s representatives at the World Cup more time to prepare without distractions.
Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia asked the dates to be moved to allow them to concentrate on their preparations. But FIFA still maintained that March 19-27 could be used for international friendlies. Zimbabwe’s next competitive match is against Congo Brazzaville in the second match of the 2019 Nations Cup qualifiers.
They began their campaign with a 3-0 thumping of Liberia last year. Democratic Republic of Congo are the other team in the group. DRC are still the top ranked team in Group G despite dropping four places on the global rankings to 43rd and fifth on the continent.
Congo Brazzaville remained static on 96th place while Liberia are the lowest ranked on number 133. Zimbabwe can only repair their rankings record by playing more and posting positive results especially against the top ranked teams instead of targeting lowly nations like Namibia and Lesotho whom they engaged recently. The continued poor performances on the world rankings will have a negative impact in the long run when the draws for the 2022 World Cup are conducted and when the seeding is done for the Nations Cup finals.
While Zimbabwe continued to struggle, their opponents at the 2017 Nations Cup tournament in Gabon — Tunisia and Senegal — continue to dominate. Tunisia became Africa’s number one team after yesterday’s rankings, replacing Senegal. Both nations are going to this year’s World Cup in Russia, with the Senegalese having ended 2017 as Africa’s highest-ranked team. But the Lions of Teranga have lost pole position after dropping one place to 24th in the global rankings while the Carthage Eagles rose four places to 23rd.