Zim football need reboot . . . local coach for Warriors Gift Banda

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

INTERIM ZIFA president Gift Banda reckons Zimbabwe need to go back to the basics as the country will never produce football gems in the mould of Peter Ndlovu and Moses Chunga again if the dead structures of junior football development are not given a reboot.

The former Njube Sundowns owner, who was recently handed the task to lead the board following the ousting of Felton Kamambo, said junior development has been neglected by the association for a long time and this has led to a dearth of star players.

Banda, whose club was part of the Premiership in the 2000s, said one of the major reasons local football was failing to attract huge crowds was the deterioration in the quality of the game.

The Bulawayo businessman believes development forms one of the key pillars for success for both local football and the national team.

However, junior football in this country has not received the attention it deserves despite the support from FIFA, who dispatch grants to all member associations annually towards development.

“It really pains me, having been a football club owner before, who has promoted youngsters, some of whom are still playing today. It’s a pity that we are not finding any juniors coming from the junior leagues,” said Banda.

“Why is that so? It’s because we have never had a direct policy that supports junior football in Zimbabwe. It’s so sad that even the grants that were coming (from FIFA) intended for junior football development never found their way to the intended target.

“That’s why we find ourselves in the situation we are in now. We have disregarded junior football. It’s non-existent except for a few football-loving individuals in Harare and Bulawayo who have kept junior football alive.

“But from the association’s point of view, I would really like to urge my board members that we put a lot of effort in resuscitating junior football because this is where we are going to get the next Peter Ndlovus, the Moses Chungas and the people who mesmerised us during the yesteryears. In terms of filling the stadiums, we no longer see the stadiums full these days,” said Banda.

Zimbabwean football finds itself at crossroads especially with an ageing senior national team that is losing players through retirement.

The Warriors lost two key players in the last few months following the retirement of Khama Billiat and former captain Knowledge Musona. 

The two players were products of the Aces Youth Soccer Academy, who are one of the institutions that have taken it upon themselves to develop talent, albeit with no support from the association in terms of resources.

Musona and Billiat were central in the national team set up for the past 12 years, helping Zimbabwe qualify for three AFCON editions in 2017, 2019 and the rescheduled 2021 finals held in Cameroon earlier this year.

Their retirement, in part, also exposed ZIFA’s lack of development as the junior national teams, which should be the conveyor belt for the Warriors, have also not received the necessary support and have not been doing well.

Banda also said Zimbabwe needed to develop a unique football identity that should be inculcated to the junior players from a young age.

Development is likely to be tabled when he chairs his first ZIFA board meeting in the coming days. Banda was recently appointed by the ZIFA Congress to steer the ship following the recalling of Kamambo by disgruntled councillors at the emergency meeting called on April 23.

Board members Philemon Machana and Bryton Malandule were also swept aside while Banda, Farai Jere, Barbara Chikosi and Sugar Chagonda were retained.

They were all part of the Kamambo board that was suspended by the Sports and Recreation Commission last year over allegations of mismanagement, corruption and sexual harassment of female referees, but have since been cleared by the same authorities to resume duties.  

The appointment of Banda as interim president was approved by the Sports Commission last week, paving way for the first board meeting scheduled for later this month.

He said he would push for the appointment of a local coach to lead the national team. Zimbabwe currently do not have a substantive coach following the expiry of Norman Mapeza’s contract. Mapeza had replaced Croatian Zdravko Logarusic, who had a time to forget as Warriors coach.

“We will sit down with my fellow board members and deliberate on it in our next board meeting so that we have a substantive coach,” he said.

“If you ask for my preference, I would prefer a local coach because it’s high time we gave our own coaches the chance to lead our teams because it’s not everything that is foreign that is good for us.

“Again in that vein, I would also add that as a nation we must have an identity. What type of football do we want to play so we put it in the structures up to junior level?”

The ZIFA board have also started engaging FIFA for the lifting of the suspension that has led the national teams being sidelined from international matches.

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