Warriors now minnows

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We saw it coming.

The national senior men’s soccer team’s 2-1 defeat to Burundi on Wednesday afternoon in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations preliminary round qualifier match was largely expected after the chaotic build-up to the game.

Apart from the fact that interim coach Rahman Gumbo was asked to choose a squad from the survivors after the Asiagate scandal wiped out the regular players of last year’s campaign through suspensions, the logistical side of this match was a far cry from basic standards.

On their first day in camp only seven players turned out from the possible 23 called up for national duty, marking a slow start to preparations for the match.

As if that was not enough, most of the foreign-based players had to join the team at the last minute in Zimbabwe, in South Africa or in Bujumbura because they had to serve their clubs first.

The reason they could not link up with their counterparts in Harare is the date of the match did not fall under the Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa)-sanctioned dates for competitive matches.

Fifa stipulates that clubs are supposed to release their employees (players) five days before the day of the match.

Had this happened most of the foreign-based players like regular scorer Knowledge Musona, Vusa Nyoni and Noel Kaseke would have made it in time to give the coach enough time to make preparations.

The squad had little time to prepare for this match, but then Zifa knew about this all along and they have no excuse for the defeat to Burundi.

More organised teams like Cape Verde and the Democratic Republic of Congo posted 4-0 away wins despite being in the same predicament as Zimbabwe.

The reality is that the team has become one of the African minnows and the former minnows are fast becoming giants.

They only have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themelves why they have sunk so low. How can they fall to a team like Burundi?

The East African nation is ranked 143rd on the Fifa world rankings, 44 rungs below Zimbabwe, while they are rated 12th from the worst team in Africa, Mauritania. The Warriors are 23rd-best team on the continent.

Gone are the days when it was obvious for Zimbabwe to whip the then minnows such as Botswana, Swaziland, Burundi, Djibouti or Somalia.

During the Dream Team era, the Warriors tamed African giants such as Cameroon and Egypt, but all that is now in the past.

A combination of factors have contributed to this downfall over a long period, chief among them maladministration. It is the same maladministration that brought about the shameful Asiagate scandal.

For as long as there are the same inept administrators at Zifa, then we are in for a long, rough ride.

The previous Zifa boards were not up to scratch and the same can be said of the current one led by Cuthbert Dube — save for its exposé of the Asiagate scandal.

The senior men’s national team preparations for big matches still leave a lot to be desired while there has not been any deliberate plan to systematically implement a junior football development policy.

Zifa have in the recent past pulled out of junior competitions like the Under-17 and the Under-20 categories – the player “conveyor belts” for the Warriors.

This is sad because other prosperous nations like Ghana and African champions Zambia have built on youth teams.

Some of the major stumbling blocks in the smooth running of football today are corruption, petty jealousies, personal wars and cheap politicking.

There are counter-accusations within the top echelons of power at Zifa ranging from vote-buying to involvement of board members in corrupt activities.

Then there is also a school of thought that some of the current board members — who were at one time booted out of Zifa for one reason or the other — are fighting personal wars to settle old scores. All this is at the expense of football development.

Only if the above-mentioned problems are addressed in totality can we once again talk of the Warriors winning and regaining their past glory.