guest column Cliff Chiduku
WHEN Felton Kamambo was elected Zifa president on December 18, 2018, there was optimism that Zimbabwean football would take another course for the better.
The beautiful game had been characterised by controversies and dogfights, especially when Philip Chiyangwa was in charge at 53 Livingstone Avenue.
Even though Kamambo lacked flamboyance and charm to challenge the Zanu PF politician, the Zifa electoral college was convinced he was the best foot forward. He
embodied the change that Zimbabwean football fans yearned for. Chiyangwa’s rein was characterised with drama and skulduggery. He was not given the moniker,
Captain Fiasco, for nothing.
At the height of his “madness”, Chiyangwa had moved Zifa offices to his private property in Highlands, Harare, saying the real Zifa offices were cursed. This
came at a cost as Zifa had to fork out $10 000 as monthly rentals. In 2016, Chiyangwa announced that Zifa had resurrected under a new name – the National
Football Association of Zimbabwe. The businessman wanted to evade a $6 million debt, which he said would be dealt with by a liquidator. To him, the name Zifa
was also cursed!
After bungling the senior men’s participation at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt in June, which was characterised by shoddy preparations, leading to coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa’s resignation, it seems the Grain Marketing Board manager has learnt nothing and forgot nothing. Maybe Kamambo is reading from the same old Chiyangwa script.
The way Zifa vice-president Gift Banda was early this year suspended over an alleged boardroom coup shows that Kamambo is either daft or clueless or both. The former Njube Sundowns boss has been on suspension, even up to this day. Proper disciplinary measures should have been instituted before Banda was suspended.
Last week, Zifa unveiled Joey “Mafero” Antipas as the Warriors caretaker coach until December 31.
The Chicken Inn gaffer will be in charge of the team for the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Somalia and Afcon games against Botswana, both at home and away.
The 2015 championship-winning coach will be deputised by Zimbabwe Under-23 and Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya and Harare City mentor Lloyd Chitembwe.
Tembo Chuma was roped in as the goalkeepers’ coach, while Wellington Mupandare was retained as team manager.
With Ndiraya, Chitembwe and Chuma having their bread buttered by Dynamos, Harare City and Highlanders, it appears Zifa is running away from its obligations.
Why is Zifa delegating the responsibility of taking care of its employees to clubs? This marriage of convenience will leave one partner counting their losses.
Would it not be an insult to call Antipas and his team casual employees? Casual employees are only paid for the time they would have worked. And then the new sheriff at Zifa expects them to give their all!
While I have no qualms about Chitembwe and Ndiraya’s coaching pedigree, their hands are full to take up Warriors assignments. Besides his Warriors engagements,
Ndiraya must juggle with his ever-demanding Dynamos duties and Under-23 assignments. If Ndiraya manages to please his two paymasters, then he must be given a
role in American television series, MacGyver. Warriors engagements are likely to be thrown into disarray if Chicken Inn, Dynamos or Harare City decide not to
release their coaches, especially at a time when the season will be at peak point. This probably never crossed Kamambo’s mind.
Mupandare retained his post as team manager not because he has the best brains, but because he is Zifa benefactor and Prophetic Healing and Deliverance
Ministries leader Walter Magaya’s “obedient son”.
The former Motor Action coach’s appointment did not only surprise many, but also exposed Zifa’s double standards. Antipas, who Zifa deemed under-qualified to
coach a Premier Soccer League team upon his return from a failed trip down south, has landed the most prestigious coaching job in local football. Last week,
the local football governing body foiled Moses “Bambo” Chunga’s bid to take over as TelOne coach because, according to Zifa technical director, Wilson Mtekede,
the former Warriors captain “didn’t have a Caf A licence”. Ironically, both Antipas and Chunga are not Caf A licence holders, but Mafero has been entrusted
with taking the Warriors to the Promised Land, while Bambo is deemed inelligible to even coach a local club. What the heck! This stinks to high heavens.
At this moment, Zimbabwe needs a coach who has seen it all at the international stage. If Zifa cannot afford a foreign coach, why not try Kaitano Tembo or
Peter Ndlovu? If sanity returns to Zifa, there would be no reason for Norman Mapeza to spun the call for national duty. Modern football has gone technical,
which Mafero is arguably short of. If he failed to light up the South African National Division, what guarantee is there that he will rise to the occasion
against Botswana next week? There is no need for experiments.
For one thing, Antipas also represents the old and tired crop of coaches, among them Chidzambwa and Kalisto Pasuwa. Football has evolved, no wonder elite teams
in Europe now prefer young coaches. Zimbabwe should scout for its own Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Rangers), Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) or Nuno
Herlander Simões Espírito Santo (Wolves). This young crop of coaches is synonymous with a passing brand of football.
What is the rationale behind appointing coaches on an interim basis? Appointing coaches on four-month contracts indicates that Zifa is not confident with them.
They are, therefore, unlikely going to give their all to the national team cause. The Warriors, who will kick off their 2020 African Nations Championship
campaign with Rahman Gumbo, will now play Afcon and World Cup games with Antipas before an expatriate coach will be announced early next year. This would mean
the Warriors having to start all over again under a new coach. Surely, they are in an iron cage.
Zifa should be blamed for the 2019 Afcon miscarriage. The Zimbabwe camp in Egypt was rocked by serious unrest as players threatened boycotting some of their
matches, demanding payment of what they said was owed to them. Zifa should look for corporate sponsorship rather than to wait for Magaya’s donations, which
usually come with strings attached. Does this explain why Magaya’s 13-year-old child was part of Zimbabwe’s high-powered delegation at the Afcon finals in
Egypt? The humiliating experience in Cairo could have been avoided if Zifa had done its homework. Zimbabwe had arguably the best crop of players at this
year’s edition, but bowed out of the tournament at the first hurdle. Lessons should have been learnt.
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein may have been subtly talking about Zimbabwe when he cautioned that “insanity is doing the same thing over and
over again, but expecting different results every time”. Within a short period of time, Kamambo has mastered Captain Fiasco’s management style, but obviously
it will take Zimbabwe football nowhere fast. Maybe, it’s a case of old wine in new bottles.