BY KEVIN MAPASURE IN LUSAKA, ZAMBIA
Warriors coach Joey Antipas’ interim tenure at the helm of the national football team has effectively come to an end with his last match played in Zambia on Tuesday, posing the big question: What next for the broke Zifa?
Antipas has divided opinion in his short reign with the general feeling being that he has proved to be out of depth while facts on the ground show that he has largely done well.
The Chicken Inn coach was told that he will only hold fort until the end of the year and is not expecting a contract extension after Zifa made it clear that they want to engage a foreign coach.
Zifa’s in-tray has already been overwhelmed by applications from aspiring candidates, yet the local football controlling body’s coffers are inadequate to hire an expatriate who will demand a hefty package in hard currency.
It has emerged that as things stand, Zifa are struggling to pay the current Warriors technical team which also includes assistants – Lloyd Chitembwe and Tonderai Ndiraya – after access to bank accounts has been limited due to court battles with former employees.
Zifa’s quandary could see them backtracking on their earlier decision to go for a foreigner.
But if Zifa decide they will stick to the cheaper option, which is a local coach – then who?
Antipas is not the fans’ favourite even though he has delivered the African Nations Championships (Chan) finals ticket, a Fifa 2022 World Cup groups stages qualifying slot as well as four points from a possible six in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifiers. On Tuesday, against all odds, he presided over a win against Zambia in their own backyard in a 2021 Afcon group H qualifier.
The statistics speak of a successful coach, yet doubts still remain over his pedigree, particularly due to the manner the Warriors laboured against Somalia in their World Cup preliminary round qualifiers, as well as the team’s flat show against Botswana in an Afcon qualifier that ended nil-all at the National Sports Stadium, Harare, much to the dismay of the football publics. What also complicates Antipas’ situation is his divided attention between Chicken Inn and the Warriors.
Zimbabwe face a packed 2020 calendar year where they will play at the Chan finals in April with World Cup qualifiers starting before that while the Afcon qualifiers continue in August.
How long can Chicken Inn allow their coach to shuffle between the Warriors camp and Bulawayo and is the situation ideal for the national team? Clearly not!
Antipas does not hold the mandatory Caf A licence to coach the national team and the continental body is set to get more strict in enforcing the requirement where coaches who do not hold the badge will not be accredited for tournaments such as the Afcon final.
Zifa’s natural choice for the top post would have been Norman Mapeza and the mother body has made no secret of it.
Mapeza is currently off the market after signing for South Africa’s Chippa United a couple of months ago on a long term contract and for Zifa to lure him back, they would have to probably empty their pockets as well as borrow from elsewhere.
Mapeza is still owed from previous stints at the helm of the Warriors and would most likely demand debts to be settled first before any new relationship can be negotiated.
Zifa are struggling to clear their name at the courts and have made significant headway, but while court battles rumble, a cloud of uncertainty hangs above the Warriors’ technical team, setting the stage for interesting times ahead.