Zifa’s Warriors coach headache

Manuel Marquez Roca

BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA

ZIFA faces a tough decision as the executive committee meets in the capital today to deliberate on the man who will take up the Warriors job which fell vacant after Sunday Chidzambga quit last year in unclear circumstances.

Several coaches from across the globe applied for the biggest coaching job in the country, but the Zifa technical team — headed by board member Brighton Malandule — has whittled down the number to four, with Leicester City academy coach Alistair Heath, Spanish coach Manuel Marquez Roca, Dutchman Erol Akbay and former interim coach Joey Antipas making the cut.

Serbian and former Uganda coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic who had been widely reported as having shown interest was not considered because he had not applied for the job.

However, the Zifa hierarchy faces a herculean task in coming up with the best candidate who can take the Zimbabwean game forward.

While the executive committee is keen to appoint the best coach, the need for cost-cutting measures might inform their decision about the man to be entrusted with the big post.
Then there is the small matter of who among the four has better appreciation of Zimbabwean football.

While the likes of Heath and Roca might be good candidates, none of them understands local football better than Akbay, something that could give him the edge.

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The Dutchman had a stint with Bulawayo football giants Highlanders before taking up the job at Ngezi Platinum with whom he parted ways with late last year following inconsistent results.

It’s a big decision which the men and women at the helm of Zimbabwean football will have to take today after a long and anxious wait.

The successful coach is expected to be announced on Friday after he has been spoken to and accepted the job. His unveiling has been scheduled for early next week.

The local football leadership is trying to avoid a repeat of last time when former board member Gift Banda allegedly made a unilateral decision in the appointment of national team coaches — something that eventually cost him his position in the executive. The executive has resolved to ensure every member has an input in the selection of the candidate so that the entire executive rather than an individual would be accountable.

The Warriors have a busy calendar this year, with the African Nations Championships (Chan) finals, the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and 2022 World Cup qualifiers all set to begin in the next few months.

Zimbabwe have back-to-back Afcon Group H qualifying matches against Algeria on March 23 and 31 before travelling to Botswana on June 9. They will complete their group campaign with a home match against Zambia on September 8.

The Warriors currently occupy second position on the group standings, and will need to at least beat Botswana and Zambia to be assured of qualifying for the Afcon finals, to be staged in Cameroon next year.

They will also be involved in the 2022 Qatar World Cup second round qualifiers which begin in October.

Zimbabwe are in Group G which comprises of giants Ghana, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, and Ethiopia.

The winner of the group will advance to the third and final round to join other nine winners from the other groups.

Ten second round group winners play home and away matches over two legs with the five winners qualifying for the finals in Qatar in 2022.

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