BY HENRY MHARA
One of Zimbabwe’s most successful coaches Kalisto Pasuwa has bemoaned the lack of funding as the biggest impediment to the growth of Zimbabwean football, warning that the Warriors could waste a golden opportunity to make history at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) next year if they are not adequately funded.
Great Kali, as he is affectionately known in local circles, guided the Warriors to the 2017 Afcon finals before he came back and took a sabbatical after which he moved to Malawi where he has since won two league titles.
His Warriors side managed to pick up a single point at the group stages following defeats to Senegal and Tunisia, while they drew with Algeria.
Their tournament was mired with financial squabbles, with players threatening to withdraw from the tournament as they haggled with Zifa.
Before that they did not enjoy the best of preparations due to lack of funding.
Talking from experience, Pasuwa warned that if Zifa does not learn from past mistakes, they could brew yet more disappointments.
Zimbabwe will be making their fifth appearance at the continental showpiece set for Cameroon in January.
They have failed to progress past the group stages in their last four appearances.
The former Dynamos coach, who won four league titles with the club as coach, believes Zimbabwe has the best chance to make history at the next edition after they were early this week handed what appears on paper, an easy group stage draw.
The Warriors were pooled in Group B together with Senegal, Guinea and Malawi.
And with the two top teams from the group, plus four best-placed third place finishers from the six groups reaching the knockout phase, Pasuwa reckons that this presents the Warriors with their best possible chance ever.
However, he warned that without enough funding and good preparations, the team will probably fail again.
“The draw is a good one considering that we can actually play any of the teams that qualified. What we now need to do is to prepare for the job at hand. I want to state it categorically here that football in Zimbabwe is not going anywhere not because of lack of talent or good coaches, but lack of funding. We don’t want to invest in our football but we demand results,” Pasuwa said.
“Our preparations for these tournaments have always not been up to standard. A coach is given three days to prepare a team for an Afcon final, and in those three days there would be a boycott in between. We always have the same problems over and over again.”
Pasuwa said many countries that have done well in continental football have strong financial backing from their governments as well as the private sector. Most of the teams, he said, are allocated a significant amount in the national budget to prepare for tournaments such as the Afcon finals.
“If you look at the budget of the other competing nations and compare with ours, you will see that our situation is a recipe for disaster. Let’s invest in our football and give the team enough preparations and things will fall into place. We have been quiet about these things for a long time and it’s time we speak out. I’m one of the people who have been there (Afcon finals), so I’m talking from experience.”
Pasuwa also spoke about the Warriors’ group stage opponents, analysing their strengths and providing what the team needs to do to stand a chance.
He said Senegal may still have retained the same squad that he faced at the 2017 Afcon finals, but the Warriors should expect a totally different challenge.
“We might have played Senegal in 2017, but because football is evolving in nature it is not ideal for our team to prepare based on their performance then. A lot has changed in their team. We need to have team analysts well-equipped who will go and see how Senegal is now playing. Football has become too scientific, so we will need to have such people who will go and spy on them, see how they play now. The only thing that might not have changed from 2017 could be the player attributes which I can safely say most of their stars use power play. But in terms of tactical performance, a lot has changed.”
Zimbabwe were in the same qualifying group with Guinea and Malawi for a spot in the 2017 Afcon finals where they managed to qualify with a game to spare for the first time.
Pasuwa’s men managed to hold Guinea 1-1 at home before losing the dead-rubber away in Conakry.
“Guinea are a good team, very tactically-disciplined. Their players have massive technique so they are equally a dangerous team. We shouldn’t underrate them,” he warned.
Malawi appears to be the weakling of the group. However, Pasuwa, who is currently coaching in the Malawi Premier League, cautioned against underestimating them.
“There is not much difference between the football played in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Both teams have quality. The only thing that we need to do is prepare well, fund our team better than our opponents and we will certainly get the results.”
Unlike in the previous Afcon tournaments when the team hardly trained together before travelling, Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić will get good preparatory matches when he assembles his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
The Warriors will face South Africa, Ethiopia and Ghana in the qualifiers starting early next month until November.
“A lot needs to be done for our team to improve. But the most important of them all, and I will repeat, is funding,” Pasuwa emphasised.
“Also our high performance committee needs to be broad. At the moment, it’s only made up of coaches but football nowadays goes beyond just coaching. Experts in sports science have to be factored in and make sure we have a complete team that can give us a complete product at the end of the day.”
Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara