BY HENRY MHARA
ZIFA has taken responsibility for the national football team’s disappointing elimination from the World Cup qualifying campaign following their back-to-back defeats to Ghana earlier this week.
Zimbabwe’s slim hopes were effectively extinguished by a 1-0 home defeat to Ghana on Tuesday.
The feeling of outrage following the two defeats was an all too familiar one for the Warriors fans, some of whom are already calling for the head of interim coach Norman Mapeza. Some players have allegedly suffered abuse on social media as a consequence.
Zifa has come to their defence and is taking the blame for the team’s early dismissal. The association is urging the disappointed fans and other stakeholders to desist from insulting Mapeza and his players “who all gave it their all albeit on a losing cause”.
“To suggest that the team was not committed is grossly unfair to these dedicated group who aspired to do well for their beloved nation. We are proud, therefore, of the Warriors’ performances despite lack of a positive results. Their commitment was clear to us to see. It is this commitment to their country that we salute more than the result,” Zifa said in a statement yesterday.
Mapeza replaced Zdravko Logarušic, who had managed one point from two matches, with the former Warriors captain given the mandate to revive the World Cup campaign.
Things went horribly wrong for him as Zimbabwe fell 3-1 away in Ghana on Saturday on his first match in charge.
Thomas Partey scored the only goal for the Black Stars on Tuesday at the National Sports Stadium, a in a painful defeat that left the Warriors fans with that all familiar feeling of having no realistic hopes of qualifying to the World Cup finals with some games left to play.
The manner of the defeat and the toothless nature of the team in particular, was in stark contrast to the positivity that abounded in the match in Cape Coast, despite the loss. This is what probably angered fans the most, some of whom are questioning the players’ commitment to the national team cause.
“Zifa as the institution responsible for football in Zimbabwe, therefore ,takes full responsibility of the Warriors’ failure to qualify for world cup irrespective of several impediments that further complicated the journey. We fully understand the disappointment that comes with every unfavourable result from the national teams because we know just how much Zimbabweans love and support their team.”
Zimbabwe’s remaining matches in the qualifiers are against South Africa away on November 11 before hosting Ethiopia three days later. Mapeza and his bosses have said they will use the two deadrubber matches to prepare a team for the Africa Cup of Nations finals which will be played in January.
“Zifa will take lessons from the two matches (against Ghana) and without compromising performance on the remaining world cup matches, shift attention to the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations finals.
The association was also forced to defend the Warriors’ travel arrangement which saw them using a commercial flight back home and arriving on Monday afternoon after stop overs in Ethiopia and South Africa.
Ghana on the other hand, arrived on Sunday night aboard a charter plane.
“Zifa has received numerous inquiries from stakeholders on why Ghana arrived in Zimbabwe earlier than our own Warriors after the first leg. Their fear was that Zifa had probably not prepared adequately for the two matches. While Ghana flew directly from Ghana to Harare on a government-funded chartered flight, our Warriors used a commercial flight secured using the association’s resources. The flight route used by the Warriors to travel from Accra to Harare was the fastest on the earliest possible flight. For the first leg in Ghana, players travelled directly to the match venue to reduce travel distances which would have affected their preparedness for the match.”
Zifa is also hoping that the return of local football competitions previously suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions will increase national team coaches’ selection options.
“Zifa will work tirelessly and institute corrective measures to ensure that the Warriors emerge victorious for the future and create a positive narrative. We are now dedicating efforts on resumption of football leagues, junior football and Afcon tournament.”
Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara