A tale of two teams

Aliou Cisse

8 years, 1 coach…GLORY… 8 years, 5 coaches …AGONY

By Kevin Mapasure
AFTER Senegal’s glory in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) under Aliou Cisse, Zimbabwe, can draw lessons from the west African nation’s success, particularly with regards to giving coaches ample time to build strong teams.

Senegal won the competition for the first time following a penalty shootout against Egypt in Yaoundé on Sunday.

With their triumph, lesser football nations like Zimbabwe will be looking to draw some lessons on how to succeed at continental level.

Zimbabwe were knocked out in the group stages after suffering defeats to Senegal and Malawi before they rounded off with a win over Guinea.

Following the Warriors’ early exit, which was met with a lot of disappointment, it is not clear at this stage what the authorities’ next step will be regarding the coaching department led by Norman Mapeza.

Mapeza was given the reins on an interim basis and his contract with Zifa expired after the Afcon tournament.

Qualifiers for the next Afcon finals will start next month and Zimbabwe will need to have a substantive coach in place by then.

There have been calls by some experts for Mapeza to be given a longer tenure as Warriors coach, particularly by former national team coach Sunday Chidzambga.

Senegal have had Cisse as their head coach for the last eight years during which Zimbabwe chopped and changed five different coaches.

Kalisto Pasuwa took the Warriors to the 2017 Afcon finals, after which Chidzambga was given another shot at the Warriors, having led them to the finals in 2004. Under Chidzambga, Zimbabwe qualified to the 2019 Afcon finals in Egypt where again they failed to go beyond the group stages. He left the post and Joey Antipas took over, presiding over a draw against Botswana and a win against Zambia in Lusaka.

Zifa had already promised to bring in a foreign coach and despite Antipas’ success in the two games, he was replaced by Croat, Zdravco Logarusic who completed the qualifying campaign by collecting four points which secured a spot at the finals for Zimbabwe.

However, he could not last the distance as he was dismissed before the Afcon finals after a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign. His departure opened an opportunity for Mapeza, whose team won a lot of praise despite failing to reach the knockout stages.

Chidzambga opined after the Afcon exit this year that Mapeza should be given more time.

“Our problem lies in the system we have in place. We don’t have a sound junior policy to ensure we produce and nurture talent. The other problem is that we keep changing coaches, we don’t believe in continuity,” he said.

“So it becomes difficult to progress as a football nation under these circumstances. Look at Germany, how long have they been with Joachim Löw, 15 years. I believe Mapeza should be given the chance to continue and we put the right systems in place if we are to succeed as a nation.”

For Senegal, despite failures and setbacks along the way, they stuck with Cisse and they are reaping the fruits of being patient with him.

Cisse was appointed coach in 2015 and he led the team to the 2017 Afcon finals in Gabon where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Cameroon.

They went to the 2018 World Cup finals where they bowed out in the group stages and the following year, they performed better at the Afcon tournament in Egypt reaching the final where they lost 1-0 to Algeria.

Three years later, they were back at the continental showcase, this time in Cameroon and with Cisse still in charge. They went all the way and took the silverware home to a jubilant nation.

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe Mapeza is unsure of his fate even with the next qualifiers looming. Squabbles between  Zifa and the Sports and Recreation Commission have taken centre stage.

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmapasure