No, to the Mangombe joke

This is so because Zimbabwe was on a Fifa ban when the qualifiers for this edition kicked off and therefore missed the boat to West Africa.

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations roared into life  in the Ivory Coast yesterday but without the Warriors of Zimbabwe.

This is so because Zimbabwe was on a Fifa ban when the qualifiers for this edition kicked off and therefore missed the boat to West Africa.

What a loss of adventure it was considering the fact that low key teams like Mauritania, Namibia, Gambia, and Mozambique are also there among the 24 teams fighting for the ultimate prize.

Ironically, the Warriors had been drawn in what appeared to be a difficult group that also included Liberia, Morocco, and South Africa in the run up to the finals.

With two teams making the journey to the finals, Zimbabwe’s path looked a bit difficult although we could have qualified behind Morocco, just ahead of South Africa and Liberia.

The lessons we learnt from the experience of missing out of international football was that we should learn to solve our football problems quickly without inviting strangers to sort out our issues.

The lessons, however, do not seem to have sunk as more and more problems seem to be sprouting each and everyday with more and more divisions also emerging within the football family.

With the jostling of Zifa posts going on behind the scenes, even the little good that is, or has been coming from the Fifa-installed normalization committee has been received with mistrust.

Everyone with ambition sees wrong in everything that the normalisation committee is doing with the general complaint being that the NC is deliberately delaying the holding of elections to consolidate their own power.

The committee itself has not done itself any good by making a succession of blunders, some of which could have been avoided had they consulted other football stakeholders.

Word doing rounds is that the committee has also put Dynamos coach Genesis Mangombe on standby to take over from Baltermar Brito as the Zimbabwe national team coach.

The truth is that Mangombe — at the moment — is ‘too small’ to handle the pressure associated with the World Cup and for that matter, facing the likes of Nigeria and South Africa.

If we were in the shoes of the NC, we would leave Mangombe as the Warriors assistant coach while giving him the responsibility to handle the Zimbabwe Under 23 team whose matches are far and in between.

With just a year’s experience as Dynamos coach, — and no playing history to talk of — Kaka as we call him — might not get the respect of Zimbabwe’s high profile players some of whom play for top clubs in Europe and earn too much.

Most importantly, Mangombe also has too much on his plate as Dynamos will be taking part in the Caf Confederation Cup and the newly created African Super League.

Mangombe will also have the extra responsibility of making sure that Dynamos fights to win the league title that has eluded them since 2014, and failure to bring results at Dembare could lead to dismissal.

Surely, Mangombe does not want to lose the Dynamos job because he knows he got the Warriors assistant coach’s job on the strength of his association with Dynamos and a departure from Dembare could also result in a loss of the national team benefits.

Surely, Mangombe is an ambitious young coach but if by blunder the NC offers him the Warriors crown, he has to leave his post at Dynamos because he cannot at the same time handle two big teams with big ambitions.

In fact, without sounding like belittling our coaches, the truth is that Zimbabwe at the moment does not have a coach capable of handling the Warriors and the advise would be for the NC to go for a European coach.

We need a coach who will be respected by our players — a coach who will select his team without bias — and a coach who is technically and tactically sound —and we do not seem to find him among the locals.

Critics are shouting that Brito should not be allowed to return, but some of us did not see anything wrong with him in his two draws against Nigeria and Rwanda - given the circumstances in the run up to the game.

The decision, however, rests with the NC whether to bring Brito back but should they decide otherwise, it would be advisable to go for a modest European coach whom Zimbabwe will not have to pay much.

It should be placed on record that the late Reinhard Fabisch and Herve Renard were not known when they came to Africa but made their names after being given their chance by Zimbabwe and Zambia as was the case with Renard.

Zimbabwe are lucky that they have the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers which they should also use as the preparations for Afcon 2025 and the right decisions have to be made right now. - the starting point being in the right choice of the national team coach.

Away from the Zimbabwe football madness. Let us all enjoy Afcon 2023 and see for ourselves whether this is Mohamed Salah’s time for a first ever Afcon title or whether Sadio Mane will add another to the one he took in 2022.

Or that Napoli’s Victor Osimhen of Nigeria will announce his arrival with a bang on a stage that the great Nwankwo Kanu departed without a crown.

Innocent Tembo who played for Black Aces, and Rio Tinto has a far much different view from many and believes it will not be Senegal, Egypt or Nigeria but the Atlas Lions of Morocco.

“They are there to prove why they are Africa’s number 1. At the World Cup, most people doubted them and they proved a point. Right now, no-one is giving them a chance except me. I know, they will prove me right,” quipped Tembo, who also played for Hwange.

However, there is a strong feeling that one of the outsiders will take the trophy home as happened in 2012 when Zambia did the unexpected.

By the way, the Bafana Bafana of South Africa have been promised $7 million each if they win Afcon - The $7 million that Caf is offering for the overall winners of the competition.

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