THE 2022 World Cup reaches its highest point today with the final between two deserving teams Argentina of South America and France from Europe.
The South Americans have survived up to this stage through the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi while France have played as a unit from day one of the competition.
Ironically, the two teams had a different start to their campaign with Argentina losing 2-1 to of all teams, Saudi Arabia, while France conquered Australia 4-1.
Argentina last won the World Cup in 1986 and thanks to the magic of the late great Diego Maradona while France are bidding to become the second team since Brazil in 1962 to retain their World Cup title.
Brazil with Pele, the main man, had also won the trophy 1958.
The winner of the 2022 competition will take home $42 million, which is $4 million more than what France got for winning the last edition in Russia in 2018.
It certainly has been an exciting football month, one that saw the so called heavyweights of world football Belgium, Brazil, Germany and Spain taking early planes home.
The ending pitting Argentina and France is a fitting climax to a competition that has also seen both Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe living up to their billing.
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There has rarely been luck at play in most World Cup finals but brilliance and overall strength and on that premise let the better of the two teams win.
Obviously the final remains the pinnacle of the Qatar gathering but another huge talking point of the 2022 adventure was the sudden blossoming of Morocco into Africa’s flag bearer.
The Atlas Lions became the first African team to reach the semi finals of the World Cup, 36 years after they also became the first African team to reach the Round of 16.
Fine, coach Walid Regragul might not have been born in Morocco just like most of his players but the truth is that the Morocco Football Federation made a good decision in appointing a coach with Moroccan roots and the results have been there for everyone to see.
We cannot take away the fact that Regragul remains Moroccan and so are the 19 of his players who were born out of their home country but from Moroccan parents.
Whatever their history is, the fact remains that the name they are carrying and the flag they have raised is that of Morocco - their home country.
Zimbabwe too has a vast pool of young and talented players abroad who can do the same with the Warriors but the problem has been how to attract them and make themselves available for the country’s national team.
It is not that some of them like Andy Rinomhota or McCaulley Borne did not want to play or that Isaac Mabaya does not want to play for the Warriors, but it is the chaos back at home that has helped to chase them away.
Borne, for example, once played for the Zimbabwe Under-23 side and coincidentally in Morocco but has since then given excuses for not coming following what he saw of Zimbabwean football.
The immediate solution — should Zimbabwe return to international football — would be to identify and turn to our talented young foreign based players while at the same time resurrecting our junior development programs.
The Zimbabwe junior development programme was destroyed on the day that the Zifa Assembly decided to throw out the Zimbabwe Junior Football Association from the Assembly and since then nothing has been moving in what is regarded as the foundation if not the backbone of the game.
The ZJFA under Aaron Munautsi and later Zivanai ‘Zifa’ Chiyangwa had junior football leagues at Under-17 and Under-20 level which supplied players to the Zimbabwe Under-17, Under-20 and Under 23 teams and also to clubs in the Premiership.
Sadly, the whole programme was hacked to pieces and now few exceptionally talented players are coming through these days and the local Premiership is now devoid of exciting talent.
Forgotten by Zimbabwe is the fact that success of most top football nations in the world lies in their well oriented junior development programme, something which sadly, is lacking in this country.
Those at the top of the Zimbabwean game can talk about this and that but without a sound junior development programme, Zimbabwe and the Warriors, will continue to be the fall guys of African football.
There is really no excuse for the failure to resurrect national junior league football because that does require Zimbabwe’s participation in international football.
The other thing that Zimbabwe should do as we look forward to a probable return to World Cup football in 2026 is to abandon the obsession for cheap, comical, and experimental foreign coaches which the Warriors have been subjected to since the departure of the late Reinhard Fabisch from Zimbabwe.
Surely, financially, Zimbabwe cannot afford to attract proven and successful foreign coaches but there was no need for all those too many comical coaches to be employed here when there were better options at home.
There are many good coaches around and even Swiss Marc Duvillard of the Aces Youth Academy —- who has been in Zimbabwe long enough — could have been a better candidate to handle the Warriors than the likes of, for example, Valinhos, and Zdravko Logarusic.
Zimbabwe should follow the examples of the five African representatives at the World Cup, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal, who all had local coaches and were very competitive.
Africa will have nine slots at the 2026 World Cup and there is no reason why Zimbabwe cannot take one of them should the right things be done - that is if readmitted by Fifa.
Right now, the road looks long and bumpy, but there are many countries who have been through the same phase and managed to negotiate their way out of it and for that matter successfully.
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