HARARE – The Warriors were pathetic on their return at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) stage when they failed to progress from the group stages in Gabon last month.
Zimbabwe had started the tournament on a good note when they rattled favourites Algeria in a thrilling opening half in the first match.
The team played with purpose and panache as they took the game to the Desert Foxes.
It was no surprise as they took a 2-1 lead going into halftime after goals from Kuda Mahachi and a penalty from Nyasha Mushekwi while Riyad Mahrez had opened the scoring for Algeria.
From there, it was all downhill for Zimbabwe as they surprisingly allowed the Desert Foxes to enjoy all the possession while they defended deep.
Mahrez equalised with nine minutes to go and in the end the Warriors survived by the skin of their teeth as goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva made a number of late saves to rescue a point for Zimbabwe.
The second match against Senegal was particularly disappointing as Zimbabwe never got into the match as they were 2-0 down inside the opening 14 minutes.
Mkuruva went on to make some world class saves in the second period as the Lions of Teranga forwards led by Sadio Mane cut through the Warriors defence like a wedding cake.
More problems were to follow for the Warriors in the final Group B match Tunisia as they sheepishly conceded four goals in the first half.
Like in the match against Senegal, Mkuruva was again required to make a handful of second saves as the encounter ended 4-2 in favour of the Carthage Eagles.
It was clear for everyone following the tournament that Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s tactical acumen had been found wanting at the biggest stage on the continent.
Some of the calls the former Dynamos coach made in the run-up to the tournament and while in Gabon were very questionable.
Obviously there is the decision to drop Ajax Cape Town defender Erick Chipeta while persisting with DeMbare’s Elisha Muroiwa, who had limited game time in 2016 due to injury.
His final 23-squad was also dominated by defenders and forwards with limited options in midfield.
Pasuwa chose to carry seven strikers to Gabon and only two players who can play on the wings — Khama Billiat and Mahachi.
As a result, the Warriors lacked width and struggled to break down their opponents at the tournament.
The Warriors coach also completed all three games with the back five of Mkuruva, Costa Nhamoinesu, Onsimor Bhasera, Hardlife Zvirekwi and Muroiwa despite the team failing to keep a clean sheet.
It was no surprise when the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) High Performance Committee (HPC) recommended Pasuwa to be sacked when they met last Friday to review the Warriors’ campaign in Gabon.
The Omega Sibanda-chaired committee was only stating the obvious when they came up with their recommendations for Pasuwa to be sacked.
However, Zimbabwe’s football problems go beyond sacking and replacing the national coach.
First and foremost is the issue of funding which is crippling the association as Zifa currently sits on a $7 million debt.
In his election manifesto, Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa said he had a plan to address this problem since he was a businessman with connections in the corporate world.
A year down the line in Chiyangwa’s presidency, the debt is still there and there appears to be no solution in sight.
Pasuwa has not been paid his salary since May last year despite Harare businessman Wicknell Chivayo promising to take care of this issue.
Surely this discrepancy is a huge indictment on Chiyangwa’s administration.
How will Zifa attract a competent coach in the event they finally wield the axe on Pasuwa?
Even if Zifa hires a foreign coach, he will not tolerate such nonsense of going for over seven months without a salary.
Zifa will risk another Valinhos episode which might bring more embarrassment for the country.
The Warriors build-up to the tournament was also characterised by turmoil as the players refused to stay at the snake-infested Zifa Village.
The Zimbabwe Footballers’ Union had to step in and book the team at a hotel in the CBD.
At one stage the team failed to train at the National Sports Stadium after Zifa failed to pay $60 to hire the venue.
More problems in the camp were to come when the players refused to attend a send-off ceremony organised by the government as they demanded their allowances and appearance fees.
The players were clearly not focused on the tournament as they grappled with housekeeping issues.
At the moment there are no junior football structures in the country after the Zifa constitution was amended by the previous Cuthbert Dube regime.
While other countries are investing in their junior teams that will represent them at the international stage in the future, none of that is happening Zimbabwe at the moment.
Zimbabwe’s football problems go down right to the core and there is drastic changes needed to be implemented first before results start to come.
Zifa can change coaches on a regular basis but unless there is a football revolution in this country then nothing will transform.