BRUISED Warriors will be out for a face-saver when they play their last Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals Group B match against Guinea in Yaoundé, Cameroon tomorrow.
Zimbabwe became the first team to be knocked out of the Afcon finals after surrendering a 1-0 lead to lose the game 2-1 to Malawi last Friday.
Just like they did in their last four editions of the Afcon finals, the Warriors have flattered only to deceive. They put on impressive displays in their opening games of the tournament, only to crumble having raised the nation’s hopes.
It was a case of so near yet so far when they narrowly lost 1-0 to Senegal with less than 20 seconds left on the clock last Monday.
That brave fight ignited hope that the Warriors would easily douse the Flames of Malawi who are ranked lower at 35 in Africa and 129th in the world.
The result against Senegal left many convinced that Zimbabwe, ranked 31st in Africa and 121st in the world, would “easily” collect maximum points against Malawi, but they lost the game, crashing out of the tournament.
Not even the US$1 000 bonus per player tabled by FBC Bank could inspire the Warriors against Malawi.
Now, as they head to the dead rubber Guinea match, staring at a possibility of returning home without a point, are the Warriors only to blame?
The Government, through the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) made sure that the Warriors solely focus on the field by making sure that they had smooth preparations and bonuses were in place before the start of the tournament.
In past editions, reports of players’ unrest in the Warriors’ camp were prevalent, such that at the 2019 finals held in Egypt, the national team players threatened to boycott the tournament’s opening match against the hosts because of outstanding bonuses.
For the Cameroon edition, the SRC made sure that the country’s name wasn’t brought into disrepute as they came up with a US$1 million Afcon budget.
Clearly, the Warriors have no excuse for the poor show.
Their poor performances at Afcon have reignited debate as to whether Zifa have done enough in setting up developmental structures.
The senior national team shouldn’t be used as a developmental platform when there are junior competitions for such where players’ performance can be monitored as they grow.
Over the years, there has been an outcry from the football fraternity that there’s neglect of developmental football, something that the SRC highlighted as one of the reasons for suspending the Zifa executive.
The inept Zifa leadership should equally take the blame for the Warriors’ fall, as the adage says; “you are as good as your leader.”
We can’t continue spending so much on the team’s preparations for the finals when they fail to deliver.
There are allegations of selection influence on the national team, with agents and coaches working in cahoots to field players they want to sell at the expense of the nation, an act that should be highly condemned.
It should not continue to happen under the watch of football authorities and after this tournament, we expect a vibrant development process to kick off.The foundation for the future should start at schools, cells, districts, provinces, regions up to the national level A database for all excelling and promising athletes must be set up to make sure that there’s traceable reference for future national team players.
A clear, long-term development policy needs to be crafted and if we are to return to the international stage after a decade, so be it, as long as those going to represent the country will do so with distinction and not shame Zimbabwe.
Article Source: The Chronicle