ZIFA’S failure to tie Warriors coach Ian Gorowa to a long-term contract could return to haunt them amid revelations that the South African Football Association are considering an audacious bid to lure the former Zimbabwe international for the Bafana Bafana job.
Gorowa’s stock has risen dramatically after the former Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns coach guided the Warriors to a fourth-place finish at the African Nations Championships which ended in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Warriors, making their third successive appearance at the Chan tournament, fell 0-1 to Nigeria in the third-place play-off but not before their gallant showing and Gorowa’s tactical astuteness had charmed Safa bosses, including their president Danny Jordaan, and Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
It is the first time that the Warriors have gone beyond the group stages of any tournament run under the auspices of the Confederation of African Football.
And their heroic showing has not gone unnoticed with some of their best players on show such as midfielder Kuda Mahachi, striker Simbarashe Sithole of How Mine and skipper Partson Jaure attracting the interest of Absa Premiership clubs.
Now their coach Gorowa has also caught the eye of the Safa bosses, under pressure to breathe fresh air into their misfiring team, who have begun head-hunting for a new Bafana Bafana coach ahead of the expiry of incumbent Gordon Igesund’s contract in June.
Although Safa officials could not be reached for comment, sources close to the goings-on at Safa House in Johannesburg revealed that Gorowa’s name had been thrown into the hat.
Former Manchester United assistant coach Carlos Quieroz, who coached Bafana between 2000 and 2002, is also one of the coaches being considered.
Quieroz is currently the coach of Iran and will lead them in Brazil at the World Cup finals.
He has been with Iran since 2011 and helped them qualify for the World Cup and the 2015 Asian Cup.
Marcel Desailly, a retired Ghanaian-born French footballer and star of the France team that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, has also been linked with the Bafana Bafana job when it falls vacant.
“Safa have made a strong interest in getting Ian for the Bafana job. They believe he has a strong understanding of the culture of the South African game and that all his coaching courses were done through Safa and they have seen what he has done with the clubs he coached in the country and now what he has achieved with the Zimbabwe team in a short space of time and with very scarce resources.
“But Ian is just one of the names that are being discussed as possible candidates for the Bafana Bafana job and a number of faces are likely to be interviewed before a final decision is made,’’ the source said.
Although Igesund is currently in charge of Bafana Bafana, there is growing speculation that Safa will not extend his contract when it runs out in June with the association generally not amused by the manner in which South Africa, as hosts, capitulated in the first round stage of the Chan tournament and finishing third behind Mali and Nigeria.
Safa are also under pressure to find a coach who can turn around the Bafana Bafana fortunes and ensure they do not wait to qualify for a major tournament only when they are the hosts.
Bafana Bafana’s poor Chan showing also attracted the wrath of South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula who dubbed them “a bunch of losers’’ and revealed that a strategic meeting would be held to find ways of helping the senior team become more competitive.
But it is the decision by the financially-stable Safa to try and lure Gorowa, which could leave the cash-strapped Zifa stranded and needing to look for another coach ahead of the start of the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.
After failing to make it to the 2014 World Cup scheduled for Brazil in June, both Zimbabwe and South Africa have now set qualification for the 2015 Nations Cup in Morocco as their major priority.
But there is a strong possibility that the Warriors could be without Gorowa’s guidance from the bench if Zifa, still saddled with a huge debt of more than $4 million, fail to secure a better package for the coach, who has also reportedly attracted the interest of his former club Ajax Cape Town.
The Urban Warriors are without a substantive mentor following the sudden departure for personal reasons of Turkish gaffer Muhsin Ertugral and with Gorowa having played for and coached the club, the Ajax Cape Town bosses are understood to have inquired on his status with the Zimbabwe senior team.
Zifa could not seal a long term contract with Gorowa largely because the association does not have the financial resources to meet the demands of any top coach.
In fact Gorowa who is expected to hold a review meeting with the soccer mother body before the start of the Nations Cup qualifiers, has since his appointment in July last year had his salary paid by Zifa president Cuthbert Dube.
Although Dube wanted Gorowa to remain in charge of the Warriors for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations’ campaign, Zifa’s financial problems could see them lose the coach to those who can flex their financial muscle and offer him a better package.
Gorowa refused to comment much on the interest shown by Safa and neither could he be drawn into discussing his Warriors future.
“I cannot comment on the Bafana Bafana issue. They still have a coach there so I cannot speak about it. I will talk to Zifa when I return with the team, I am happy so far with the way I have worked for my country with limited resources and the target
now should be to qualify for the Nations Cup and I believe we have laid a strong platform for that,’’ Gorowa said.
Should Gorowa decide to wave goodbye to the Warriors job he will walk away without the kind of hassles that were faced by some of his predecessors such as Madinda Ndlovu, Norman Mapeza, Tom Saintfiet , Rahman Gumbo and Sunday Chidzambwa who clashed with Zifa over outstanding contractual obligations.
This is because Gorowa has virtually been working on a “gentleman’s agreement to serve his nation’’.