Concerns over team’s preparedness
Makomborero Mutimukulu in BLANTYRE, Malawi
ZIMBABWE’S journey to the 2017 African Cup of Nations begins at the Kamuzu Stadium here this afternoon amid serious concerns about the Warriors’ state of preparedness and mind after a build-up made in hell whose ghost needed a prophet to exorcise.
Unlike their hosts in this Group L opener, which kicks off at 2:30pm and is live on Supersport 3, Zimbabwe have been a den of confusion with the team only leaving Harare yesterday afternoon.
And it once again needed the intervention of Prophet Walter Magaya to get the national team to leave their camp and take the road trip to Malawi.Part of the Warriors’ journey was undertaken late into the night, something that is always very dangerous.
It’s hardly ideal but that is sadly what has become the norm with Zimbabwe’s football and, in as much as it hurts all of us, the inexcusable has become acceptable in this Cuthbert Dube-era of darkness.
The reclusive Zifa boss, who found it fashionable to appear on Sky News to tell the world that he would be voting for Sepp Blatter at the Fifa Congress, has been in hiding in the walls of his Groombridge mansion this week as the Warriors stumbled from one crisis to another.
Other football bosses who really care, would have —given the extent of the crisis — not only have been visiting the team on a daily basis at their camp but would even have taken the ride, on that road trip, with the boys to show them he was one of them and their mission was the same.
Sadly, our Zifa president doesn’t appear to have the passion to even watch their matches and, so, to expect him to take that rough ride — given that he is used to five-star treatment on business class flights to Fifa events — would have been stretching our imagination too far.
Coach Callisto Pasuwa only got to announce his team midweek as he sought assurances about his job as Zifa are yet to offer him a contract and only the intervention of Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa, ensured that he would be on the bench today.
Pasuwa is yet to be paid for the nine months that he has worked with the Young Warriors and Warriors, receiving only $100 as payment, and the gaffer will have to do it the hard way if he is to join an exclusive club that only has Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa and Charles Mhlauri as its occupants.
Chidzambwa and Mhlauri are the only coaches to have successfully negotiated the path that Pasuwa embarks on this afternoon — taking the Warriors to the biggest football festival on the continent in 2004 and 2006.
In contrast to the mayhem in our team, Malawi have been in camp for the past two months and reports that the Warriors’ camp is exploding amid stalemates over appearance fees and winning bonuses has added fuel to their flames of confidence.
The unavailability of Nyasha Mushekwi is also being cheered as a positive thing by the hosts who might also have been following the big striker’s exploits in Sweden.
The Malawian media had a field day as they feasted on the news that skipper Willard Katsande and his troops on Thursday decided against boarding an afternoon flight to this landlocked nation until their grievances over match fees and allowances had been addressed to their satisfaction.
“Zim players fail to jet in,” screamed the Daily Times yesterday.
“The Warriors were supposed to jet in at 7:15pm yesterday but the players demanded at least US$500 each before travelling to Malawi. Cash-strapped Zifa failed to pay players the money . . .,” part of the report read.
The matter was also chewed into on several radio talk shows with phone calls from listeners depicting a country that expects their Flames to burn the Warriors to ashes.
The confidence is dangerously palpable among the Malawians.
Flames coach Young Chimodzi, who suffered a 1-4 loss to Zimbabwe in his first assignment last year at the same ground that will be used for this assignment, is happy with what he has seen in his charges.
“This time around we’re prepared for battle,” Chimodzi declared yesterday.
“I’ve confidence that the boys will do well. We’ve had good preparations. This time around we played about three friendly matches and we’ve also participated in the Cosafa Cup.
“We’ve seen some young players getting into the picture and that gives us good options . . . we’ve a good team that will deliver good results.”
The Malawian coach has been gleaning as much information as possible about the Warriors out of Caps United linkman Gerald “Papa” Phiri.
Phiri has been AWOL at Makepekepe as he chose nation before club and is expected to feature in a midfield that will also have former Makepekepe darling and now Flames skipper, Joseph Kamwendo among its cast.
While Zimbabwe has had a disastrous build-up, Pasuwa and his men should have enough arsenal to come out of the “cathedral of Malawian football” with a positive result.
The Warriors have a wealth of experience with the likes of Katsande, Cuthbert Malajila, Knowledge Musona, Partson Jaure and Khama Billiat, to mention just five, having featured and conquered in much tougher battles before.
Rookie goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva, was part of a Young Warriors outfit that did a-smash-and-grab on Cameroon as the nation qualified for the Africa Games.
The Dynamos man should not be moved by a packed Kamuzu.
No one among the boys should.
Tickets for this Afcon qualifier, which will be handled by Cameroonian referee Christopher Nde, went on sale on Wednesday with Football Association of Malawi competitions manager Gomesgani Zakazaka telling our correspondent they expect a sold-out stadium.
There is a lot at stake in this match and if the Warriors can turn it on, which they have the capacity to do, they can cheer the spirits of millions of their fans who have been hurt by the drama that has plagued their camp all week.