Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
ON a weekend when the Barcelona Legends and former Zimbabwe national team footballers clashed, the Warriors quietly sneaked into the country on Sunday night following two international friendly defeats.
The international friendlies that Zifa secured against Lesotho and Namibia were seen as a “waste of time” by some critics, as both nations were ranked lower than Zimbabwe.
However, the Warriors succumbed to shock defeats, first going down 0-1 to Lesotho on Wednesday, 1-3 to Namibia in Windhoek on Saturday.
These results will have a bearing on Zimbabwe’s world rankings. The Warriors are ranked 104th in the world and 27th in Africa, with Namibia ranked 129th and 35th, while Lesotho are 146th and 43rd respectively.
Losing to Namibia, who knocked Zimbabwe out of the Chan tournament, and Lesotho should be hard to accept for ordinary Zimbabweans and fingers will certainly point at Zifa technical director Wilson Mutekede’s capability as a stop gap measure.
Zimbabwe were using the two friendly matches as part of their preparations for the 2019 Afcon qualifiers, which resume in March next year, with a visit to Congo-Brazzaville.
Mutekede guided the Warriors on an interim basis alongside Caps United’s Lloyd Chitembwe. The Zifa technical director had the luxury of calling the best players, most of whom were part of the squad that Norman Mapeza had when the Warriors beat Liberia 3-0 in their first 2019 Afcon qualifier.
Not even the inclusion of the “British Brigade”, which included the quartet of Admiral Muskwe (Leicester), MaCauley Bonne (Leyton Orient), Tendai Darikwa (Nottingham Forest) as well as Kundai Benyu, could inspire the Warriors, who had among other internationals Tendai Ndoro, Marvelous Nakamba, Kuda Mahachi and Tinotenda Kadewere, to victory.
Despite returning home empty handed, Mutekede feels they had a successful tour.
“We’re happy that we got to assess the players, old and new. I know the ultimate things people look at are results, but you’ll appreciate that the circumstances behind the trip were not favourable. We didn’t train for the Lesotho match, which I feel we controlled for about 80 percent. We came back via Harare before going to Namibia and had to work on recovery instead of building cohesion,” said Mutekede.
“I think in future, the major lesson learnt is that prior arrangements like travelling of players and other logistical stuff are important. Remember, I was just an interim coach and I’ll write a report, which I will present to the coach who will be appointed on what we noted from the players we travelled with. The whole idea of these matches was to integrate new players into the Warriors’ setup and improve the team, which I think happened,” he said.
About the British quartet, Mutekede said save for Bonne and Darikwa, whom he described as ready to compete for places in the national team, Muskwe and Benyu need time to develop as players.