Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
DIE hard Warriors supporters who had hoped that the gasping senior men’s national soccer team would spring a shocker and beat Ghana in Tuesday’s 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier, watched in disbelief as their team fell to the West Africans 1-0 at home.
No-one could blame the Warriors fans for believing that the team had a fair chance of going past Group G where they are pooled with Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia.
Ordinarily, one would have fancied Warriors chances of progressing considering that football dynamics have changed, with so-called lightweights closing in on football heavyweights as evidenced by victories registered by Central African Republic’s (CAR) 1-0 win against Nigeria and a similar scoreline margin by South Africa over Ghana.
Even the continental’s heavyweights are wary of their opponents as they are aware that victory isn’t guaranteed.
Over the last few years the Warriors have demonstrated their ability to stand among the continent’s best by religiously qualifying for the Afcon finals thereby raising hopes among their followers that they can qualify for the World Cup.
But that dream has gone up in smoke, with one Zdravko Logarusic, a virtually unknown Croatian heavily blamed for Zimbabwe’s failure before Norman Mapeza was brought in to finish the campaign.
Logarusic reportedly cost Zifa a cumulative bill of more than US$223 000 in salaries and bonuses over the last 20 months.
Our Harare Bureau stated that what Zifa has to show for such expenditure is just a single win in 14 matches.
Loga’s five points which he picked in World Cup/AFCON matches, a victory over Botswana and two draws against Bafana Bafana and Algeria, cost an average of US$44 600 per point.
In terms of goals, the four goals which the Warriors scored under his guidance in either a World Cup/AFCON qualifier,came at an average cost of US$55 750 per goal.
The four goals were scored by Tino Kadewere, Knowledge Musona and Prince Dube, against Algeria, and Perfect Chikwende against Botswana in Francistown.
Loga who was sacked following a disastrous run as Warriors head coach, has already withdrawn about US$133 000 in salaries since his appointment in February last year.
Loga is gone and Mapeza is in but his return to the Warriors hasn’t been the best. He lost 2-1 in Ghana, before succumbing 1-0 at home.
He is expected to mop the mess created by Loga who was reportedly offered a US$90 000 severance package by Zifa.
Under their contractual agreement, Loga earned a monthly salary of US$7 000.
Zifa is reportedly paying him off US$35 000 for the remaining five months of the contract and an additional US$55 000 for his role in the Warriors’ 2021 AFCON qualifying success.
Loga has brought misery to the Zimbabwean fans but players are also partly to blame.
For starters, the level of commitment shown by players, especially those foreign based, is questionable.
The footballers yell out the “my country first” mantra, but on the field of play their performance leaves a lot to be desired.
While accepting that these same players have previously served with distinction, maybe it’s high time for ambitious footballers, those yearning to attract international scouts, to be considered for duty.
Mapeza will be justified for dropping some of the stars in the last two matches against South Africa and Ethiopia as Zimbabwe works on building up for the Afcon finals.
A blessing for Mapeza and his assistants is that the local league kicks off in a fortnight, meaning that “hungry” players will be available for selection having been off the radar for two years due to inactivity caused by Covid-19.
One might argue that an appearance fee which is less than US$1 000 appeals more to someone plying his trade in the domestic league.
Some might say it’s exploitation of local talent but the little that Zifa offers as appearance fees to national team players might motivate those who are in the domestic league.
Football legends Zenzo Moyo and Ronald Sibanda are on record challenging national team coaches to consider local players ahead of those plying their trade in foreign lands, who are comfortable with their club wages.
“Do you think someone earning more than US$5 000 or R75 000 can give the same commitment as someone earning less than US$500 in the local league when the latter knows that there are opportunities to attract scouts if they perform well with the national team,” questioned Sibanda.
Moyo blasted soccer agents and managers who influence national team selections.
“At times you ask yourself how a certain player is in the national team ahead of some deserving players. The system of selection has been corrupted and it’s a pity that there are selfish individuals who are using the loopholes to push their players. Maybe now that the local league is resuming, we will see some of the boys making it to the national team.
“A clear example that locally based footballers can effectively compete is across the Limpopo River where they’re using local guys ahead of foreign based stars to get results. It’s no harm to go local as long as you know what you want to achieve in the long run as a nation. iI’s important to restrategise, set the goals and plan on how you can achieve those goals,” said Moyo.
Local players should take advantage of the resumption of the league this month to challenge the national team selectors so that they are considered for duty. — @ZililoR