ZIFA leadership in question after World Cup Qualifiers debacle

Innocent Kurira, [email protected]

ZIMBABWE’S recent drubbing in the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers has reignited concerns about the leadership of the ZIFA Normalisation Committee.

The crushing defeats, a 2-0 loss to Lesotho followed by a 3-1 hammering by South Africa, have laid bare the consequences of ZIFA’s failure to establish a strong foundation.

Coach Jairos Tapera was thrown into the fire just days before the qualifiers, a situation that made positive results highly unlikely. He wasn’t even given the freedom to choose his own squad, further limiting his chances of success. Matches of this importance require extensive preparation, something a last-minute appointment simply cannot provide.

The time for stopgap measures is over. Zimbabwe needs a permanent head coach, someone with a long-term vision and a clear set of objectives. Ideally, this coach would be dedicated solely to the Warriors, fostering a sense of stability and continuity.

ZIFA’s sluggishness on this crucial appointment is a source of frustration for many, including football coach Kudzayi Mhandire, who believes Tapera’s fate was sealed from the outset.

“We saw a lot of positives. We have a good team with talented young players. You look at Tawanda Chirewa, the boy is class. Even South Africans on social media are speaking highly of the talent on our side. It’s unfortunate that when things don’t come right the blame will always be directed to the coach.

“But the problem is at the top there. Did the team get enough preparation? No will be the answer. Imagine if that team with the flashes of brilliance that we saw could play more games together and under one coach with one philosophy. We can be unbeatable. This thing of changing coaches after two games will never work.

“We are shooting ourselves in the foot with that culture. What was wrong with the coach who started the qualifiers and managed to get two points from two games? We need a functional system at the top and a substantive coach then we can start talking about winning games,” said Mhandire.

Former Highlanders player Roy Cele is of the same view.
“You look at the South Africa game, their combination play and you can see these people know each other and have been playing together for a while.

Their coach did not just get there and start winning games.
“Football is about time and preparation. If you are changing coaches after two games and only meeting a few days before the match then there can be no fluidity and combinations in your play. Let’s have a substantive coach, give them time, prepare well for games and we will come good. We have young talented boys in that team and we need to build on that,” said Cele.

The Warrior’s next assignment will be the COSAFA Cup whose draw was conducted yesterday. They are set to resume their rivalry with Zambia after they were placed in Group B alongside Comoros and a fourth team yet to be confirmed. Malawi is expected to be the fourth team.

The tournament will be held in Durban from June 26 to July 7. Zimbabwe is making a return to the regional tournament after missing the 2023 edition due to a FIFA ban.

Organisers have retained last year’s format which saw the 12 participating teams split into three groups of four sides, with the three pool winners and the best runner-up set to advance to the semi-finals.

The tournament will be used as preparation for the Afcon Qualifiers in September.
Zimbabwe will be making a return to the qualifiers after missing the battles for a place in Cote d’Ivoire as the country served a FIFA suspension.

The Warriors last featured at the 2021 AFCON finals in Cameroon.
There will be 48 nations in the draw, including the four winners from the preliminary round (Chad, Eswatini, Liberia and South Sudan).

They will be drawn into 12 Groups of four teams each to battle it out for the 24 places at the finals with qualifiers set to get underway in September.
Headlining the confirmed nations for the draw are reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire joined by Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, DR Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini and Ethiopia.

Others include Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

GROUP A South Africa, Mozambique, Eswatini, Botswana
GROUP B Zambia, Team to be confirmed, Comoros, Zimbabwe
GROUP C Angola, Namibia, Lesotho, Seychelles
Warriors Cosafa Squad

GOALKEEPERS: Marley Tavaziva (Brentford), Geoffrey Chitsumba (Manica Diamonds), Prince Tafiremutsa (Dynamos)
DEFENDERS: Shane Maroodza (Huddersfield), Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Emmanuel Jalai (Dynamos), Thubelihle Jubani (Manica Diamonds), Isheanesu Mauchi (Simba Bhora), Tawanda Chisi (Manica Diamonds)

MIDFIELDERS: Daniel Msendami (Jwaneng Galaxy), Joel Phuthi (Sheffield Wednesday), Juan Mutudza (FC Platinum), Kingsley Mureremba (CAPS United), Mthokozisi Msebe (Simba Bhora), Tatenda Tavengwa (Venda Football Academy), Richard Hachiro (Ngezi Platinum), Panashe Mutimbanyoka (FC Platinum), Tinotenda Meke (GreenFuel)

FORWARDS: Macauley Bonne (Cambridge United), Takunda Benhura (Ngezi Platinum), Tinotenda Benza (Herentals), Denzel Mapuwa (GreenFuel)

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