By Ellina Mhlanga
Young Warriors coach Bekithemba Ndlovu says continuity is the way to go if the country is to scale greater heights in football.
Ndlovu was in charge of the team’s campaign for the second time at the MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships and led them to the final, but lost to South Africa on penalties in Kitwe, Zambia last Thursday.
The match had ended 1-1 in regulation time as the Young Warriors put up a brave fight to register one of their best campaigns in recent years at the tournament that presents a platform for development for the Southern African region countries.
Zimbabwe last reached the final of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in 2007, when they lifted the trophy after beating South Africa. The team had the likes of now Warriors captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat.
Ndlovu said with such players now featuring for the senior national side having come through the developmental tournament, it’s important that the current crop of players is kept together and monitored until they also graduate to the next stage.
“I think if these boys can be kept together, they will be Knowledge Musonas and Khama Billiats in two or five years to come. They will be the ones who will be playing for the senior national team.
“So I think they need to be monitored by the association or by whoever is in charge of national teams or national team players.
“They must be kept together, the names must be there in the ZIFA database so that we continue monitoring their progress. I think it’s a good strong team with boys that have a lot of talent.
“I think they need to be kept together. They did very well,” said Ndlovu.
Last year, the Young Warriors failed to reach the knock-out stages and going into this year’s edition, Ndlovu said they would want to do better and his charges delivered as they claimed silver at the tournament held in Kitwe, Zambia.
They also picked individual awards, with goalkeeper Tinotenda Ali getting the golden glove, while Delic Murimba shared the golden boot award with South Africa’s Lyle Foster.
Murimba was also voted man-of-the-match against Botswana, while Tatenda Tumba got the same award twice.
In fact, Murimba was the Young Warriors’ most outstanding player at this year’s COSAFA Under-20 Championships. He is a product of FC Dutch Academy, which is run by Kudzai and Mike Kadzombe.
“I think it was a good a tournament . . . We said that we wanted to improve on last year’s performance and I think the boys did very well because even just getting to the second stage, it was okay for me.
“But we went all the way to the final and being beaten by South Africa, the holders, on penalties, the boys gave it everything. Although I know that we lost the cup, for me and my boys it’s a win because in the medals we dominated the man-of-the-match awards.
“We had three man-of-the-match medals and we had goalkeeper of the tournament and top goal scorer of the tournament,” Ndlovu said.
Apart from working on coming up with a system that will continue to monitor the progress of players from the junior level until they graduate into senior teams, Ndlovu said the young players should also be exposed to more competitions.
“In terms of competition, again I think we are lagging behind because we always play the COSAFA, we don’t compete in the Nations Cup. South Africa right now I think they are going for the Nations Cup and they compete also in the World Cup. So us we are behind a little bit because we only play the COSAFA.
“We played last year in December in Zambia the COSAFA, after that one there was nothing until this COSAFA last week again. So after this one there will be nothing until the other COSAFA in December next year.
“So I think we must be competing maybe in all the tournaments for the Under-20s as well as all the tournaments for the Under-23s and Under-17s for our boys to get that exposure and that experience.
“Without that exposure, sometimes it’s difficult for them to just come into the senior national team and perform.
But when they get exposure from Under-17, 20 and 23, when they come into the senior national team, they are already not afraid of anything,” said Ndlovu. The Herald.