By Robson Sharuko
Sunday Chidzambwa has asked the organisers of the Annual National Sports Awards not to consider him for the 2018 Coach of the Year category in the wake of the controversy sparked by the way his name was squeezed into the final three-man shortlist for the gong.
It’s the latest spectacular fallout between the country’s biggest sporting discipline, football, and the ANSA organisers amid concerns in the domestic football community that the awards have been trying to divorce themselves from whatever happens in local football.
The local football family have been wondering how:
The Warriors, who only lost one competitive match last year, of the seven games they played in 2018, to move within just a home draw of qualifying for the 2019 AFCON finals, were not even considered to make the final short-list of three teams for the Team of the Year award?
The Warriors, who were named among the best six performing teams last year, out of all the 54 members of the Confederation of African Football, could not even make the short-list of three local teams for the country’s Team of the Year award?
The Warriors, who became only the third team to beat the Democratic Republic of Congo, in either a World Cup or an AFCON qualifier, in Kinshasa in the last four years — with only Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana managing to match that feat — could be deemed not to have done enough to qualify for the three-team short-list for the local Team of the Year award?
The Warriors’ triumph in the COSAFA Cup last year, coupled with the team’s good run in their AFCON qualifiers in which they picked four points in Brazzaville and Kinshasa, could not have been deemed by the organisers of the ANSA awards as being good enough to give them a place among the three sides short-listed for the Team of the Year award?
Chidzambwa, the first coach to guide the Warriors to four points in back-to-back AFCON/World Cup qualifiers away from home, in 25 years since Reinhard Fabisch inspired his Dream Team to a victory in Togo and a draw in Angola in 1993, could be deemed to not have done enough to make the three-man shortlist for the 2018 Coach of the Year award in a year his men only lost once?
Last year, relations between the Sports Commission, who are supposed to track the exploits of local teams and athletes for consideration for the awards, and ZIFA deteriorated sharply leading the parent ministry of sport to intervene in the crisis.
The original short-list for the ANSA 2018 Coach of the Year award had Rugby Sevens team coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba, netball coach Lloyd Makunde and rowing coach Rachel Davis.
That controversy is centred around the inclusion of Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa on three finalists who also include rugby Sevens coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba and the women’s netball mentor Lloyd Makunde and rowing coach Rachel Davis.
However, the judges were forced to leave out Davis after it emerged that, as a South African, she was not eligible for the award even though she won the same gong three years ago.
Forced to find another coach, to ensure there would a short-list of three coaches for the award, they turned to Chidzambwa just for him to window dress the nominations.
The Warriors, who also captured a record sixth COSAFA Cup title in South Africa last year, were deemed not good enough for the Team of the Year award with the Sevens side, the rowing team and the netball side making the short-list.
The Sevens side won the Africa Cup last year, the netball team qualified for the World Cup while the rowers captured a number of medals at the African Youth Games and impressed at the Youth Olympics in Argentina.
“Normally, and naturally, the rowing coach should have been there but, in this case, she is a South African, and not Zimbabwean. So the fourth best coach was Sunday Chidzambwa,’’ ANSA judges panel vice-chairman, Witness Mugulula, told The Herald last week.
‘’That is how he was nominated.’’
Chidzambwa said he didn’t want to be a distraction to a process meant to reward the country’s finest athletes and coaches and asked for his name not to be considered for the Coach of the Year award.
‘’I am not the kind of person who is chasing awards but someone who is trying to achieve something for his country and, right now, all the focus is on us getting that result we want to qualify for the next AFCON finals in Egypt,’’ said Chidzambwa.
‘’Our big game, which will decide our fate, is just around the corner and this is a crucial period for us because we have so many things on our plate, looking at the players who should be considered, monitoring the form of our players and also hoping that injuries don’t rob us of our main players.
‘’So, against that background, I think it is very unfair that my name is being dragged into controversy that has nothing to do with me and that is deflecting our focus because, as you are aware in these days of social media, a lot of things are then said and some of them are quite negative.
‘’For your information, I’m not interested in that award, I never went into coaching to win awards but to win football games, win championships and try and take the national team as far as possible.
‘’My appeal to those who are organising the awards is that they should not consider me for the award because my interest is not in that area and I don’t want to be a source of controversy because it’s creating a sideshow that we can do without at such a crucial phase of our campaign.’’
The veteran coach said he was happy with how his Warriors fared in the competitions they took part in last year but what now mattered was how they will deal with the challenge from Congo-Brazzaville. ‘’From the time we played Liberia last year, my mind has been firmly focused on the match against Congo and not awards,’’ said Chidzambwa. The Herald