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Fabisch failed us, he was our weakest link

By Bothwell Mahlengwe

Success has different definitions to different people at different times. But in sport, especially football, the meaning is absolute — attainment of qualification and or winning championships.

Former Zimbabwe Warriors manager Reinhardt Fabisch, follows the action at Sekondi Stadium in Ghana when he was still coaching Benin (Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN)
Former Zimbabwe Warriors manager Reinhardt Fabisch, follows the action at Sekondi Stadium in Ghana when he was still coaching Benin (Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN)

Success here is simply defined as attaining the prize.

Anything else falls short though some might deem it progress.

Who remembers the ZPC Kariba of 2013?

School examinations give a clear picture of what is success and failure.

It doesn’t matter whether this year’s examination was easier or harder than the previous ones, if you don’t make the minimum mark you would have failed.

It also doesn’t matter whether last year’s pass grade was a C or better, and this year’s is a D or better, a D grade in last year exams remains a failure.

That is the sad reality of life — cruel at times.

Reinhard Fabisch’s team was rightly named the Dream Team.

It really was a dream, in every sense of the word — we had the biggest pool of talent to pick players from. Imagine that the 1992 local league champions, Black Aces, didn’t have a single player who made the grade into that team.

Players like John Mbidzo, the Mugeyi twins William and Wilfred, Charles Kaseke and Emmanuel Nyahuma could make it into any of the Warriors who qualified for Nations Cup finals but “failed” to make the Dream Team grade.

So rich was the talent, to draw from, we had, at least, two or three players who were equally good in every position.

I am still to see such an array of talent being available for any other coach in Zimbabwe and Fabisch was spoilt for choice.

He had all the ingredients to succeed — a large pool of great players to choose from, they were well motivated and well-resourced, and they had a whole nation behind them.

“Reinhard always told me that it was the best combination he ever had as a coach, so his job was that much easier to do because his task was simply to play a strategic system with highly motivated and talented players,’’ Fabisch’s widow Chawada said in August 2011.

The best orchestra was ready to dazzle, an expectant audience was ready to be dazzled and what was left was the conductor to wave his magic.

The ball was in Fabisch’s court.

The team needed a good coach, a strategist, who would improve the players, shape and balance the team.

Unfortunately, he failed.

Fabisch wasn’t a good coach but an excellent motivator, a person who sold dreams.

Like an excellent marketing expert, he created a euphoria of expectation and hope for a nation that had for a long time longed to be counted on the continental front.

He created possibility and, on that front, he succeeded.

A closer look at the Dream Team period shows a gradual decline in the way the team played.

It moved from a team that first played smooth, flowing and entertaining football to a fragmented and boring one.

Fabisch ushered in a new formation, the 3-5-2, an offensive formation on paper but very difficult to implement.

It needs the right personnel, especially in the midfield.

A defensive linkman capable of initiating play, a playmaker with good vision and a great final pass, and roving wing backs with ball-crossing capabilities are crucial.

Without these ingredients, the formation fails.

Fabisch’s choice for the defensive midfield position was Benjamin Nkonjera and it used to boggle my mind until I saw Chawada’s confession about Fabisch-Nkonjera relationship in 2011.

“Although he was proud and fond of all his players, the one he loved the most was Benjamin Nkonjera, both as a footballer and a person,’’ Chawada said.

“When he first saw him as a young player, he knew straight away he was a great talent and wanted him on his side.’’

Nkonjera became the owner of the defensive midfield slot in the Dream Team, Willard Khumalo was pushed back into the back three, Memory Mucherahowa lost his place in the team completely.

Isaac Riyano never got a chance and Norman Mapeza, playing abroad as defensive link at that time, saw himself used as a right wing back or centre back.

In my world, this is a very critical position and the person to play there should be able to do three crucial things — mark the ball, start the offence by passing forward and keep and carry the ball as when it’s necessary.

Nkonjera was excellent in winning balls but awful in the other key aspects, his passing was either backwards or sideways, he wasn’t a good ball carrier and neither was he a ball keeper.

Nkonjera became the example of a good Warriors defensive midfielder — a ball marker and many were born out of his example and we have never lacked in that regard.

Tinashe Nengomasha, Esrom Nyandoro, Ashley Rambanapasi and Willard Katsande, who had showed capabilities of ball carrying and ball distribution, changed style to fit the hardman type.

Another puzzle was how Rahman Gumbo was a regular.

One wonders how he became the Dream Team’s creative hub, the playmaker, when he lacked the qualities of a number 10, especially vision and the final pass.

He made his name as a goalscorer, that’s why he was nicknamed Rush, and not as a playmaker.

Naturally-gifted playmakers like Joe Mugabe, Kennedy Nagoli, Kennedy Chihuri, Lloyd Mutasa, Nkulumo Donga and Tavaka Gumbo missed out.

Maybe the highly publicised fallout between Fabisch and Moses Chunga led to redefining or scrapping of the playmaker role in our midfield.

Since then, it has been the missing link for the Warriors, save for a short period when Johannes Ngodzo came onto the scene before that horrible injury.

Fabisch transformed a well-shaped and well-balanced team — steady defence, mobile and creative midfield and hungry and lethal strike force, the one that walloped South Africa 4 -1, into a one-dimensional side, all defensive, a non-existent midfield and a sporadic strike force.

Some will argue of there was progress but without losing a match, they still failed to qualify for the Nations Cup.

Why?
Because, they were a team built not to lose and, if possible, try and win.

From scoring four against Bafana Bafana, we were now struggling to score more than two against Mauritius and Fabisch was to blame.

He seduced most of us but he was the weak link in our best team ever. The Herald

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