By Eddie Chikamhi
There is outrage in the domestic football fraternity following poor performances by the Warriors at the on-going CHAN tournament in Cameroon, with coach Zdravko Logarusic coming under the spotlight over the uninspiring start to his tenure.
Logarusic, who signed a two-year contract with ZIFA last year, is yet to win a match in charge of Zimbabwe after leading the side in five games.
The 1-3 defeat at the hands of Burkina Faso on Wednesday evening condemned the Warriors to become the first side to be booted out of this year’s CHAN tournament.
Zimbabwe had also lost their opening match of the tournament 0-1 to hosts Cameroon on Saturday night and this has rendered their last Group A game against Mali this Sunday a dead rubber.
Former Zimbabwe international Harlington Shereni yesterday launched a thinly-veiled attack on the football establishment at ZIFA for making the wrong decisions that has resulted in the slow death of football in the country.
The country’s flagship football team, the Warriors, despite qualifying for two AFCON finals in the last decade, have largely been unstable and have failed to break into the top 100 on the FIFA rankings for the past 10 years.
“We fought to bring our football to a good respectable level and some people just come and destroy all the hard work. Cry my beloved Warriors,” he said on his Twitter account yesterday.
“Our football needs to be sanitised, we have become the punching bag of everybody. It hurts,” continued the former Warriors fullback.
It appears Shereni is not the only one who is hurt by the direction the Warriors are taking, especially under the current coach Loga. In his first five games he has lost three and drawn two.
In comparison, his last two predecessors Sunday Chidzambwa and Joey Antipas, although they also fell short in some aspects, at least managed to win games at the same period.
In his last stint as Warriors coach, Chidzambwa, who led the Warriors to the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt, managed to win two games, two draws and lost once in his first five outings.
Antipas took over on an interim basis and after five games he also had two wins, two draws and one loss. But in that short period he completed the Warriors’ qualification for the finals of the CHAN tournament. He also managed to get Zimbabwe’s only win in the current AFCON qualifying campaign when they upstaged Zambia 2-1 in Lusaka.
Logarusic took over from Antipas but he began his tenure at a time when football globally was impacted heavily by the coronavirus pandemic. He spent the first 10 months of his two-year contract inactive.
His first assignment was a goalless draw against Malawi in a friendly match before losing 1-3 to Algeria in the AFCON qualifiers. The team salvaged a point in the 2-2 draw reverse fixture at home.
The CHAN tournament has so far proved a tough test for the Croatian coach. Zimbabwe lost 1-0 to Cameroon in the opening match and were hoping to bounce back against Burkina Faso on Wednesday night but the Stallions were even more ruthless than the Cameroonians and with better precision, could have won by a wider margin.
It has been argued that the games came at a time when football was affected by coronavirus but this pandemic has not affected Zimbabwe only.
Zimbabwe’s lack of preparedness could also be a huge factor. ZIFA had no proper plan for the Warriors ahead of the tournament and the squad lost considerable time of training following an outbreak of coronavirus in their camp.
Coach Logarusic selection choices and the continued chopping and changing of players with less than a month left before the tournament was a clearest indication of what to expect from this team.
One Wednesday, Logarusic made six changes to his starting line-up with goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda, Leeroy Mavhunga, Pawell Govere and Wellington Taderera being benched.
Midfielders Ronald Chitiyo and Richard Hachiro were ruled out by injury but the decision to make half-a-dozen changes at a tournament did not sound good.
The tactics in the last two games were poor. Zimbabwe were losing the ball easily and lacked general co-ordination.
The selection of the final team that travelled to Cameroon was also questionable.
Former Sunday Mail Sports Editor, Makomborero Mutimukulu, yesterday took to the social media and posed some tough questions to the coach and his assistants on the confusion surrounding the team selection.
“Our biggest problem in Zimbabwe is the sorry fact that we don’t tell each other the truth. The Warriors who are at CHAN are pretenders.
“You cannot tell me Devon Chafa is not good enough for that team. Is DC paying the price for his fractured relationship with team manager Wellington Mpandare?
“Haisi nyaya yekunyimana charger here iyi? Why did we not include FC Platinum players when they were active in CAF Champions League? Does Loga hate FC (Platinum)?
“So you call Denver Mukamba last minute to starve him of minutes in Cameroon?,” said Mutimukulu
A Twitter user by the name Edson Nyashanu also queried the quality of the players at the tournament and the leadership in the technical set-up.
“ZIFA should be charged for putting the name of the country and the good sport into disrepute. You can’t tell us that those are the best players available locally in the country. Corruption stinks at ZIFA.
“The problem is that ZIFA does not want to pay. Why hiring a clown as a coach? The guy is just clueless. Six changes bringing in mediocre players ibhora ripi iroro. No creativity, no attack, nothing and poor defending. Why did you embarrass the nation like that?” he tweeted.
Steven Africa was concerned by the lack of preparations and the poor leadership by ZIFA.
“These guys are locally-based. (We were supposed to have) better preparations for CHAN. All year, some team must be in place, regularly flexed by the national coaching personnel… We are not a powerhouse and we would need to step up in order to become that status. Emergency teams won’t go far,” said Africa.
Whilst football failed to take place in Zimbabwe in 2020, hosts Cameroon and the other group members also had similar or worse stories to tell but they had to devise plans to prepare their teams for the tournament.
The Burkina Faso league was abandoned in May and resumed in September because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Emergency Committee of the Burkina Faso Football Federation made the decision to cancel the top tier season with six rounds of matches left to play.
Rahimo FC were selected to represent Burkina Faso in the Total CAF Champions League while Salitas FC were chosen for the CAF Confederation Cup.
The new season started on September 18 and the last matches were played on December 26 when the league took a six-week break.
Cameroon have been without a championship since March as a result of the pandemic and the fierce power tussle between the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) and the country’s professional football league (LFPC).
The 2020-21 season was supposed to start on November 4 but could not go ahead after FECAFOOT stripped LFPC of the rights to organise the league over accusations of lack of professionalism.
Mali have had deeper problems stretching over three years. The 2017 Mali Premier Division was abandoned and there was completely no domestic football in 2018. The top-flight game only returned for the 2019-20 season late last year with 23 clubs divided over two groups.
The quality of the West African leagues also leaves a lot to be desired with honest questions like when was the last time that countries like Burkina Faso and Cameroon saw their clubs do well in the Champions League?
That alone speaks to the low levels of their domestic leagues because almost every promising player in West Africa leaves for Europe at a young age.
The Warriors need to salvage the little pride left for the country in the dead rubber against Mali on Sunday. The Herald