Big breakthough for Benjani
By Eddie Chikamhi
Benjani Mwaruwari’s appointment, as the Warriors assistant coach, has been warmly welcomed by the domestic football fraternity.
They feel he will now get a golden chance to be groomed inside the trenches of the senior national team.
His appointment was trending yesterday, amid favourable responses, from the Zimbabwean football community.
The former Zimbabwe skipper, who turned 43 this month, was named as one of the senior national team’s assistant coaches, and will work under head coach, Zdravko Logarusic.
The other assistant coaches are Tonderai Ndiraya and Lloyd Chitembwe.
Benjani’s appointment is with immediate effect.
This means he will have to travel from his base, in the United Kingdom, to join the Warriors, for their 2022 World Cup qualifiers, against South Africa and Ethiopia, next month.
A former Portsmouth and Manchester City forward, Benjani played at the highest level of club football, including in the Champions League.
The ZIFA bosses feel he could bring a different touch, when it comes to training, and the reading of the game, to the Warriors.
There has been concern the senior national technical team, under Loga, is lightweight.
Fans, and pundits, have been calling for changes, in the wake of a poor run of results.
However, the ZIFA board decided not to make any changes, including the dismissal of the Croat, who has only won just one of the 12 matches, which the Warriors have played under his guidance.
Loga has countered those, who have been calling for his dismissal, with the explanation he has managed to take his team to the 2021 AFCON finals, as demanded by his bosses.
He now wants to improve their performance, at the showcase, where they will take on Senegal, Malawi and Guinea.
The Warriors have never gone beyond the group stages, at the Nations Cup finals, and many of their fans feel they have a good opportunity, in Cameroon, next January.
Loga was recruited to provide that touch, which will help the Warriors get to the next level, although the intiial results have not provided any guarantees that this will be the case. The Croat has blamed the team’s poor showing, at both the COSAFA Cup and the CHAN finals, to the inactivity of the local league, where most of the players for the two tournaments, were drawn from.
His bosses at ZIFA have thrown their full support behind him, saying Loga’s real tests can only be seen by how the Warriors perform, during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, and the 2021 Nations Cup finals.
However, the ZIFA officials have also taken into account, the concerns from the domestic football family, and feel the addition of Benjani, into the Warriors coaching set-up, could help the team in a big way.
“The Executive Committee received a progress report from the Technical and Development Committee with regards to all matches played in 2021,’’ said ZIFA in their statement.
“The Exco resolved that the technical teams will remain unchanged.
“The Exco further resolved to augment the Warriors’ technical team by appointing Benjani Mwaruwari as an assistant coach.
“The appointment is with immediate effect.’’
Benjani recently attained a UEFA A Licence badge in Belfast, Ireland, declaring he was now ready to chart a new career path, in coaching.
He was in the same class with ex-professional footballers, Christopher Samba and Mark Hughes.
“I decided to do my coaching badges during that lockdown,’’ he told SAfm’s, Thabiso Mosia, in a radio show.
“Fortunate enough, I made it. I have just completed my UEFA A licence.
“I was with Portsmouth on attachment whilst I was doing these badges. Now I need to forward my CV to the clubs and see how it goes.”
The UEFA A Licence is one level below the UEFA Pro Licence and allows holders to be head coaches of youth teams up to age 18, reserve teams for top-flight clubs, and men’s professional second-tier clubs.
Soccer Coaches Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general, Newsome Mutema, yesterday said ZIFA should take the opportunity to groom Benjani, and the local coaches, so that they could lead the Warriors, one day.
“This might turn out to be a wise move, on the part of ZIFA, because Benjani is someone who knows the culture of Zimbabwean football, and has also played at the highest level,’’ said Mutema.
“I think his knowledge and experience, as someone who played in Europe, will add value to the bench.
“He is also coming in as someone who has attained higher qualifications and will be fully committed to the national team.
“I am saying this because the other two assistant coaches that are there already have commitments elsewhere, and would need to juggle between clubs and the national team, while Benjani will solely be focusing on the Warriors.
“So, it’s not bad to beef up a team that is already there and I believe they will complement each other well.’’
Mutema said this was a golden opportunity for Benjani.
“It’s a platform for Benjani to grow, as well, because he is someone who has not been tasked with such a high-profile task before,’’ he said.
“He will learn a lot from his colleagues and I think he will soon graduate to become a very good coach on his own.
“We need more people like Mwaruwari, especially at the top.
“ZIFA should learn to support our own, the same way they have done with Loga. They have been so patient with him and have given him enough time, despite the lack of results, something we didn’t see with local coaches like (Callisto) Pasuwa and others.’’ The Herald