THE opening results of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers give the Zimbabwe Warriors confidence in making it to the top in Group C, provided the authorities clean up their act.
Nigeria and South Africa, the bookmakers’ favourites, have already suffered early setbacks.
The defeat of South Africa by Rwanda on Tuesday, with Nigeria failing to win both their opening games leave the Group wide open.
The Warriors are wishing if only they had played their ‘home’ game against Nigeria in Zimbabwe, it might be them and not Rwanda topping Group C on the log table.
But they still have four home games to come.
And holding Rwanda at their Huye Stadium fortress is no mean feat.
Meanwhile, the home ground situation has been tormenting the hearts of Zimbabwe’s soccer lovers.
On previous occasions, even though our grounds were not up to date, we were given a grace period to use our National Sports Stadium (NSS) for international games.
This time, football authorities have said enough is enough.
It was the height of embarrassment, hosting the Nigerian Eagles at Rwanda Huye Stadium in Butare on Sunday.
Among some of the shortfalls at our NSS is the absence of bucket seats, an international requirement.
Surely we should bury our heads in shame, given the length of time we have failed to meet this requirement, among others.
We should not even begrudge South Africa for advocating the disqualification of countries without suitable home grounds of their own, like Zimbabwe.
At one time, the corporate world volunteered to intervene by upgrading Rufaro to international standards.
This time, the agreement between the CCC-backed City Council and Sakunda, mysteriously collapsed.
What does all this mean?
To this very day, the soccer loving nation of Zimbabwe does not have a football ground suitable to hold international matches.
No wonder, the Warriors might be crying foul, expressing confidence they would have beaten Nigeria if they had the support of the 12th man.
Meanwhile, we stand by our Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry’s reassurance that bucket seats, turnstiles and e-ticketing will be in place soon.
And by soon we believe it is by the time Zimbabwe is due to hold its next home game.
What was also unacceptable about the present Warriors was the lack of preparedness by our national team.
The game against Rwanda was the first time the Warriors were playing together as a team since the lifting of the FIFA ban.
The need for competitive friendly matches, so that the players get used to playing together, cannot be over-emphasised.
That way, the players will gradually gel with each other.
The onus is on ZIFA Normalisation Committee to know dates of FIFA international breaks.
They then should arrange with proposed opponents well in advance.
We don’t want a situation like what happened last time when Botswana professed ignorance about a proposed friendly, which Zimbabwe had advertised.
Due diligence is also essential in the selection of foreign-based players.
We don’t want selection of players who will fail to turn up, when this could have been avoided.
ZIFA must make sure that selected players are eligible to play for the country.
For those available, all logistics, including travel arrangements, must be completed well in advance.
And with the playing squad, communication is of vital importance with promises in black and white, especially where money is involved.
We don’t want a repeat of what happened in Rwanda, where, after the drawn game, players threatened to walk away.
Please ZIFA, always remember to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.
Otherwise, the Warriors look good and their support base is solid.
To Baltemar Brito and your team, we say be assured of our unwavering support so long as ….