Why wait for the 11th hour?


IS there something wrong with our beloved Warriors when it comes to Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers?

They have, on two occasions, relied on mathematical calculations to secure a berth at the continental soccer showcase. 

Zimbabwe are in Group H of the AFCON, together with Algeria who have already qualified, as well as neighbours Zambia and Botswana. 

The remaining slot will be decided on Monday with Zimbabwe favourites to join Algeria. 

It is not only Zambia who stand in the way of Zimbabwe to the AFCON. 

History also has a part to play. 

History has it that only local coaches have taken Zimbabwe to the promised land. 

First, it was veteran coach Sunday Chidzambwa (2004), followed by Charles Mhlauri (2006), Kalisto Pasuwa (2017) and then Chidzambwa again in the last edition of the biennial competition. 

Current gaffer Zdravko Logarusic may go in the record books as the first foreigner to take the flagship team to the AFCON.  

In 2017, former Dynamos coach Pasuwa guided Zimbabwe to a third appearance after beating Malawi 3-0 in Harare at the National Sports Stadium. 

Although the qualifiers had the worst preparations, including a journey by bus to Lilongwe, the shoddy preparations did not deter the Warriors.

Pasuwa, however, failed to make an impression at the tournament, owing to poor preparations that included failure to play international friendlies. 

The 2017 qualification bridged a decade-long wait since 2006 when Zimbabwe qualified as the best runners-up. 

That was no easy feat for the national team who had seen the end of the road after the last round of matches. 

It was not until hours after the end of the last qualifying round that Zimbabwe knew of their second qualification at the biennial tournament. 

This year, Zimbabwe finds itself in a similar predicament, needing to know their fate after the final whistle. 

After failing to decide their fate, the national team will need Algeria to do them a favour and beat Botswana as well as upset Zambia to make a fifth appearance at the AFCON.

Zimbabwe rues the home advantage they fluffed when they were held to a goalless draw in November 2019 against the ‘Zebras’ of Botswana. 

That is one match that may cost the nation a fifth appearance at the AFCON. 

The Warriors won 2-1 against Zambia in their own backyard and drew with log leaders Algeria 2-2. 

No doubt featuring at the AFCON remains the highest achievement for the senior men’s national soccer team, but they have not gone beyond the group stages in all the four outings. 

Their worst performance was with Pasuwa in 2017 when they got a single point in a 2-all draw against Algeria. 

The Warriors failed to build on the draw they had earned in their first match. 

It was one of the toughest group for a nation lowly-ranked like Zimbabwe. 

The poor show at the AFCON by Zimbabwe should be attributed to the soccer administrators for letting the nation down with their policies. 

If it is not something to do with the coaching department, the problem will be with the preparations as demonstrated in previous AFCON preparations. 

Coaches are recycled and there is no continuity in the running of the national team. 

The football administrators need to have long-term plans for the national team. 

There are several good coaches in the land that the soccer governing body can invest in, like Pasuwa, Norman Mapeza and Joey Antipas, among others. 

They can further their coaching and have apprenticeship programmes in big clubs in developed countries. 

The exposure they will get could prove worthy for the national team if we are to see our flagship team qualify for at least the round of 16 at the AFCON or the World Cup. 

After the AFCON qualifiers, if Zimbabwe does not make it, some jobs will be lost and a new coach will be sought. 

For now, however, we remain optimistic that the Warriors will make it. 

Hope is the last thing we should never lose.


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