Charles Mabika Special Correspondent
A is for 2019 African Cup of Nations finals (whose qualifiers started this year), which have now been re-scheduled and will be held in South Africa next June.

And this soccer-crazy nation is expecting their No. 1 team — the Warriors — to be one of the 24 teams to make it to that tournament.

B is for “Big Three” of local football — CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders — who will know that they floundered on the Premiership stage this year. They will need to re-invigorate their systems to appease their multitudes of fans nationwide in the coming season. DeMbare were the worst performers of the trio, as they almost got relegated. Will we ever witness again the illustrious displays that were abundant in past squads that were led by Joel “Jubilee” Shambo and Shacky “Mr Goals” Tauro (CAPS United); George “Mastermind” Shaya and Moses “Bambo” Chunga (Dynamos) and the Ndlovu brothers — Madinda, Adam and Peter (Highlanders)?

C is for COSAFA knock-out tournaments which we have now made our “personal property” after the Warriors set another new record by clinching this year’s men’s senior title for the sixth time in South Africa. Under the astute direction of head coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa. Not to be outdone, Under-20 head mentor Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu also led his young protégés to this year’s final in Zambia where they beat South Africa yesterday in Zambia.

D is for demotion, where four sides — Bulawayo City, Mutare City Rovers, Nichrut and Shabanie Mine — were sadly demoted from top flight action after finishing up as the bottom four sides. We wish them a quick return.

E is for excitement (or lack of it).The 2018 season did not have lots of excitement until the last couple of weeks when the race for top honours and survival against relegation was heart-stopping.

F is for fans, the “real owners of the game” who dug deeper once more, all year round, into their pockets, week in, week out to support their teams and to immortalise their icons. Without them, the football world would certainly be deflated.

G is for goals (or once again, lack of them) in the top flight’s season. When our top goal scorer this year (Rodwell Chinyengetere) hits the net 17 times (and he’s not even a striker hey . . . well done to him) in the entire 2018 season, where the heck were the strikers who are paid to make the net bulge, we will boldly ask?

Gone are the days of the “master blasters” in the mould of Peter “Thunderboots” Nyama of Chibuku Shumba, who cracked in 62 goals in the 1970 season; Moses “Bambo” Chunga (Dynamos) scored 46 goals in 1986; Adam “Adamski” Ndlovu (Highlanders) banged in 32 goals in 1991 . . . where has this kind of predatory prowess disappeared to?

H is for Herentals, the newcomers into the Premiership this year who surprised all and sundry by finishing in an impressive sixth position on the league standings — above seasoned campaigners like Black Rhinos, CAPS United, Chapungu, Harare City, ZPC Kariba and Dynamos.

“The Students” director and forward, Innocent “IB9” Benza, also set two new records this year as the oldest player at 46 to ply his trade ever and also score in the Premiership. .

I is for idols. And the nation’s idols this year were the Soccer Stars of the Year — Rodwell Chinyengetere, Nhamo Lameck, Kevin Moyo, Innocent Mucheneka, Joel Ngodzo, Ariel Sibanda, David Temwanjira, Phineas Bhamusi, Farai Madhanhanga, Godknows Murwira and Michael Charamba. There were, however, three omissions who, in my opinion, should have made it into the final 11 — the Harare City duo of ’keeper Ryan “Entertainer” Harrison and midfield dynamo Moses “Supplier” Muchenje and Herentals’ roving left wing back Wilmore “Chopper” Chimbetu.

J is for junior development. For how long will our football leaders continue to ignore the importance of “catching them while they’re still young”? The abundance of talent at grassroots level as exhibited at National Association of Primary School Heads (Naph) and National Association of Secondary School Heads (Nash) tournaments is stark testimony that Zimbabwe has arguably the finest potential in Africa.

K is for Kudakwashe Mahachi, the exciting Warriors winger, who sadly lost his mother Sibonile Moyo earlier this week.

We are with you “Nkembe” in your darkest hour and urge you to let the Almighty guide you and your family at this very sad time.

L is for legends. We must be the only soccer nation that treats its yesteryear heroes like outcasts! I felt really nauseated at times during the year as I witnessed some overzealous gate marshals treat our retired legends as they tried to enter various stadiums, with contempt and ignorance at entrances.

It’s long overdue that we need to co-opt some of these guys into our administrative structures and gain from their knowledge and experience for the betterment of our youths and upcoming players. Anyone remember Ernest Kamba, David George, Josiah Nxumalo, Douglas Mloyi, Dennis Hlatywayo, Loveridge Maenzanise, Peter Manyara, Stewart Murisa, Charlie Jones, Charles Sibanda, Raphael Bakacheza, Carlos Max, James Takavada, Shaun Charters, Steven Chisango, Alexander Maseko, Andrew Kadengu, Ephert Lungu, Clement Chisale, Stanford Mutizwa, Maronga Nyangela, Innocent Musapenda, Nigel Munyati, Kelvin Mushangazhike, Tendai and George Chieza?

M is for Marvelous Nakamba, the Warriors midfield gem who was the only Zimbabwean playing abroad to feature in the Uefa Champions League for his Belgian club Club Brugge in Group A. Although Nakamba and his teammates didn’t proceed to the knock-out phase, they earned a ticket into the ongoing Europa League competition after they finished third in their Champions League group.

N is for Norman “Muchina Wemajuzi” Mapeza, the gliding former Warriors utility magician who masterminded his club, FC Platinum, to a second and successive Premiership title. He also clinched the Coach of the Year award and continued to defy the odds by leading his charges into the first round knock-out phase of the African Champions League.

O is for officials on the pitch . . . the local referees who showed great improvement in their performances this season, which led to some of them being assigned to handle continental assignments by CAF. Top of the crop was Norman Matemera, who clinched the Referee of the Year award, and with promising officials like Milton Mupfumbati and Lawrence Zimondi, our refereeing fraternity continues to blossom.

P is for promotion into the top flight league. That honour went to the following champions from the four regional divisions: the “Tiki-Taka Boys” (Mushowani Stars, the “Wi-Fi Boys” (TelOne), “Chipangano” (Hwange) and the “Gem Boys” (Manica Diamonds).

Q is for questions that are still lingering as we wind up the year, e.g., will Philip “Captain Fiasco” Chiyangwa and his deputy Omega “Oms” Sibanda fight off the challenge of Felton Kamambo and Gift Banda for the two top ZIFA posts on Sunday? What plans does the affable new leader at the PSL, Farai Jere, have for the Premiership for next season? Where will the self-styled “Prince” — Roderick Mutuma — be plying his trade next year?. . .

R is for Rodwell Chinyengetere, FC Platinum’s industrious midfielder who joined the illustrious world of mercurial greats like George “Mastermind” Shaya and Peter “Nsukuzonke” Ndlovu when he (Chinyengetere) clinched his second successive Soccer Star of the Year award at the end of the season. As “King Amla” prepares for a new life at South African Premiership side Baroka Stars, he knows that it was a truly hard act to emulate those accolade achievements of the two former Dynamos and Highlanders maestros.

S is for “Sugar Sugar Boys” of Triangle United who capped a fine season by finishing in fourth position on the log standings and also captured the Chibuku Super Cup. Led by shrewd coach Taurai “Bla Jack” Mangwiro, the Lowveld side also earned a ticket to represent the country in the African Confederation Cup.

T is for Tonderai “Stanza” Ndiraya, the coach who was unceremoniously axed by Ngezi Platinum, who in a short instant, forgot about his swift and meteoric achievements when he arrived at the Mhondoro-based side in their maiden year in the top flight two years ago — by capturing their first-ever silverware when he masterminded the Chibuku Super Cup victory and 12 months later, attained a second runners-up spot in the Premiership. The Zimbabwe Under-23 head coach is currently clubless, but like they say, “you can never keep a good man down” and Stanza will definitely be back!

U is for unity. It was absolutely fantastic to see the whole nation come together in “times of need”, e.g., during the men’s and women’s junior and senior national teams’ matches.

V is for violence. This ugly monster once again breathed fire and brimstone at some of our stadiums this year. We will keep reminding some unruly elements within our midst to celebrate with delight after their team’s win and also learn to accept defeat with grace.

W is for World Cup 2022 scheduled for Qatar and now is the time for all stakeholders to start preparing for this world jamboree. Remember, that we didn’t compete in the just-ended showpiece in Russia, so we need to prepare swiftly for a bumpy ride to make it to the Promised Land. Former Warriors ’keeper, Bruce “Jungleman” Grobbelaar, is adamant that with the right preparations, we can qualify for our first-ever World Cup finals appearance.

X is for the “X factor” that is essential to improve our beloved game. Every one of us has that noteworthy, special talent or quality to make our game reach the loftiest heights.

We have to speak out so that we can be heard and if you didn’t do so this year; please make sure that you exhale the “X factor” in you next year.

Y is for Young Warriors and Young Mighty Warriors (at Under-20 and Under-23 levels) who are the backbone of our senior national men’s and women’s teams.

We need to support them in every way possible . . . remember what the male Under-20s did in Zambia this year?

Z is for Zimbabwe Warriors. Thank you guys for the splendid shows in the ongoing AFCON qualifiers (I will never forget the sublime performance against Group G favourites, the “Leopards” of the DRC, in that first away game in Lubumbashi when we stunned them 2-1!). Those gallant marches resulted in you being nominated for this year’s CAF annual competition’s category for the “Team of the Year” award. Go Warriors Go!

Source: The Herald

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