By Robson Sharuko
Norman Mapeza was offered the chance for another romance as the Warriors coach, ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, with the gaffer ready for a return to the ultimate job in domestic football.
However, negotiations did not go very far between the two parties.
It’s very likely the deal collapsed after Mapeza asked to be paid a part of the substantial amount he is owed by ZIFA from similar assignments in the past.
On Monday, ZIFA unveiled Joey Antipas as the interim coach of the Warriors, to take charge of the two-legged World Cup qualifiers against Somalia and the start of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, with this ad-hoc arrangement initially running until the end of this year.
Dynamos gaffer Tonderai Ndiraya and new Harare City coach Lloyd Chitembwe were named as his assistants with all the three coaches keeping the jobs at their clubs and only shifting to the Warriors when national assignments arise.
The association said they will review the set-up at the end of the year.
Antipas will step into the shoes vacated by Sunday Chidzambwa, who quit after the 2019 Nations Cup finals, while Ndiraya and Chitembwe will replace Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa.
The ZIFA board said they acted on the recommendations of their technical committee, led by Bryton Malandule, and which features technical director Wilson Mtekede, following a review of the Warriors’ performance at the AFCON finals in Egypt.
However, The Herald can reveal today that an offer was extended to Mapeza to come and have another go, as the Warriors’ caretaker coach, by the ZIFA technical committee at a time when they were considering their options.
The FC Platinum coach confirmed he received a call from the ZIFA officials about three weeks ago asking him if he was available for the Warriors’ job.
“The guys from ZIFA phoned me some three weeks ago asking about my availability for the national team and . . . I told them I was available just like I was the last time when I was called upon to take care of the game against Liberia,” said Mapeza.
“I told them to, at least, pay me even a quarter of the money they owe me since 2012 and they promised to call back and that was the end of story.”
Mapeza is owed more than US$100 000 by the association for services rendered to the national team, as caretaker coach, in the past.
The former Warriors skipper said he has been trying to engage ZIFA officials to sort out the issue but he is yet to get any relief although, unlike others, he doesn’t believe in going the route of attaching football property to try and get a settlement to his case.
“I don’t believe in attachment of football property as a way of resolving disputes because I’m someone who is into football and might require to use such things in the future,” said Mapeza.
“Yes, there has been some engagement with ZIFA officials but nothing has materialised so far.”
Had Mapeza and ZIFA struck a deal, it would not have been the first time the former Warriors skipper had come to the rescue of his country at a time of need.
He accepted an offer to come on board and lead the Warriors, after the 2017 Nations Cup finals, and was in charge of the team in their opening 2019 AFCON qualifier against Liberia which his men won 3-0 courtesy of a hattrick from skipper Knowledge Musona.
A number of the players he fielded that day – goalkeeper George Chigova, Teenage Hadebe, Marvelous Nakamba, Danny Phiri, Kuda Mahachi, Evans Rusike and Musona – are still key members of the Warriors and were all part of the 2019 AFCON finals show.
The ZIFA leaders then handed veteran coach, Sunday Chidzambwa, the mandate to lead the team as the substantive coach and completed the mission with distinction with the Warriors winning in Kinshasa, against the DRC, and ending way clear of the Congolese on the final group standings.
Eight years earlier, Mapeza was also tasked by the ZIFA leaders to take charge of the Warriors, ahead of the start of the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers, but the recruitment of Tom Saintfiet, and the chaos it provoked in the team, derailed the campaign whose highlight was a 2-1 win over Mali at Rufaro.
Once again, Musona was the hero, with a double strike, including a late penalty, for the victory.
Things came to a head, during a home match against the Cape Verde islands, when the Warriors were thrust under the co-management of Mapeza and Madinda Ndlovu.
Mapeza’s first attachment as the caretaker Warriors’ coach had started on September 9, 2007, when he was asked to guide the team for the final 2008 AFCON qualifier against Malawi at Barbourfields.
With the team having missed on a chance to qualify for the finals, and the technical team having been disbanded, Mapeza was thrust into the leadership role for the dead rubber against Malawi and masterminded the Warriors’ 3-1 win.
However, the ZIFA leaders then appointed gaffer Valinhos, as the substantive coach of the Warriors for the 2010 AFCON qualifying campaign, and the Brazilian gaffer proved out of depth at this level of the game on the continent.
Had Mapeza been appointed national team coach, ahead of the side’s return to the World Cup qualifiers in October, the irony of the appointment would not have been lost to those who still recall that it was Valinhos’ complaint at FIFA, saying he had not been paid his dues, which led to the expulsion of the Warriors from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.