Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
FOR a man without a contract for the last three months, technically jobless, Sunday Chidzambwa’s riveting solo performance yesterday, which triggered a fiery battle cry whose vibrations must have been heard 3 000km away in Brazzaville, was vintage stuff.
If this had been a movie, he would possibly have received an Oscar, the power of his words capturing the undivided attention of his audience, including a hostile constituency which has questioned his suitability to lead the Warriors, as he took them on a fascinating adventure.
The setting was a Harare hotel room, the occasion was the announcement of the Warriors squad for the final 2019 AFCON qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville, the audience were the country’s football writers and commentators and, for a refreshing change by ZIFA, he was facing the media to defend his choices.
And, crucially, to also explain why other players had been left out.
Someone like goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, who is transforming himself into one of the fine goalminders in the South African Premiership, but didn’t make the squad.
Having explained why he left out Willard Katsande, without closing the door for him to be considered in future assignments, he passed the baton to his team manager Wellington Mpandare to explain the inclusion of midfielder Danny Phiri, just a week after his return from a long-term injury.
That he could even go that distance, to provide explanations about the inclusion of this and that player, and the omission of this and that footballer, was in itself a remarkable dedication to duty given his unique circumstances.
After all, Chidzambwa — the first gaffer to take the Warriors to the AFCON finals — does not have a binding contract with ZIFA with his official mandate having expired at the end of December last year.
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo, who attended the media conference yesterday in the company of his board member in charge of competitions, Chamu Chiwanza, confirmed Chidzambwa’s contract expired on December 31 last year, but said they had agreed, in principle, for him to continue in his job.
Kamambo revealed the ZIFA board meeting set for this Saturday in Harare would confirm the contract they have been negotiating with Chidzambwa and there was no question the coach would put pen to paper.
With the media conference staggering towards a close, and a lot of work having been covered by both sides, Chidzambwa then asked for one final address to the journalists to bring the curtain down on the proceedings.
He told his audience he wasn’t very fluent in English, and to ensure his message was not lost in the battle to find the right words in the Queen’s language to provide the right emphasis, he chose to make the address in Shona.
It was an address, like no other, which the media had heard from Chidzambwa with the coach pleading with them to come on board at this important national assignment to take the Warriors to the next AFCON finals in Egypt.
He spoke from his heart as he blasted the divisions, which continue to derail the progress of Zimbabwean football, when collectively the brand of the Warriors, in particular, and the game, in general, could be boosted and qualification for the next AFCON finals could be guaranteed.
He said he was not super human, telling the journalists he was just another ordinary Zimbabwean, a man who could make mistakes and now and again he also needed guidance because he did not have all the prescriptions to make the Warriors the best they could possibly be.
He asked for a helping hand, for constructive criticism, for information from the media of some players who were doing well and possibly deserved his attention.
He also spoke about the pain he has endured, reading in some newspapers and online platforms, that he was demanding illicit payments from players to pay him for them to be included for national duty.
He pleaded with the reporters not to abuse their privilege, where they had the advantage of reviewing things that would have happened, because there were those whose jobs were about dealing with the present, and the future, and not the past.
Then, he told us, he was 67 years old, a battered and bruised Warrior in the final leg of his journey in the trenches of coaching, and all he needed, at this stage, was the support to take his team to Egypt.
In those five minutes, Chidzambwa sounded like Al Pacino, in the legendary actor’s remarkable portrayal of Tony D’Amato, a 30-year veteran coach of the Miami Sharks, in the sports movie, ‘’Any Given Sunday’,’ released exactly 20 years ago — the film about a once-dominant American football side struggling to find a way back to the good old days.
D’Amato’s job is made even tougher by his troubled relationship with the owner of the club, Christina Pagniacci, a role played by actress Cameron Diaz, injuries to his two starting quarterbacks and another star player who doesn’t believe in the values of teamwork.
Somehow, the Miami Sharks find a way to fight for honours again and, on the eve of their most important game, D’Amato provides his team with a motivational speech for the ages.
And, listening to Chidzambwa yesterday, he appeared to have borrowed notes from that speech:
‘’I don’t know what to say really, three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives (it) all comes down to today,’’ thundered D’Amato to his players. ‘’Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble.
“Inch by inch, play by play, till we’re finished. We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me, and we can stay here and get the s**t kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light.
“We can climb out of hell, one inch, at a time. Now I can’t do it for you, I’m too old, I look around and I see these young faces and I think I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make – I p****d away all my money, believe it or not, I chased off anyone who has ever loved me.
“And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. You find out that life is just a game of inches, so is football because, in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small, I mean, one half step too late or to early you don’t quite make it.
“One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second. “On this team, we fight for that inch, on this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch, we claw with our finger nails for that inch, because we know when we add up all those inches, that’s going to make the f*g difference between WINNING and LOSING, between LIVING and DYING.’’
It was like listening to Mhofu yesterday and, given he doesn’t have a contract, that’s remarkable.