By Michael Kariati
It is becoming repeatedly boring that whenever the Fifa international day for friendly matches arrives, the opponents for the Warriors are always the Chipolopolo of Zambia.
Only in March, last year, under the guidance of Norman Mapeza, the Warriors faced Zambia at the National Sports Stadium with that game ending in a goalless draw. That game came only four months after on November 5, 2016, Zimbabwe had beaten the Chipolopolo 1-0, and, once again, at the National Sports Stadium.
In a space of a year, the Warriors played Zambia three times, on November 5, 2016, on March 3, 2017, and in the Cosafa Castle Cup final on July 8, 2017, which the Warriors won 3-1. Ironically, the two teams were also billed to meet at the National Sports Stadium on December 23, 2017, but the game was cancelled at the last minute.
In 2013 alone, Zimbabwe played the Zambians three times, twice in international friendly matches on August 18 and 24, and once in the Cosafa Castle Cup on July 20 with the Chipolopolo winning that game 2-0.
Records at hand reveal that since 1980, Zimbabwe have played Zambia in friendly matches more times than all their other opposition combined.
The Warriors have played the Zambians in 24 friendly matches in addition to 11 Cosafa Castle Cup encounters they have met.
Adding Africa Cup of Nations [Afcon] qualifiers and Africa Nations Championships (Chan) matches to the 35 friendly and Cosafa Cup meetings, the Warriors and Chipolopolo have played each other in every year of Zimbabwe’s 38 years of Independence.
It is a fact that Zambian football is on a rise, but do we have to play Zambia each time there is a day reserved for international friendly matches? What exactly are the Warriors benefiting by playing the same opposition over and over again?
Sunday Chidzambwa’s Warriors are on their way to Zambia for a four-team tournament that also includes South Africa and Angola. The Warriors kick off the competition against Zambia on March 22 in a tournament that comes on days reserved by Fifa for international friendly matches.
It would have been expected after their failure in their ambitious plan to lure Africa’s World Cup qualifiers Egypt and Senegal, Zifa would have gone for the likes of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Guinea, Rwanda, Uganda and Libya, who were likely to offer strong opposition.
Chidzambwa has called up a number of new faces whom he wants to have a look at, including Adam Chicksen of Bradford City and Cliff Moyo of Halifax in England as well as Aleck Mudimu of CEFN Druids of Wales, who are having their first dance with the Zimbabwe team.
Chidzambwa also wants to have a look at Marshall Munetsi of Orlando Pirates, Butholezwe Ncube of Amazulu as well as forgotten striker Silas Songani, who plays for Sonderjyske in Denmark.
However, whether this four-team tournament is the best to judge whether these players are good enough to make the team for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers is something else. Teams like South Africa do not take matches against their neighbours seriously and rarely field their top players in these games, just like they do in the Cosafa Castle Cup.
However, it is good that the national team coach is giving all Zimbabwean footballers the chance to be assessed for the Warriors. The only problem is that there is continuous change in the team that plays today and the one that plays tomorrow, leaving questions as to who has made the grade or who hasn’t.
It would have been expected that those who impress today continue to feature in the matches that come later, while new players are fitted in between, to see who fits into the system that is already in place.
As things stand right now, everything is confusing. So far, the nation is in the dark as to the status in the Warriors of Tendai Darikwa, Kundai Benyu, Admiral Muskwe and Macauley Bonne, who made the trip to Zimbabwe for those matches against Lesotho and Namibia.
Nothing has been heard of them since the day they went back to the United Kingdom.