Zimbabwe: As a Football Nation, We’re Our Worst Enemies

OPINION
By Lloyd Chigove
INSPIRED by talismanic captain, Knowledge Musona, our Warriors are going for their third straight AFCON finals, in Cameroon.

Could this generation eclipse the benchmark set by Peter Ndlovu and his crew?

The silky dribbling skills of Vitalis “Digital” Takawira, which left Cameroon’s Raymond Kala crawling, in a 4-0 drubbing of the Indomitable Lions?

The goalscoring predator, Agent Sawu, the forceful presence of the late Adam Ndlovu, who respected no giant?

It is unfortunate that injury denied the Dream Team of Moses Chunga’s playmaking attributes, which probably would have provided the cutting edge, to take us to the ’94 World Cup and AFCON finals?

While Benjamin Nkonjera was the midfield lynchpin, the Dream Team could have benefited from the electric skills of Kennedy Nagoli, the sublime talents of Alois “Jibha” Godzi and the tireless end-to-end pinpoint passing of Dynamos captain Memory Mucherahowa.

If you throw in underutilised Isaac Riyano, you have a deadly concoction of irrepressible talent, which struggled to break into the Dream Team.

Except for Godzi, Mucherahowa and Riyano, the rest ended up in Europe and the United States.

Mucherahowa had a short stint in Argentina.

Prior to that, we had another talented pre-and-post-Independence generation, which needed the guidance of a European foreign coach, since our local coaches then lacked exposure, and awareness, due to Rhodesia’s isolation.

Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa’s ball mastery, alongside Joel “Jubilee” Shambo, Archieford Chimutanda, Max Tshuma and Hamid Dhana, all extremely creative playmakers, anchored by the resilience of Wonder Phiri, David “Yogi” Mandigora and David “Chikwama” Mwanza.

Bring in dazzling wingers Joseph Zulu, Edward Katsvere, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Madinda Ndlovu and Boy Ndlovu, deadly scorers like Shackman Tauro, Gift “Ghetto” Mpariwa, Onias Musana and Maronga Nyangela, a lot could have been achieved.

What we lacked, and needed, were the requisite technical and administrative skills.

This group did not play abroad.

Another generation, including Gilbert Mushangazhike, Cuthbert Malajila, Nyasha Mushekwi, Wilfred and William Mugeyi, George Mbwando, Edward Sadomba, Evans Gwekwerere, Stewart “Shutto” Murisa, Edelbert Dinha, Alois Bunjira, Tinashe Nengomasha, Shingi Kawondera and Esrom Nyandoro were some of our exports to South Africa and Europe.

We began to qualify for the AFCON finals, as the coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa, and the team now had international exposure.

The South Africans always wonder why we don’t win any silverware, with our rich talent conveyor belt.

The answer lies in our obsession with football “Sugar Daddies,” who it appears grease the hands of our gullible ZIFA councillors, to get to the helm of the association.

Save for the late Nelson Chirwa, others at the helm from the ’80s, until now, have been without firm football roots.

They lacked the appreciation of development that a 10-year-old boy has to go through all the age-groups before he can don the Warriors jersey.

That is a permanent paradox in our game.

Today, the hopes of this football-mad nation lies on the shoulders of the Aces Youth Soccer Academy products, Musona and his partner Khama Billiat.

Then we have Ovidy Karuru, Kuda Mahachi, Marvelous Nakamba, Teenage Hadebe, Tino Kadewere, Marshal Munetsi and Devine Lunga.

These players have been consistent performers of this generation.

They all share something in common — coming through a structured youth development system, either a club or an academy.

Jimmy Dzingai has risen to become a regular for the Warriors.

The Highfield-born player is a technically gifted defender, who has defied an injury-ravaged career to make a spectacular rebound, from his base in Zambia.

Zambia are our Siamese twin sister, and a great football nation.

Chipolopolo are AFCON winners and runners-up in their illustrious history.

They boast one of the world’s greatest goal-scorers, in the late Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu, who, as head coach of Chipolopolo, perished in that plane crash.

Zambian players used to come and play in Zimbabwe.

Players such as Laughter Chilembe, Ian Bakala, Sandros Kumwenda, Charles Chilufya and Evans Katebe played in the local Premiership.

Now our boys are moving to Zambia.

Josta Ngodzo, Ocean Mushure, Ali Sadiki, Thabani Kamusoko, Dzingai, Evans Katema, Talbert Shumba, Tafadzwa Rusike, Dominic Chungwa, to name but a few.

In Tanzania we have Prince Dube, Never Tigere, Bruce Kangwa and Perfect Chikwende.

We even have players in Eswatini.

Perennial World Cup qualifiers Ghana, whom we meet in the qualifiers for the next tournament in Qatar, Senegal, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Morocco and Algeria rely on their Europe-based professionals.

We seem to be going the opposite direction.

Then, there is the case of the British Brigade.

We need to get the best from that end and not close the door on them because they can add value to our Warriors.

The majority of our Warriors are products of the Zimbabwe Junior Football League, which was dismantled by our football leaders.

Somehow, ZIFA always try to reinvent the wheel, they have in one stroke delegated junior football development to the regions, while talking about an Under-15 national league.

The argument from junior football practitioners is that Harare and Bulawayo have Under-12, Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 leagues and are planning to introduce an Under-10 leagu.

Then, you hear the association saying they want to start with the Under-15s when Germany are now looking at six-year-olds.

After the Musona and Kadewere’s generations, we might be sitting on a time bomb, due to our poor approach.

Had we qualified for the 2013 AFCON finals, Musona and Billiat would have been our best players.

Now, these are the same players who will, once again, be expected to provide us with the leadership, in Cameroon, nine years later.

In those nine years, we didn’t produce the quality of players to match them and therein lies our problem.

Unfortunately, it seems, none of our football leaders care about what is happening, or not happening, in the lower ranks where this talent is produced.

All they care for is to get credit, when the Warriors qualify.

l Lloyd “MaBlanyo” Chigowa is a specialist junior football coach and once took charge of Dynamos

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