Zimbabwean Football Is Now in the Doldrums

The demise and decline of the football standards in Zimbabwe has reached dizzy heights of gross incompetence, terrifying decadence and extremely dangerous to the very survival of the game as a sport for wider multitudes in the grassroots levels across the country as we witnessed another disastrous episode in Cameroon during the CHAN tournament.

Our preparations for this tournament should raise serious questions and it is high time everyone in great love with football should demand a complete overhaul of how the sport is managed in the country.

The way our players performed in Yaounde calls for definitive candid answers that should reflect on how our football is being dragged to the filthy sewers.

The display on the pitch threatens the very fragile and shaky foundations of the game in the country and, at worst, tarnishes the image of the beautiful game — Jogo Bonito.

We are witnessing a generation of poorly coached and trained pretenders, masquerading as footballers, much to the detriment of the little recent gains made when we improved on the FIFA world rankings from 111 to 108. Watching our national team in action is a health hazard to far many folks out there and surely, what we call football at international tournaments is totally different from most developing nations that are taking serious steps to improve their local leagues and standards.

When players fail to comprehend simple basics of the game in terms of the retention of the ball in build up of play from the defensive third, middle of the pitch and the attacking third, we risk damaging the game forever. At this level of the game, one has to understand the basics of the game in terms of defending from wide areas, set-pieces and frontal zonal or defending structures that are implemented to stop the opposition from creating or scoring goals.

Our defending was shoddy as crosses were swung in, with so much extreme laziness of trying to stop them.

The fact that our planning was a catastrophe, common sense should have told us that alternative plans were urgently needed for this tournament against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic situation that has stopped our local league from active football and further derailed the proposed mini-league.

Special arrangements and applications should have been made to the health authorities and the Sports Commission to allow for a realistic continuous programme for the selected players to start training much earlier in October last year so that their fitness levels were much higher and a reasonable continuous improvement in all other areas of the game flowing.

We planned for the mini- league and it didn’t take place, so our presence in this tournament is a waste of time, resources and an indictment to the development of the game. We have so many questions to ask:

— What happened to the damaging issue raised by COSAFA that we used an over-aged player in the Under-17 tournament in South Africa?

— The suspension that came along with such diabolical behaviour should be fully explained forthwith and its effects on the future involvement of the U17 national team.

— A full report of the Under-20 disaster in South Africa should be made available and allow the wider platforms and stakeholders to discuss, inform and bring about a new policy formulation for the DNA of our junior structures.

— The chaos regarding player selections for all national teams has reached disturbing proportions and most tellingly, the player quality on display is highly compromised and we call for a new broader and wider input from more practising technical coaches who are competently focused on improving the performance of the teams.

— What is the position of the ZIFA president in terms of all these damaging issues?

Our local football standards have dropped tragically over the past years due to factors beyond the control of most clubs, academies and other grassroots establishments, the time has come for a review of the national document on the junior policy if, ever it exists.

We have been silent for a very long time thinking that one day, our football standards will improve and have a positive impact on young players so that they can be inter-market valued as competent professionals straight from our local leagues, as it used to be ages ago.

We need to ask ourselves sober questions whether the current set-up in the country has the capacity and technical know-how to put in place the policies and development plans that will produce quality players in the next five years and, help turn around the local league standards.

The damage and rampage on the game calls for sober people to analyse the infernos, dark plumes billowing into the sky and the extreme denials suffocating our football as we witness a dangerous precedent engulfing the game through ignorance and arrogance.

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