Timely reality check for Mhlauri

Independent Sports View With Darlington Majonga

AS Warriors mentor Charles Mhlauri broods over the avalanche of criticism – both beneficial and irrational – that has come his way following Zimbabwe’s humiliation in

Nigeria on Saturday, it might be in his best interests as well to digest Albert Einstein’s scientific understanding of success.


“If A is success in life, then A equals X plus Y plus Z. Work is X, Y is play, and Z is keeping your mouth shut,” the great Einstein was quoted as having said on January 15 1950.


While Mhlauri has a battle to hand to work his charges into real fighters, certainly he must find it easy to keep his mouth shut – though there is every temptation to try to hit back at hypocrites as well as explain the inexplicable, such as the 1-5 massacre by the Super Eagles.


We would want to believe that Mhlauri, who when he was not doing his job was busy blowing his own trumpet in the media, has realised how important it is to keep quiet or, better still, to think and then talk later – not vice versa.

It would be an insult to our intelligence to claim that such a defeat, though inevitable as it was, was unimportant and meaningless when it’s Mhlauri who bragged about his eagerness to make life hard for Nigeria’s “full-strength” side. Charlie, please tell us you were not joking.


Humility is the only virtue that can hoist Mhlauri from the deck as he tries to restrategise after his formula terribly backfired in Abuja. But he must be quickly reminded that modesty does not in any way mean refusing to talk to the media or double-speak. That without a doubt would be arrogance.


Though a coach is as good as his last match, it would be unhelpful now to continue moaning and nit-picking the Nigeria debacle. Instead, the defeat must be taken as a timely reality check.


Without looking down upon Mhlauri’s historic feat of taking the Warriors to the African Nations Cup finals, what he badly needs now is to be humble enough to accept that he might not after all be competent enough alone at the level we have reached.


There’s no iota of doubt that technical inferiority was glaring even for a blind man in the massacre in Nigeria. It would then be in Mhlauri’s best interests – and those of the nation – to accept that in life there’s always a point beyond which men of limited capacity cannot go.


The issue is not about why he fielded Ashley Rambanepasi or Honour Gombami, but how he failed to remedy our midfield shortcomings during the match – technically, that is. For example, it was unhelpful to give Brian Badza a run when what Zimbabwe needed was to up the pulse in midfield.

While we might appreciate Mhlauri’s desire to test his “young” players at the highest level, he must realise he might have dented and damaged their confidence in the same stride.


It would be stretching our luck too far to believe the Nigerian match has honed and toughened Method Mwanjali for the rigours of the Nations Cup – or the 2010 World Cup for that matter.


Considering that no African powerhouse is interested in the idea of engaging Zimbabwe in a meaningful friendly – as Mhlauri himself would testify – the Nigeria encounter should have been seen as a godsend opportunity to gauge our quality and strength. After all, the match was of academic interest to Zimbabwe.


In all honesty, Mhlauri had been presented with a high-profile “friendly” in which all his professional players would have been compelled by Fifa to play without their clubs grumbling.


Now after the 1-5 mauling, it will be even tougher for the Warriors to attract meaningful opposition as they prepare for the Nations Cup finals in January. It certainly will be difficult to call up Edelbert Dinha, Peter Ndlovu, Tinashe Nengomasha, Edzai Kasinauyo et all for a friendly against, say, Botswana as their clubs will be under no obligation to release them.


It must be understood though that Abuja was Mhlauri’s first real test. Of course we can’t take away his credit for winning against Angola and lifting the regional Cosafa Castle Cup.


The Nations Cup extravaganza in Egypt will be a tougher challenge for the Warriors – whose ambition surely must not be to embarrass the nation. Teams as big as Nigeria will be waiting for us at the tourney that separates grain from chaff.


Mhlauri, for all his superiority on the domestic scene, is relatively new in Africa. Before Nigeria, he had not met the real powerhouses of African football – save for maybe Angola. And his club side Caps United just found the going tough in the African Champions League.


However, Zimbabwe’s greatest tragedy is that we don’t have quality players to count on. With the talent – if it were there at all – at Mhlauri’s disposal, surely it would be asking for too much to expect the Warriors to even go beyond the first round of the Nations Cup.


Sad as it is, any good coach can still make the Warriors competitive. The same not-so-good players can be made to believe in themselves and post shock results.


That’s where Mhlauri has to accept he needs help, for the material before him needs not only hard work but shrewd technical advice as well. Glory is better shared my brother.


While it’s impossible for Zimbabwe to hire foreign players, that absolutely should not be a problem with coaches. Mhlauri needs a foreign technical advisor. Period.


It would be inconsequential whether that person would come in as a technical advisor or an assistant coach, but surely that person should be someone with good credentials. Even if that person is to come on a temporary basis for the tournament only, he has to be someone who can handle pressure at the highest level.


It’s not necessarily a bigoted fascination with foreigners, but the idea of taking on board an assistant from the domestic front would be hopeless because basically there is no one who can add to what Mhlauri is already offering.


Of course there are other options of roping in people like Sunday Chidzambwa, whose experience at the last Nations Cup finals would be invaluable. But certainly that won’t mean we will have to forget about hiring an expert from abroad.


But we should be quick to warn Mhlauri against bringing on board his Belgian friends, who we suspect their only interest would be to make their job of selling players to Europe much easier.


It won’t even make life easier for Mhlauri, who has been battling to fend off suspicions that he is biased towards players he allegedly hopes would make it to Europe.


Not long back, Brazil fired a national coach who was facilitating the transfer of players to Europe, which meant he was biased towards players he wanted to give the limelight to attract scouts. That’s unacceptable double-dealing.


Last but not least, it’s disturbing to note that Zifa chairman Rafiq Khan crows about making frantic efforts in as far as preparations for Egypt are concerned when they couldn’t even dress the Warriors properly.


The confusion inherent in Zifa was there for all to see in Abuja when the Warriors had to play wearing atypical red shorts spotting a different label from that which we have been made to believe is the official sponsor. If colours clashed, they should have known in advance.


Let’s hope they won’t confuse Mhlauri more as he tries to extricate himself from last weekend’s mess.


dmajonga@yahoo.com

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