Let them retire

IndependentSport View with Darlington Majonga

IT’S quite disturbing that over the years the Zimbabwe Football Association has flaunted incompetence as if it were a virtue to such an extent that we have become resigned to this ineptitude.

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17;s a pity it has become so tempting to ignore all the bungling, sleaze and myopia that have turned out to be the hallmark of Zifa as “normal”.

But it would be shameful if we were to forsake our readers by watching silently the scandal at 53 Livingstone Avenue — even if one’s ears and eyes have endured more than enough of the disgrace.

The past month has been enough for Zifa to showcase its commitment to stupidity and running down the game the association is, in the first place, supposed to run.

Besides being holed up at a prison for their training camp, the Under-20 team had to endure a gruesome road trip to South Africa where the children were scandalously shown how not to behave by their “fatherly” officials — hooking up whores of all kinds, looting food at a hotel and verbally abusing each other in public.

A scandal on the procurement and resale of World Cup tickets has not left Zifa’s already battered image any better. It’s astounding Zifa has managed to accomplish so much with ease — negatively, of course.

What’s more appalling is that Zifa has been arrogantly hostile to learning especially when it comes to the national teams and developing talent.

It’s apparent a lackadaisical approach towards preparing national teams for duty has become the forte of Zifa’s limitations.

It has become predictable for Zifa to give the lack of finances as their excuse for failing the national teams.

Zifa has watched dates set for international friendlies pass unnoticed, with a few dreamt-of engagements failing to materialise beyond their announcements.

As it stands it’s reprehensible that Zifa is unashamedly behaving as if it has just discovered that Zimbabwe have to qualify for the 2008 African Nations Cup finals in Ghana.

For the time being Zimbabwe should count themselves lucky the Nations Cup qualifiers started last weekend with the Warriors on standby — otherwise they would have paid dearly for inadequate preparations.

Zifa has displayed a shocking lack of focus, which is why there has been no coherent youth policy to develop players for the national team.

The football authorities could learn a thing or two from Zimbabwe Cricket in terms of developing talent.

Because Zimbabwe Cricket has a clear development policy, we have seen the country being able churn out promising competent players especially after experienced cricketers left the game in droves over the last two years.

Zimbabwe, despite its small player base, remains one of the top cricket nations thanks to focused planning.

Football could be much more successful if proper planning emphasising talent nurturing was anything Zifa thought about seriously.

For years all those at Zifa seem determined to behave as if they are duty-bound to enjoy the comfort of their offices — and perks that come with it of course — and forget about the game altogether.

It’s this kind of dereliction of duty on the part of Zifa that makes Warriors coach Charles Mhlauri’s job difficult.

The two squads announced by Mhlauri last week for the Nations Cup qualifier away to Malawi and the Cosafa Castle Cup semi-final at home to Angola could be a clear indication of how football in Zimbabwe has failed to progress over the years.

It appears for now we have to be content with recycling players who are clearly beyond their prime over and over again until Zifa take charge of the game as they are supposed to — not that the association should be involved in team selection. No!

While Mhlauri — like any other coach would have done — has been cautious in introducing new, young players to the national team, his main problem really appears to be a small player base to select from.

But honestly most of these old faces have nothing more than “experience” to offer Zimbabwe anymore.

While experience is crucial, we must remember that even useless players can become very experienced as long as they are kept on the field for reasons other than their ability.

More importantly, experience really is meaningless if it does not complement ability or vice-versa on the field of play.

With all due respect, it’s a pity Mhlauri has had to sweet-talk former Zimbabwe skipper Peter Ndlovu out of “retirement”.

We have seen France talking Zinedine Zidane out of retirement and the influential midfield maestro masterminded Les Bleus’ march to this year’s World Cup final in Germany.

Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele has been at the centre of a retirement wrangle after France coach Raymond Domenech called him for national duty. That incensed Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who had wanted the 33-year-old Makelele to devote the last years of his career to the club.

Nigeria have also recalled former skipper Jay-Jay Okocha.

But Mhlauri doesn’t have to simply follow the trend if his own veterans are no longer good enough.

At 33, Ndlovu can still play competitively for two more years in national colours — but injuries have seen his performance deteriorating since he moved from England to South Africa two years ago.

In short, Ndlovu has not shown he is still good enough to warrant a recall.

Besides Ndlovu — whose contribution to the national team has arguably been peerless over the years — several other players aged above 30, whose only claim to a jersey in the national team is their “experience”, have also been included for the Malawi encounter.

There are defenders George Mbwando, Bekithemba Ndlovu and Charles Yohane as well as midfielder Edzai Kasinauyo.

Age aside none of these players has proven they still deserve a place in the Warriors.

We should let the old guard retire while we still have fond memories of their careers. The players should instead ensure their pensions are in order during the final days of their careers.

It’s even more appalling that Mhlauri has been forced to put his faith in players who have either been inactive or have been struggling to settle at foreign clubs. Worse still, we can bet our last dollar the coach has not even seen most of the players in action since the Nations Cup finals in January.

We can talk of Energy Murambadoro, Cephas Chimedza, Joel Luphahla, Shingi Kawondera and Gilbert Mushangazhike. It’s likely Mhlauri hasn’t seen them in action at their clubs too.

Well, it’s certainly not the players’ problem that they remain the best at Zimbabwe’s disposal even when they have been individually struggling with their careers.

Our sincere hope is that youngsters such as Obert Moyo, Onismo Bhasera, Clement Matawu, Carrington Gomba, Evans Gwekwerere and Heavens Chinyama will be around to stake a claim for places in the Warriors — not just to help in training.

While Mhlauri juggles around for a winning formula, we pray Zifa will ensure a proper player development plan is put in place — and afford the old guard a rest especially when they are no longer good enough!

dmajonga@yahoo.com