Fans were disappointed when the Warriors took turns to either miss the target or gift the goalkeeper against Guinea last weekend, in the end losing both the match and the fortress status of the National Sports Stadium, which even the opponents had talked about before the match.
These are the same Warriors who beat Mali, Liberia, Bafana Bafana and a full strength Zambia in the last 12 months at home. In the past Egypt and Cameroon also fell at the same venue.
The Warriors probably reached their nadir with the loss, which was maybe matched by a home loss to Swaziland in years gone by.
The Warriors’ campaign is threatening to reach denouement just after starting.
Most countries make thorough preparations when it comes to World Cup qualification, but Zifa rarely ups the tempo —it was as if the Warriors were gearing up for Cosafa.
It’s the World Cup for goodness’ sake!
In the group the Warriors will face Egypt, now coached by former US manager Bob Bradley, while Guinea have a French coach Michel Dussuyer, with Mozambique importing a German coach — Gert Engels.
Zimbabwe has placed its World Cup hopes on local coach Rahman Gumbo who was trumpeting the certainty of victory so much that fans could hardly suppress anger after a home defeat.
Prominent on Gumbo’s CV are championship titles at home, in Malawi and Botswana, but the defeat to Guinea suggested the Warriors were going nowhere under him.
Statistics on Gumbo’s caretaker role reveal that he has presided over two matches and lost both, conceding three goals and scoring one in the process.
Whatever chances were created on Sunday and whatever possession we enjoyed, the important point is that we lost — at home.
Whatever excuse Gumbo gave was one too many. Remember, this is the same guy who promised a win in Burundi and brought back excuses after falling to one of the worst teams on the continent.
As it became increasingly clear that the Warriors would not win against Guinea, fans erupted into “bring back Norman Mapeza” chants, calling on the suspended Warriors coach to be immediately reinstated.
I am not against Gumbo neither am I an advocate of Mapeza, but what we have noted in the last few years is that when it comes to a local coach, Zimbabweans cannot agree to support the man in charge.
It would be prudent that we bring in someone who can unite us all, like the late German coach Reinhard Fabisch did in the 1990s and more importantly, a coach who can deliver.
The fact that we have brought in Klaus Dieter Pagels from Germany into our system is an admission that we still need to learn on the game and only then can we claim local coaches are competent enough to lead the national team.
Gumbo has been through numerous coaching courses and is currently waiting for results of his Caf B licence; the same applies to Mapeza. But in comparison, a coach such as Egypt’s Bradley, who has coached at the World Cup, has all the requirements to successfully lead a nation.
Where have our coaches been to? Well, small neighbouring southern African football nations and back home. Surely, these are not the best areas to gain the expertise needed at the highest level.
As for Mapeza, well, he has all the respect for having played in the Uefa Champions League with Turkish side Galatasaray, but his coaching credentials were only earned at local side Monomotapa and the Warriors.
Of course, our coaches will tell you that they know African football better than, say, Bradley of Egypt, but what Zimbabwe needs is a coach with the right qualifications who can motivate and lead the team.
Zimbabweans celebrated Zambia’s triumph in the African Cup of Nations earlier this year like it was their own, and calls were loudest here to try and emulate our northern neighbours.
For starters, Zambia has been successful under French coach Herve Renard who transformed a mediocre side into African champions.
Even when they reached the finals in 1994, where they eventually lost to Nigeria, Zambia did so under a European coach, Ian Porterfield.
We should accept that local coaches still have much to learn? More courses and European attachments are the only way to prepare them, not to pick and choose from a pool of under-qualified and mediocre coaches like we have been doing of late. Local coaches must shape up or ship out.