ONE thing you cannot escape these days is a new positive vibe around Zimbabwe’s football team.
Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo
In-form forward Ovidy Karuru revealed some of it last week. In an example of the kind of friendly banter that exists in the Warriors squad, Karuru told us how absent teammate Knowledge Musona was “jealous” of his Cosafa Cup scoring exploits.
Karuru — who has scored six goals and is on course to finish as the tournament’s top scorer — is captaining an experimental Zimbabwe side in the 2017 Cosafa Cup in South Africa in the absence of a host of senior first-team players that include Musona, the country’s talismanic scorer and new substantive captain.
Few days ago the stand-in skipper’s goals at Cosafa drew a rather caustic remark from Musona.
Speaking to NewsDay in Sun City, Karuru said Musona had called to inform him how he will seriously consider playing in the unfashionable Cosafa competition next year just to beat his record.
Rare personal glorification by Musona, but of course Karuru, himself not short of belief in his own ability, saw the light-hearted side of it, for which it was intended anyway.
Such good-naturedness between Karuru and Musona shows the wonderful spirit of camaraderie in the Warriors squad and long may it live.
It is also very good to see such star players as Musona following the Cosafa tournament with keen interest and I join him and the rest of the nation in wishing our team a record fifth title in the final this weekend.
But how really important is this Cosafa tournament these days?
Ten years ago when it was established, it was a well-respected competition, a genuine football championship for Southern African nations. Games were played in the true spirit of competition.
Who can forget the revered Warriors captain Peter Ndlovu flying all the way from the United Kingdom just to play a Cosafa game.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that the profile of the tournament has suffered significantly in later years.
Quite frankly, some of the teams at this year’s tournament have been mediocre, and some of the games a sheer waste of time.
In Zimbabwe, regardless of the final’s outcome, let us take an accurate analysis of our performance in South Africa in tandem with the tournament’s prestige, quality of opposition and other such factors.
It is clear to me that the Cosafa tournament now means different things to different teams.
For South Africa, who were bundled out by Tanzania in the quarter-finals last weekend, it is a developmental tournament in the true sense of the word — an opportunity to test the readiness of their youth side players for the international stage.
As for Zimbabwe, our team contains a small percentage of “development” players. The biggest chunk is players already established in the country’s top-flight league, and others who have had a small taste of international football but have not cemented their players.
It seems, due to a lack of policy, that we do not know what we need and aim to achieve from the Cosafa tournament.
In light of this, I call upon all for soberness in our review of the past few weeks, after the Warriors return home, hopefully with the Cosafa trophy or, worse case scenario, the runners-up medal.
I say so particularly because there are key decisions still outstanding in Zimbabwean football.
The national team coach’s post is still vacant, and players are fighting for places when the more important playing schedule resumes next year.
Let any decision be all-encompassing and broad in scope.