HOW two weeks can change things so spectacularly in football.
Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo
It all looked to take shape quite nicely a fortnight before.
The outstanding issue of Zimbabwe’s next football coach was resolving itself.
Caretaker coach Sunday Chidzambwa (pictured), a tried and tested pair of hands, had surprised with an refreshingly attacking brand of football as his super-charged Warriors swept to victory in the Cosafa Cup to give Zimbabwe its record fifth regional title and its first in nine years.
With Zifa clearly not keen on casting the net wide, while also not looking beyond our borders, options appeared significantly narrowed down in the direction of Chidzambwa. Having examined all arguments before us, including past and present records, many — myself included — also felt time was ripe for this doyen of Zimbabwean football coaching to permanently return to the Warriors dugout.
The decision by Zifa to extend Chidzambwa’s interim tenure to include the Chan qualification tie against Namibia, instead of assigning the task to Rahman Gumbo as earlier indicated (although Zifa denies making a U-turn), was a hint of how Zifa was beginning to see things panning out.
But football is a very fickle game.
Two weeks and two games later, a decision that had appeared to make itself isn’t that easy anymore. Being booted out of the qualification competition of a tournament the country has been to on all four previous occasions rather blights Chidzambwa’s reputation, no matter the circumstances. He should take the outcome on the chin.
We had all thought the 1-0 first leg defeat to Namibia was only a minor setback, but the Warriors were even more lifeless in the second leg where a 1-0 win wasn’t sufficient to overturn the deficit. The Warriors lost the match on penalties.
They say great coaches are measured by their ability to turn things around in the second halves and second legs. In this respect, Chidzambwa’s harshest detractors will be sharpening their daggers.
Should Chidzambwa deemed not fit for the vacant Warriors job on the basis of the Chan disappointment?
My response will be in defence of Chidzambwa on this one and I’m prepared to take the brickbats that may come with it.
Correct, as a coach you are only as good as your last game.
A fairer evaluation though could be to look at the preparedness and conditioning of the team that lost to Namibia.
The team had not been afforded enough time together compared to the Namibians, who according to their coach Ricardo Mannetti, gelled for three months before the tie despite the country’s domestic league being inactive for a lengthy period.
Coaching is sometimes a thankless and frustrating kind of job. When it comes to judging a coach’s performance, everyone seems to be an expert and have the qualifications to evaluate.
So much of this judgment, even more frustrating, comes from individuals who don’t seem to have a clue about what takes place behind the scenes, or whether certain things that influence results were within your control or not.
Zimbabwe is trying to qualify for its second successive Africa Cup of Nations and the coach the country is looking for is one of undoubted capacity.
Chidzambwa has history on his side in this aspect. He took Zimbabwe to its first Africa Cup of Nations in 2004, and that tournament — at least in my opinion — was the best of all three we’ve been to.
We ran both Egypt and Cameroon closely in the pool games and of course won that dead rubber against Algeria.
Another big plus for Chidzambwa is how well he seemed to handle the galaxy of stars in Peter Ndlovu, Adam Ndlovu (may he continue to rest in peace), Agent Sawu, Tinashe Nengomasha, Esrom Nyandoro, Ronald Sibanda, Joel Lupahla — and earning their respect too.
A fine crop of footballers come once in a generation. The burden is to squeeze every last ounce of potential out from those players. Now with similar red-hot talent in the form of Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, Kuda Mahachi, Marvellous Nakamba, Costa Nhamoinesu and others at the peak of their game, Chidzambwa could be the right man to make hay while the sun still shines.