Zdravko, ZIFA, and ZPSL To Blame For Recent Poor Performances? - And, The Need To Have A Local Warriors Coach?

By Tafaraishe Mugoti 

“Look, the coach who was opposite of me is European, he is from England. The coach from Zamalek is from Portugal, he calls himself Mourinho. Those things don’t matter in football. So Africa must trust its own people. I have won about nine trophies but nobody cares because I’m not a Liverpool coach but history says,” Pitso Mosimane postulated after leading the Red Devils of Al-Ahly to the CAF Champions League La Decima. This has re-ignited the debate that has been going on social media about under-performing Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic.

Warriors Coach Zdravko Logarusic ZIFA latest cup qualifiers Afcon and Cosafa
When Zdravko Logarusic was appointed by ZIFA as the Warriors coach

The discourse around the need to put more trust in African coaches has gained more traction in Zimbabwe and Zambia over the past days following their dismal performances at the COSAFA Cup in South Africa. The Zimbabwean Warriors are record 6 time champions and the Chipolopolo [Zambia],  are 5 time champions. 

The Football Association of Zambia bowed to the stakeholders’ pressure sacking Serbian Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic while their counterparts, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) are yet to decide on the fate of Logarusic. From being the favourites and title contenders at COSAFA to being the worst side at the competition, what really has gone wrong with Zimbabwean football and who is to blame? Is it the administration at 53 Livingstone Avenue, the coach or the domestic football league?

Zimbabwe football fans are an impatient lot and will not suffer too many embarrassments before the rumblings of their discontent become an avalanche of criticism and abuse. Beleaguered coach Logarusic is at the receiving end of the fans’ frustration. Under his charge, the Warriors failed to register a single point at the African National Championships(CHAN) for the first time in the tournament’s history and also exited the COSAFA tournament without a win, blowing a 17- match unbeaten record in the process. 

At the helm of the country’s most popular sport, he has gained himself the nickname, “Mr Excuses” because of his notorious ways of always finding reasons to justify his shortcomings. After the early COSAFA exit and defeat to Senegal, he blamed fatigue (may have reasonably been understandable given the lack of play time due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns). And for his poor record of 1 win in 12 matches (18% winning ratio), he uttered that his mandate was to qualify for AFCON, boasting that he won when it mattered. The only positive outcome from his tenure so far is that he became the first Warriors coach to lead the team to AFCON, albeit having borrowed 4 points from Joey Antipas. 

The days of going to the table where the finest talent of African football dine once every two years and returning hungry yet claiming to have learnt a lot are long gone, and hence qualification for AFCON should not be celebrated but be mandatory for a football powerhouse such as Zimbabwe. High standards and all. The appointment of the Croatian national by ZIFA (despite worrying statistics such as not lasting more than one year in a job since 2009 and not having profound experience in international football) has also put the association under the spotlight. The gamble has backfired as the national team is playing without any style, direction and philosophy – hence it is reasonable to apportion the blame on the gaffer.

The Felton Kamambo led organisation is the major culprit in the downfall of the beautiful sport in the country. Grassroots football is archaic and not being developed. The country lacks a sound junior policy as evidenced by the absence of the Under 17, 20 and 23 football teams. ZIFA’s incompetence has manifested itself several times with questionable travel plans and failure to satisfy debts. They had to borrow money from Ecobank in January to enable the Warriors to travel to Cameroon for CHAN. The boycotting of training and unending meetings witnessed in the past tournaments by our players is attributed to ZIFA’s lack of being organized. 

The national team’s chaotic displays are a true reflection of the association’s shambolic preparations before games. FIFA calendars are published with ample time to allow for ideal planning but ZIFA has made the late sending of invitations their contemporary norm. We believe there are several players of Zimbabwean origin wishing to don the green and gold jersey of the Warriors but the association is the major stumbling block. The objective given to Logarusic of developing young players looked rather like a platform to market players and resuscitate some fading careers.

ZIFA leadership, as the rightful custodians of the game, have been calamitous in their approaches. They have failed as they have morphed largely into ceremonial leaders who lack strategies to turn around the country’s domestic football and make it competitive and attractive. The Zimbabwean Premier Soccer League (ZPSL) used to be dazzling with an influx of players from countries such as Zambia and Malawi, a testament that it used to be top-tier. 

Today, it’s just a white elephant as we have witnessed an exodus of players to the more lucrative Tanzanian, Zambian and South African domestic football leagues. This decrease in standard has seen the Warriors failing to match a Namibian side, a country which has had inactive football for 2 years just like Zimbabwe. 

Zimbabwean football is in need of strategic thinkers to make it more appealing to commercial partners. They have failed to bring back local football in a time where every football mad country is playing this sport in this “new normal” induced by Covid-19. 

Having a local coach to lead the national team should be given serious consideration too. Perhaps someone who understands local contexts may handle the job better. Perhaps. We should believe in our own. 

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