AFCON 2017: Pasuwa and the wounded warriors
By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
It was never going to be easy for the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
However, as many people, including those who have no clue about football join the mad rush to lambast the coach and his players, it is time for sober reflection on the part of the leaders of the beautiful game in Zimbabwe.
Coaches are an endangered species in Zimbabwe, where Calisto Pasuwa being one of the most successful coaches at the tender of 46 is revered as much as he is vilified.
He broke the record for being the youngest African coach at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, which is actually a very good thing, by the way.
Zimbabwe might have been eliminated at the group stage again but it has been a very good learning experience for the coach and his players as well as the association.
This is the time to organise friendly matches and training attachments for the Warriors and other national teams that will participate at the 2018 World Cup since Zimbabwe will not be involved in any way because of the FIFA ban.
This will enable the Warriors technical team to experiment, without undue pressure, with up and coming youngsters.
It is time for the technical team to work with others in energising grassroots development programmes to make sure that there is conveyor belt of talent for the national team.
Now is not the time for recriminations and victimisation of the technical staff but a time to go back immediately to drawing board, to map out the future plan for the Warriors.
Qualifying tournaments for the Under 23 National teams for the 2019 African Games will soon be in full swing.
This presents a big opportunity for talent identification and development by the National Team coach and his colleagues in charge of the age group teams.
The association should know that it is not just about hiring and firing. It is about development.
ZIFA are right in having appointed Pasuwa as National Team Coach and they should keep their faith in him.
They should also invest more in him by also facilitating training attachments for him overseas with the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany.
This will boost his technical capacity in preparation for bigger tournaments to come.
The coaches who do well are those who have been accorded an opportunity to learn at the highest level.
There is no magic wand in winning football matches. It is all about the best possible preparation for the game.
Pasuwa’s case is not unique to him. Football associations all over Africa are known for their paranoid and twisted love for foreign coaches who are paid colossal amounts of money to the detriment of capacity building and opportunities for young African coaches.
The late Stephen Keshi is a prime example of the great disrespect that African FAs have for local coaches.
Keshi would go on for months without getting paid by the Nigerian FA.
Calisto Pasuwa has suffered the same fate as well. The same FAs definitely go out of their way to make foreign coaches very comfortable when in some cases they are not delivering.
It is indeed a travesty of justice that countries such as Ivory Coast are still coached by foreigners.
In this connection, it I would like to take off my hat to Senegal for appointing former national team player, Aliou Cisse, as head coach for the Teranga Lions.
This is a good example for the rest of Africa.
When one looks at the on-going AFCON Tournament big guns have tumbled out, Ivory Coast, Algeria and Mali.
It is, therefore, not as bad for the Warriors as the critics would want everyone to believe.
It is no secret that Southern African football lags behind other regions on the continent.
History has recorded that for the past Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) events, the majority of semi-finalists and finalists have been West African and North African Nations.
It is sad to note that most of the time, Southern African countries have gone just to make up numbers except for the rare occasions that South African and Zambia have been in the semi-finals and finals, with each country winning the tournament once.
As they old adage goes, “For one to be declared a big fish, you have got to swim with the sharks”.
This saying also applies to the world of sport and in this case, football.
For you to be deemed great, you need to play with the best, not just on the African continent but at world level.
There is no doubt that the lucrative football leagues are the ultimate measure of success for any aspiring footballer.
Whilst other parts of Africa remain fairly represented in the big leagues, Southern Africa has fallen way behind with only a handful of players competing with the best in the world.
With regard to the English Premier League, the best marketed in Europe, Southern Africa can only boast of Steven Pienaar making some intermittent appearances for Sunderland FC.
He is also past his prime and probably might head off to the United States Major League Soccer (MLS) or China to retire in relative obscurity with a fat pension.
It is now a fact that Southern Africa does not have world class players at the moment.
The development structures in the several of the country of the region are not simply producing respectable talent that can get coaches, agents and scouts from Europe excited.
Gone are the days when Southern Africa was represented in top leagues in Europe by the likes of Bruce Grobelaar, Kalusha Bwalya, Lucas Radebe, Benny McCarthy, Adam Ndlovu, Peter Ndlovu, and Benjani Mwaruwari.
These were outstanding performers who could fit into any team in world football. It is, indeed, time to go back to the basics!