THE Zimbabwe senior national football team coaching job will fall vacant on December 31 when Joey Antipas’ tenure expires.
Antipas, who is also head coach at Chicken Inn, was given a four-month contract by ZIFA in August to take care of the Warriors assignments on an interim basis following the abrupt resignation of veteran Sunday Chidzambwa.
He has presided over six games, winning three, drawing two and losing one in a turbulent run that saw him leading the team to partial success in three different competitions.
Under his watch, Zimbabwe’s team of local-based players managed to seal their place at next year’s CHAN finals in Cameroon.
The Warriors were also able to keep their 2021 AFCON and 2022 World Cup campaigns intact, albeit, after struggling against minnows such as Somalia and Botswana.
On paper, the gamble with Antipas appeared to have worked because there are results to show for it.
But most of the football stakeholders will not agree to that.
This arrangement of having a coach employed elsewhere to be the national team coach, at times, has proved disastrous.
Antipas and his assistants Lloyd Chitembwe, Tonderai Ndiraya and goalkeepers’ coach Tembo Chuma have full-time jobs with local Premiership teams.
They have had to juggle their time between the national team duties and club commitments.
Antipas’ Chicken Inn are involved in the championship race.
Twice, in the space of one week, he had to abandon camp and attend to Chicken Inn’s push for the title, shuttling between Harare-Bindura and Harare-Bulawayo because his bread is buttered at the Gamecocks.
Ndiraya also did the same for Dynamos games and Chitembwe was with his Harare City in their battle for survival. Consequently, the national team lost some considerable hours of training.
The burden proved too heavy for the coaches, worse after the Premier Soccer League refused to observe the FIFA international break and decided to continue with the league schedule in order to meet their own pressing deadlines.
Who knows, the Warriors’ pathetic performance against Botswana, in a drawn AFCON qualifier at home, could partly have been a result of poor preparations because of these disruptions.
The Warriors struggled to string together meaningful passes against a Botswana side regarded as Group H’s weakest side.
They could not create meaningful scoring chances and the lifeless performance irked the supporters who, inevitably, turned against Antipas and abused the coach with derogatory songs.
One big lesson from that outing was that, a national team coach should be free from distractions.
The coach and his players have to focus solely on the national team duty if we hope for the best results.
This is not the first time that we have seen ZIFA resorting to this odd arrangement with part-time coaches.
Of course, their poor financial standing may have prevented them from going all out to look for a full-time coach but they cannot afford to continue buying time with such defective arrangements.
We really need to be serious if we are to realise our full potential when it comes to football.
There should not be short cuts; there should not be any room for experiments.
Going forward, the Warriors’ job need a credible man with the requisite badges and experience to take the team forward.
Whether foreign or local, a substantive coach is needed for the Warriors.
ZIFA may rightly argue that foreign coaches are expensive, and have failed to deliver before, but one of the reasons why the board led by Felton Kamambo is in office is to look for the best possible option for the team. And that means hiring a competitive coach regardless of nationality.
How they are going to look after his welfare, that is the duty of the ZIFA board, that is what they were elected into office to take care of.
They have to justify why they are in those positions.
ZIFA can still go for a local coach, if it happens that we have tried and tested skills available.
We shouldn’t forget the important fixtures lined up for the year 2020.
ZIFA should take advantage of the quiet period now, when we do not have international assignments, to hunt for a substantive, and comptetent, senior national team coach.
The ZIFA board should sit down as soon as possible to reflect on a difficult year, characterised by the AFCON debacle in Egypt, and start planning forwards.
To their advantage, they have been given some time to work on the technical team handicap.
The CHAN tournament which was supposed to take place in January, has been pushed to April.
This means that the first competitive international assignments will only resume in March with the continuation of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Needless to say, next year is going to be a decisive period for Zimbabwean football in both the 2021 AFCON and 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
So, ZIFA should treat the issue of appointing a competent technical team with seriousness.