The Sunday Mail

Don Makanyanga

Sports Reporter

MORE than two decades after his last dance with the Warriors, former Zimbabwe Saints goalkeeper Pernell McKop is re-living his dream after he was included in the senior soccer team’s new coaching crew. McKop, currently attached to South African Premiership side Stellenbosch, has been named the goalkeepers’ coach in a new-look Warriors set-up that will be headed by Croatian coach Zdravko Logarušic. The other members of that technical crew include Chicken Inn’s Joey Antipas, Lloyd Chitembwe of Harare City and Dynamos gaffer Tonderai Ndiraya.
Nomadic coach Logarušic is also excited with the technical team and has appealed for unity within his dressing room as he begins his Warriors adventure next month.

Loga, as he is commonly known, will have to get his Warriors tenure going with a big assignment as the Warriors bid for a place at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

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Zimbabwe is set to travel to Algeria to clash with the group leaders.

Despite questions on whether Loga will be able to deliver and lead the Warriors to the Promised Land, the Croat is optimistic.

He is also unfazed about not having had the luxury to choose his own lieutenants.

“lt’s not about coming with my own assistants, it is about working with people who share the same ideology with me. As long as they have a good character and personality, then we are good to go. I do understand that the assistants are not coming from nowhere, they are people who have names, who have a history and are knowledgeable. They understand Zimbabwean football.  What I only ask from them is their commitment, with it we can make progress,” said the 54-year-old coach.

Having spent the last decade in the African trenches, albeit mostly with club football, Loga feels that he now understands the terrain. He is confident that he can turn on the magic in Zimbabwean football.

“I have vast experience with African football and I have worked in six countries in the last 10 years, working with some big clubs. I believe that my knowledge in African football will be handy in achieving some of the targets that we want as a nation. If we are to achieve anything as a nation, then I cannot do it alone. I need all the support I can get from the players, the coaching staff, the association (Zifa), the media and all the other stakeholders,” said Logarušic.

The Croat described Zimbabwe as a country with rich football talent, a country that is destined for greatness.

“The quality and the talent of Zimbabwean players is of high quality. If we do things together and pull in one direction, we will achieve what we want. Having such quality and talent is a good start for any coach who wants to achieve big things. I do not want to talk much and make a thousand promises. It is not necessary to talk much, our job is on the field of play. I will let football do the talking; people can then judge us accordingly,” he said.

As for Mckop, he feels humbled by the opportunity to come back into the Warriors dressing room. Pernell might have lived in the shadows of his young brother Henry (“Bully’’), who excelled as a left wingback in the late Reinhard Fabisch’s famed Dream Team, but he is determined to make a mark on the new technical bench.

“I am humbled to be given this great honour.

“I am yet to meet our new national team coach but I am looking forward to meeting him and working with him to develop Zimbabwean football,” McKop said.

He revealed that hearing about his appointment to the Warriors made him shed some nostalgic tears. “My father passed away when I was 14 years old. The following year, I met a football coach by the name Dave Locke, who took me under his wing and became a fatherly figure to me,” said McKop as he remebered how he started his career.

“My country and national team have always been very dear to me. Even from afar, I have always supported every game they play. It was always my hope to be able to help again one day.

“After two decades, I now have this blessing and opportunity bestowed upon me. It strengthens my resolve to give my best for the goalkeepers, the technical team, the team and the country,” he said.

McKop, who has spent close to two decades in South African football circles, believes that the migration of players to the south of the Limpopo has helped give the Warriors a competitive edge.

“I am sure that this will always be a point of controversy, but across the whole world, players play in other countries and then go back home to be part of their national teams.

“This makes those teams more competitive because of the experience they gain playing in foreign leagues.

“The ABSA Premiership is highly competitive and the players that play there really have to perform at their best levels week in and week out. This can only help improve the individuals and ultimately the national teams,” he said.

McKop also spoke about the impending Southern African derby showdown between the Warriors and Bafana Bafana in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

“There is a lot of excitement and debate. The rivalry always generates a great competitive edge. This will be an exciting match for both the South African and Zimbabwean fans,” said McKop.

The Zimbabwe Saints championship-winning goalkeeper, whose career was cut short by a back injury, said Zimbabwe has a rich history of good goalkeepers, which would make his task a bit easier.

“Our country has had good goalkeepers — Bruce Grobbelaar, Japhet Mparutsa, Lucky Dube, Posani Sibanda, Peter Nkomo, Musa Muzanenamo, Peter Fanwell, Raphael Phiri, Duncan Ellison, Brenna Msiska, Tapuwa Kapini,  Abdul Karim and Mike Mhlanga.  We’ve had so many greats.

“Currently, we have three playing at the highest level in South Africa — Edmore Sibanda (Golden Arrows), Elvis Chipezeze (Baroka FC) and George Chigova (Polokwane City). They are all key members in their teams.

“George and Elvis are actually captains of their respective teams. This shows that we have capable goalkeepers,” said the Stellenbosch goalkeeper’s coach.