THE Zimbabwe senior soccer team is scheduled to take part in the sixth edition of the African Nations Championships (Chan) — a tournament designed exclusively for home-based players.

They go into this tournament against the background of calamitous performances by both the Young Warriors and Mighty Warriors who took part in the regional Cosafa tournament recently.

While the dismal performances by these teams can be attributed to inactivity caused by the COVID-19 restrictions, Zifa is largely to blame on account of failure to prepare the teams ahead of the tournaments. This has been a perennial problem for our national soccer teams. In most cases, they don’t fail, but are failed by those at the helm of the beautiful game.

The Under-20 team led by Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya went to South Africa recently for the regional Cosafa tournament having only trained for one week and inevitably returned with tails between their legs after exiting the tournament in the early stages.

While, the coach was pleased with the overall performance of the team, he pointed out that the limited time in camp had compounded their woes as the player’s fitness levels were not up to scratch. Ndiraya’s lads allowed hosts South Africa to snatch a point on the stroke of full time for the game to end in a two-all draw in the first match of the group before losing 2-0 to eventual group winners Mozambique.

It’s the same story with the women’s team, the Mighty Warriors who crashed out of the tournament having also failed to prepare adequately for the assignment.

They lost 0-1 to neighbours Botswana in a Group C match which they needed to win by two clear goals. From the three matches they played, Zimbabwe returned home winless and without a goal. The Young Mighty Warriors also suffered the same fate — exiting the tournament in the early stages. The Warriors are likely to be the next victims as they prepare for the Chan tournament which kicks off on January 16.

Zimbabwe are scheduled to play hosts Cameroon in the opening match before facing Burkina Faso and Mali in other Group A matches.

Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic, in preparation for the tourney, has been limited to friendly matches against local Premier Soccer League format after plans for a domestic mini-league tournament in a bio-bubble format suffered stillbirth.

To worsen the situation, the Warriors are one of the only four sides that will feature at Chan finals to be held in Cameroon next month, whose league is not running. It becomes imperative that Zifa makes up by arranging more international friendlies for the team before the tournament.

Restricting the national team to friendlies against local teams does not help the coach to identify the strengths and weaknesses of his team. He needs friendly matches with competitive teams from outside the country to help him measure the strength of his team before plunging into the tournament.

By now, the soccer controlling body should have secured at least three international friendlies for the Warriors. While this would require more resources, all football stakeholders including the government have a duty to mobilise resources to ensure the team is adequately prepared ahead of the tournament.

A team representing the country deserves both morale and financial support from all Zimbabweans.

However, it is Zifa the custodians of football in the country, which should be at the forefront to ensure the Warriors are motivated to represent the country with distinction and pride. They should be motivated to ensure they go beyond the call of duty.

Without morale and financial support, it’s difficult to attain the desired result. We will continue to cycle in mediocrity if corrective measures are not taken.

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