Zimbabwe tried to host the 1998 Africa Nations Cup, appointing Clemence Westerhpof in the hope that the former champion with Nigeria's Eagles would do the nation proud in lifting the AFCON, or at least put a respectable performance. The nearly men, the title they had jealously gaurded for long periods even by then, failed to host it and neither did they qualify for that tournament as it was taken elsewhere.
The primary reason for not hosting that AFCON laid with CAF who claimed the stadia were sub-standard. That lie was a cover for the French-speaking African football. At that point, that country had quality stadia that were only third to Egypt and South Africa. They were better than half of Europe's facilities.
Since then, Sunday Marimo Chidzambwa entered into the record books by leading the nation into their maiden appearance in 2004. Many foreign coaches had tried and failed. From a distance, it is hard to say what went right then, but one thing, Sunday was a local guy who knew the players and the system well. He spoke the language.
Charles Mhlauri, like Sunday, repeated the feat in 2006 and again, it was a success with a generation of less gifted players if compared to the Dream Team of Reinhard Fabisch which was blessed with an array of talent, probably the best ever generation to be produced in Zimbabwe, which included Bruce Grobelaar, Peter Ndlovu, Willard Khumalo, Madinda Ndlovu, Mercedes Sibanda, Benjamin Nkonjera, Henry McKop, Ephraim Chawanda, Adam Ndlovu, Francis Shonhai, Agent Sawu and current coach, Rahman Gumbo, just to name some.
Things can never be said to have been right in Zimbabwean football at anytime. Somehow, those two occassions saw a couple of things being just congruent enough. To date, the nation awaits the cycle to repeat itself. In the attempt to qualify for the 2013 version of the AFCON to be hosted in South Africa, the Zimbabwe Football Association just got one thing right, the local coach.
Rahman Gumbo won back to back league championships in Zimbabwe and went on to win the same in Malawi and Botswana. His credentials should never be brought to question when looking at what went wrong on this failed mission. Some Shona-speaking fans prayed for this obvious failure day and night wasting their time. Many bay for Rahman's blood for leaving out a Karuru who is said to have questionable attitude.
Traditionally, Zimbabwe is corrupt. Very corrupt. Many did not like his appointment at all, given where he is coming from; the south western part of the country. For others, it was a case of wanting Norman Mapeza back. Mapeza was a good coach, though he had nothing to show for it and his said involvement in the Asiagate scandals as well as not making the cut in CAF License classes.
The sensitive Asiagate tales make it hard to believe that the bosses who rubbed shoulders with the Mafia were pure and clean and that they gave Rahman and Peter Ndlovu a 100% support and effort. These boys love money and I have no doubt that they fought for the pride to parade their skills in South Africa in 2013. How clean was the team and management will always leave many wondering.
The Warriors went into the final 90 minutes, as so many times before, with a reasonable cushion to cement a place in the tournament. They beat Angola 3-1 at Rufaro Stadium in Harare. Many forgot how much choking Warriors were capable of and put too much trust on the possibilities.
I did not expect much to be frank. It is always a surprise when they pull out the trick out of the bag. This is normal life in Zimbabwean football. The many previous failed attempts to qualify for anything were due to the absence of systems. As said previously, even the surprise moments of brilliance, it wasnever that the systems were in place. I would not go as far as calling it sheer luck nor sheer brilliance.
What programs and projects have been in place since Tunisia 2004 and Egypty 2006 to model a permanent qualification process to coming events? What structures were created to consolidate the status quo and model a winning culture for the next round of AFCONs and World Cup qualification rounds?
As an outsider, I could not be in a psoition to see the blueprint, but wh then is the failure Moss code so decoded from where I am? ZIFA received money from Sepp Blatter after FIFA hosted the South Africa World Cup on African soil. What happened to the money? This is not to say the money was looted, but the culture of the mother-body is to use development to pay debts.
One must learn to appreciate their efforts to qualify for every showpiece, as I can assure you they will be going back to the drawing board to map a way forward. This usually entails the firing of the coach, witch-hunting and throwing toys. The problem is that usually a few changes here surges the team ahead a single step and then complacency sets it, building a spider web of contentnment.
It is not easy to cleanse the ZIFA House of all the scandals and work on a clean slate to draw what they should have, or they have been told to do since 1980. Development programs are miles ahead of many countries including South Africa. All they need is professional manning and monitoring.
At this day and age, focus should be on players to represent the country 12 years from now. It means these players are 10 years old now, on average. The project should be perennial and perpetual. For your information, my blueprint for this in 2000 was handed to ZIFA but only God know if it reached 53 Livingstone Road in Harare. It was meant to create giants and monsters for 2010 and 2012 World Cups and AFCONs.
At the end of the day, all Zimbabwe is good at, is cooking failure with aplomb. Many people are diehard patriots, but for the rest, take Zimbabwe's failure as normal and stay happy. If they qualify for anything, buy a bottlr of champagne and pop it. It is not everyday that miracles happen but hey, who said they do not?
As for crying for the beloved country, it is crocodile tears and quite a phenomenon that will be part of your life for ages to come. I have no confidence the team would even take part even if they hosted the tourney, as was the case in 1998. I have not doubt about their failure under the leadership and even in any given list anywhere on the internet, Zimbabwe is last.