Warriors' identity crisis

HARARE - Changing a culture is one of the most difficult leadership challenges, and Warriors coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels is a man in such quandary.

Following Sunday’s 4-2 defeat to Egypt, Pagels must be pondering if he has the right players at his disposal to fit his system and philosophy of a stylish brand of attacking football.

Why Zimbabwe struggled on Sunday was largely due to the fact that Pagels tinkered significantly with his team and made changes to the side that played in the reverse fixture in Egypt in March and showed glimpses and signs of adjusting to the coach’s demands and style albeit in the 2-1 defeat.

So, with Pagels’ first first-choice team having played remarkably well in Egypt, and then a changed side found wanting in the home leg on Sunday, the question of depth arises.

With 2015 African Nations Cup qualifiers months away, do Zimbabwe have a decent pool of players to deliver a quick evolution and able to change their playing approach overnight to adapt to Pagels’ philosophy?

Truth is, Zimbabwean footballers were weaned on a stale brand of long-ball football, which has been the hallmark of our game since time immemorial.

Things that are learned early in life are the hardest to change or unlearn.

Boring and out-dated, it’s a style which has however, in the past, yielded results for Zimbabwe, especially under the reigns of Reinhard Fabisch and Sunday Chidzambwa.

These two coaches used this approach to great effect, Fabisch guiding the team to a 13-match unbeaten run in the 1990s and Chidzambwa famously leading the Warriors to their maiden African Nations Cup finals appearance in 2004.

Fabisch, and later on Chidzambwa, had the ability to make their players respond positively to the old Zimbabwean football virtues of running, fighting and grinding out a result, which Pagels is trying to change.

Pagels has a mammoth task in trying to to accelerate a culture change, especially one which has been there for decades.

That Pagels has all to do in trying to change what Zimbabwe has been doing for years was abundantly evident on Sunday as the Warriors, in trying to please their coach and play to his liking, looked terribly out of shape and at most uneasy and awkward.  What we witnessed on Sunday was an identity crisis; a group of footballers under instruction to play a style of football they were not raised with.

The team looked out of sync and lacked the fluidity of play that is a defining characteristic of sides which play the way Pagels want the Warriors to play.

What will be the best possible solution to this predicament? Do Pagels abandon his philosophy, lest the Warriors continue to expose themselves like what happened on Sunday?


As much as Pagels’ style backfired on him on Sunday, all this should be viewed as an integral part of the learning process, a minor disruption in the revolution.

A way has to be found, though, to answer the questions posed by the Warriors’ performance on Sunday if a smooth transition from long-balls upfront to “tiki-taka” is to be realised.

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