Mighty Warriors exit hurt: Mlauzi

HARARE – Being a national team coach normally comes with fame and prestige but it has not been the case for former Mighty Warriors gaffer Shadreck Mlauzi.

Although Mlauzi says the experience was priceless his exit from the team has, however, left him with “a sour taste in his mouth”.

Mlauzi made history when he led the Mighty Warriors to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to become the first national team to reach the finals of a global football tournament.

The Bulawayo-based coach also helped the team qualify for the 2016 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final held in Cameroon.

This was the team’s first appearance at the continental tournament since 2004.

During his two-year tenure, the Inline Academy coach was operating without a binding contract with the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).

He also had to do without a salary as women’s football in the country remains segregated and at amateur level.

After all the sacrifices Mlauzi did and the success he brought the team, Zifa simply chucked him out of the system at the end of February this year.

To make it worse, no one from the association bothered to tell Mlauzi about the decision but he had to learn of his dismissal through the press with Zifa insisting they wanted him to return the vehicle Harare businessman Wicknell Chivayo had bought for him.

It was a difficult episode for the 36-year-old, who needed the support of his family and prayers from his church elders to put him back on the rail.

“It’s a thankless job really,” Mlauzi tells the Daily News on Sunday. “I was left with a sour taste in my mouth.

“You know it’s not easy. I was very bitter at first but then I came to figure out that its part of life. It really affected me and had it not for the support and counselling I received from my family and church I don’t know what could have happened.

“They allowed me to let it go and move on with my life. That’s what keeps me going. But frankly speaking the period was stressing but I thank God it’s now water under the bridge.”

As someone with a religious background, Mlauzi has since forgiven Zifa for the way he was treated but remains adamant to claim the wages he is owed during his time as the Mighty warriors coach.

He has since approached the Labour Court in Bulawayo in order to recover what the association owes him.

“I have forgiven them and I have since moved on. I think it was a privilege coaching the national team,” he says.

“I played my part under such difficult circumstances qualifying for two major tournaments to me is not a small achievement although some people have their own views.

“Of course, I don’t regret ever coaching the Mighty Warriors; it was a huge privilege to be the team’s coach given the number of coaches we have in the country.

“I cannot say I did not enjoy the experience. It was a very enjoyable and invaluable experience but it had its challenges.

“On what Zifa owes me I can’t really say much because it’s something which is before the courts. Maybe you can talk to my lawyers for more information.”

Mlauzi says he feels for the Mighty Warriors he used to train with empty stomachs as the association and the Sports ministry took turns to make false promises to the squad.

“You can imagine working on faces that are evidently bitter. It took the grace of God to motivate those girls. One thing for sure is that those girls are really bitter about the system that is there,” he says.

“It was never easy, whoever is going to inherit that team I can tell you the players are very bitter even the minister and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) knows about this. The girls qualified for Olympics — the premium tournament — but they got nothing.

“But when the boys qualified for Afcon they were given a lot of money. I was managing players who are very bitter about the system. The ministry itself made a lot of promises but they delivered nothing. Up to now their phones are still at Zimra and no one has come to their aid.

“Imagine going to Cameroon and in a tournament and get nothing. It was always going to be difficult for these players to perform well. But we should also appreciate and respect the fact that these players earn a living through playing soccer.

“So how then do we expect them to produce results when they are not motivated?

Mlauzi said gender inequality remains unheeded in football in the country.

“The girls don’t get the type of support they should and I think its hampering the development of the sport in our country,” he says.

“I think until such discrepancies have been resolved the sport will remain stagnant. There is need for self-introspect on whether we want to develop the game or what?”

Mlauzi, who is a qualified teacher by profession, has since retraced his roots and is currently at Sikhulile High School in Bulawayo, where he is focusing on Physical Education.

“At the moment, I am back with the students and trying to come up to speed with the new curriculum,” Mlauzi says.

“There are a lot of teams, who have shown interest in me but the issue of compliance is a stumbling block. So, yes I am happy because I am doing what I learnt at college.”

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