Zifa must plan ahead

HARARE - When Sepp Blatter’s reign at Fifa ended, Gianni Infantino — the new president — embarked on a mission to spruce up the Fifa image after a raft of corruption and bribery accusations that had been thrown against the previous executives.

Infantino even went on a charm offensive, visiting affiliates in many countries and pledging to take football to another level.

This culminated in the expansion of the world cup, which is set to grow by 50 percent — from 32 to 48 teams in 2026.

There have been suggestions this could be moved forward to the Qatar edition of the World Cup slated for 2022.

Whether it happens then or the 2026 (USA, Mexico, Canada) will be the time, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) must show urgency and take advantage of this move by Fifa.

According to the Fifa proposal, Africa is going to get an extra four slots at the world’s biggest football showcase.

This presents a big chance for those African nations who can plan properly with the aim of making it to the finals.

Zifa must therefore start assembling a competitive team, say at the U19 and U20 levels.

This team must then be exposed to quality international competition to gain exposure.

The football mother body must avail resources for talent scouting across the country as well as make sure we create our own golden generation, which is specifically groomed with the aim of raising the standard of football in the country.

Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa must step aside and let someone with this kind of vision take over.

This is not so because he has completely failed but for the fact that he has remained a career politician and businessman — it is prudent that he leaves football matters in the hands of those who have been in the game and have a vision to raise football standards in the country.

While Zimbabwe has continued to fall in Fifa rankings, it is never an excuse for losing ambition and qualifying for big football tournaments should be among our priorities as a country.

Belgium, for example, has come up with a team that is a result of hard work and dedication by the authorities.

And while their project flopped at the 2014 World Cup, most of the players have been retained this year and the team, commonly referred to as the golden generation, can beat anybody on a good day.

Our neighbours Zambia and South Africa have been able to win continental honours and this should give us the desire to emulate or even surpass those achievements.

The Mighty Warriors have been to tournaments like the Olympics and one hopes Zifa can learn that where there is dedication, everything is achievable.

Beginning with the Tokyo 2020 summer Olympics, Zifa must make sure we assemble a team capable of qualifying for the games.

This team must then form the core of our Warriors setup that will be at the 2026 World Cup.

Recent Cosafa exploits by the Warriors are also a good example of how dedication can lead to success.

Most of these players cannot make it to the 2026 World Cup and young players must be gradually introduced with the future tournaments in mind.

It is also very encouraging that some of the players who took part at this tournament can still play for the National U23 side for the Tokyo Olympics, which will create a lot of competition for places.

This creates a positive headache for coaches and one which Zifa should take advantage of.

Unless we have a solid plan as a country, this World Cup expansion will not bring us any joy and it is my hope that we will soon have someone who has this kind of vision at Zifa.

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