Warriors technical team scapegoats in Zifa squabbles

HARARE - With all the squabbling and discontent happening behind the scenes, it’s now hard to see how Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa and his technical team can move forward after everything that has happened.

Everything was going well for the Zimbabwe national team as they are just one point away from qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be held in Egypt in June.

The Warriors are currently in first place in Group G with eight points from five matches while Liberia are second with seven points.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is third on six points while Congo anchors the group with five points.

All four teams in the pool still have a chance to punch a ticket to go to Egypt later this year but the Warriors firmly have their destiny in their hands.

Chidzambwa’s team only needs a single point in their final group game against Congo at the National Sports Stadium on March 22 in order to secure their fourth appearance at the continent’s biggest football tournament.

However, a seismic shift occurred in the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) leadership during last December’s elections.

Philip Chiyangwa, who had appointed Chidzambwa and his assistants Lloyd Mutasa and Rahman Gumbo was defeated by Felton Kamambo after a very acrimonious election.

Kamambo came into power together with his deputy Gift Banda and board members Philemon Machana, Sugar Chagonda, Brighton Malandule, Chamu Chiwanza, Farai Jere and Barbra Chikosi.

Shortly after coming into power, Kamambo on December 27 met with Chidzambwa and assured the coach that his position was safe.

“I would like to assure coach Sunday and the rest of the technical team that I will retain them in their current positions,” he said.

“Their positions are safe. I was elected to develop football for the better. I have worked with the coach in the past and I know very well what he is capable of.

“I am encouraging you and the technical team to work hard and ensure that the Warriors qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals.”

Less than a week after Kamambo said that statement, Banda came out with a different position whereby he announced that Mutasa and Gumbo were all fired while Chidzambwa had been retained as the warriors coach.

Former Ngezi Platinum Stars coach Tonderai Ndiraya and ex-Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu were roped in to be Chidzambwa’s new assistants.

The soap opera was just starting because just eight days later, Kamambo returned from Dakar, Senegal where he was attending a Confederation of African Football (Caf) meeting and immediately suspended Banda.

Kamambo reinstated Gumbo and Mutasa before going on to accuse Banda of usurping the powers of the Zifa board.

“…Banda caused a publication of a falsehood that the Head Coach of the Zimbabwe Men Senior National Team Sunday Chidzambwa was the architect or agreed to change his backroom staff when he knew this was entirely false as the Coach was happy to work with his team without any changes,” Kamambo said.

Right now a war of words has begun with Banda vowing to clear his name and has also laid counter-accusations at Kamambo.

However, the damage has already been done and the biggest casualty in all this mess is the Warriors technical department.

With only one crucial game to go to seal qualification for the 2019 Afcon finals, it is hard to see how Chidzambwa will work together with Mutasa and Gumbo going forward.

According to Banda, the Warriors coach threw his assistants under the bus and opted to work with new personnel.

Kamambo disputes this narrative but it is hard to imagine that Banda would have solely decided to change the Warriors technical team set without any input from his board colleagues.

No matter what happens from now on, the Warriors technical team has been greatly destabilised ahead of a crucial game.

There’s no telling what this episode has done to the relationship between Chidzambwa and his two assistants Gumbo and Mutasa.

A lot of accusations have flown around in the last few weeks at a time when the Warriors technical team should have been preparing for the match against Congo.

Chidzambwa, Mutasa and Gumbo together with Ndiraya and Mafu find themselves in the centre of a tag of war they would never have wanted to be part of.


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