WHETHER or not Zifa president Felton Kamambo and his predecessor Philip Chiyangwa decide to prolong their fight or eventually smoke the peace pipe, football will still have to be played.
Kamambo and Chiyangwa’s mudslinging affair has sadly taken centre stage at a time when the football fraternity should be celebrating Zimbabwe’s return to the World Cup scene.
The Warriors were suspended from the 2018 qualifiers by the world governing body Fifa after the local football authority Zifa failed to settle a debt owed to Brazilian coach José Claudinei Georgini, better known as Valinhos.
The debt was paid and Zimbabwe are back in contention for a place at the 2022 finals to be held in Qatar.
The draw for the second round of qualifiers will take place at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Cairo at 7PM on Tuesday, with action expected to kick off in October.
“We should be talking about real football. We must be talking about when the new Warriors coach will be unveiled, not these fights.
“Today you read that Chiyangwa stole some footballs donated by La Liga, tomorrow you hear that Kamambo is wanted by police on bribery charges. It’s time we start concentrating on real football action, not these fights,” a local football analyst fumed.
Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) Head of Content, Makomborero Mutimukulu, used his Facebook page to voice his concern over the Kamambo-Chiyangwa feud.
“Kamambo v Chiyangwa ……..The drama continues. Depending on who you listen to, Kamambo is on the run.
“But Zifa say FK (Kamambo) is not on the run, he is just a victim of a campaign to get him out of office, led by one Phillip Chiyangwa. Let’s get these two men to bury the hatchet!” posted Mutimukulu last Thursday.
It remains to be seen if Kamambo and Chiyangwa will bury the hatchet as the nation braces for what could be another tough World Cup draw for the Warriors.
Zimbabwe are in Pot 3 and could face Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Mali and DR Congo, who are in Pot 1.
The Warriors may also face Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Guinea, Uganda, Cape Verde, Gabon, Benin, Zambia and Congo, who are in Pot 2.
There is a feeling within the football fraternity that time is nigh for the Warriors to finally make their debut qualification for the World Cup finals.
The 2022 qualifiers will be the Warriors’ 10th attempt since 1980, when David Muchineripi scored Zimbabwe’s first ever goal in a World Cup qualifier.
It was then that the nation stunned Cameroon 1-0 in a return leg at Rufaro on November 16.
The first leg of the 1982 qualifier had ended 0-2 in favour of the Indomitable Lions in Yaoundé.
It has been an emotional World Cup journey for Zimbabwe, whose so near yet so far story has been well documented. A number of respected coaches, including the late John Rugg, Reinhard Fabisch (also late), Sunday Chidzambwa and Charles Mhlauri, all tried but failed to take Zimbabwe to football’s ultimate showpiece.
Veteran TV presenter and football commentator, Charles “CNN” Mabika, recalled with vigour of Zimbabwe’s first ever World Cup qualifier at home.
“It was at Rufaro, against Cameroon, what a game that was!” Mabika said.
“It was our first World Cup qualifier at home and the atmosphere was electric. Cameroon had African superstars like their keeper Thomas N’kono and forward Roger Milla so everyone wanted to see how we would fare against one of Africa’s finest teams.
“I remember by 12 noon, Rufaro was full to capacity. We won 1-0, but we should have actually beaten Cameroon 4-0 had our players not missed a lot of chances. Stanford Mutizwa, Stanley Ndunduma and David Mandigora all had chances, but they took turns to miss,” said Mabika.
“We were all over the Indomitable Lions and they were only kept in the game by the brilliance of their keeper N’kono. “That historic Warriors team also had the likes of Oliver Kateya, Sunday Chidzambwa, Steven Chuma, David Mwanza, Shacky Tauro and Joseph Zulu. The late John Rugg was the coach.”
However, the Warriors were knocked out of the 1986 qualifiers by Egypt, who won 1-0 in Cairo before holding the Warriors 1-1 at Rufaro in the return leg.
Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa, the scorer of Zimbabwe’s goal in that match against the Pharaohs, has seen the Warriors’ progress over the years, but is worried with the lack of consistency when it comes to the appointment of coaches.
“Our football has developed a lot if you compare it with our time back in the 1980s. My worry though is the lack of consistency.
“We are always changing coaches, that is not good for progress,” said Mutizwa, who was recently appointed Black Rhinos’ chief scout.
However, the 1989 Soccer Star of the Year runner up is convinced that Zimbabwe now has the right calibre of players to make a mark on the continent.
“Zimbabwe now commands some respect from other African nations, mainly because of the kind of players we have in our national team.
“We have players like Marvelous Nakamba, who has played in the UEFA Champions League, Marshal Munetsi and Tino Kadewere who are rising in France, so I foresee a change of fortunes this time around.
“We have a big chance of making it to Qatar in 2022,” said Mutizwa.
The closest Zimbabwe came to that was in 1993 when the late German mentor Fabisch almost clinched the elusive World Cup ticket.
Zimbabwe topped Group C, which had Egypt, Angola, Togo and Sierra Leone, after amassing 10 points in stunning fashion.
Due to crowd trouble in the final round of the group, Egypt’s 2-1 win in Cairo on February 28, 1993 was annulled. Fifa ordered a replay which ended goalless in Lyon, France, on April 15, 1993.
The Warriors were then drawn against Cameroon and Guinea in the final qualifying round
The Warriors won their two home fixtures by an identical score line of 1-0, with Agent Sawu scoring both goals.
The win against Cameroon was achieved in front of a record crowd of 71 160 at the National Sports on July 4, 1993. Zimbabwe lost 3-0 in Guinea, and 3-1 in Cameroon to finish second with four points and two behind the Indomitable Lions who eventually qualified for the finals in the USA.
Sawu, who was Zimbabwe’s top scorer in that campaign with six goals, feels that off-field forces could determine the Warriors’ destiny.
“The current Warriors team has a number of European based players, good players, so I guess they have the capacity to finally make the nation proud by qualifying for the 2022 World Cup,” Sawu said.
“Nakamba (Aston Villa), Tendai Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Munetsi (Reims), Kadewere (Le Havre) and Teenage Hadebe who is hustling in Turkey, are some of the European based players expected to steer the Warriors ship during the 2022 campaign.
“We have got the potential, but you can’t expect players to put in 100 per cent effort when the administration is not putting in the required shift.
“If all the forces pull in one direction and if all the cylinders fire, I don’t think we will have a problem. Zifa has to play its part while the players also do their part.
“Back then, we also had European based players, we also had quality players on our side, but we still failed. So qualifying for the World Cup is a no mean feat,” Sawu said.
Vitalis “Digital” Takawira was the main man for the Warriors during the 1998 qualifiers, in which Zimbabwe were drawn against Angola, Cameroon and Togo in Group 4.
Takawira scored 5 goals during that campaign as the Warriors finished third.
After blowing away Central African Republic in a preliminary round fixture, Zimbabwe were drawn in Group E against South Africa, Burkina Faso, Malawi and Guinea in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers.
Peter Ndlovu top scored for the Warriors with four goals, but Zimbabwe failed to make it to the finals in South Korea and Japan as they could only finish second with 12 points, four behind Bafana Bafana.
Shingi Kawondera, Benjani Mwaruwari and Ndlovu spearheaded the Warriors attack during the 2006 qualifiers, but their deadly combination failed to take Zimbabwe to Germany as the nation finished third in a group that had Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, Gabon and Rwanda.
That third position was however, enough to guarantee Zimbabwe a berth at the 2006 African Cup of Nations finals, as the same campaign also served as qualifiers for the continental showpiece which was staged in Egypt.
Gilbert “Gidza” Mushangazhike, scorer of two goals during the 2010 qualifiers, fears that without proper planning, the Warriors “will not go anywhere.”
“Without planning we won’t go anywhere. World Cup is played after four years, but we are always waiting for the last minute to start planning. That’s dangerous,” Mushangazhike said.
“At present, we don’t even have plans for a future team that will probably take us through the 2026 qualifiers. We still depend heavily on Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat, but what happens when they are no longer there?”
The Warriors had a relatively easy Group in the 2010 qualifiers as they were drawn against Kenya, Namibia and Guinea.
However, Zimbabwe staggered throughout the qualifiers and finished third, behind group winners Guinea and Kenya.
The 2014 qualifiers were more disastrous. Drawn against Guinea, Mozambique and Egypt, Zimbabwe finished bottom without a win and suffered a humiliating 2-4 home defeat at the hands of a Mohamed Salah powered Egypt on June 9, 2013.
Musona scored two goals in that campaign while Lincoln Zvasiya and Masimba Mambare scored a goal each.