‘Why are we failing?’

Charles Mhlauri—
I AM saddened by our loss to Tanzania, but what worries me more is the current national discourse because we need, as a nation, to rise above shallow analysis and conclusions that take us nowhere. Let me at the onset admit that the coach and Zifa are custodians of the national team as such a lot is expected from them.

Zifa and its affiliates have a duty to develop the game.

However, Zifa and the coach are equally operating in a difficult environment that is heavily controlled by other factors.

These are the factors that we need to address if we hope for a long lasting solution.
‘Why are we failing?’
The loss to Tanzania is a clear manifestation of a deeper lying problem in our football that cannot be addressed by simply firing the coach or Zifa or Cuthbert Dube.

I am not here to defend Gorowa or Zifa but to change our conversation towards a lasting solution that can fix our game.

I have seen most Zifa executives struggle with THE same problems and I have seen coaches being fired left right and centre but with limited or no success.

Alex Ferguson was just a game away from being fired at Manchester United when Sir Bobby Charlton told everyone to “hold your horses”.

The rest is history.

The reason is that we tend to avoid solving the main problem. We need to create a pathway for success. We are obsessed with venting our anger on the coach or administration.

We have to change our mindset and start a constructive root to branch review with a view to improving not firing people only.

We cannot continue the blame game that has failed us in the past.

Now is the time not to expect Zifa and coach only to deliver for us, but we need to ask ourselves what can we do for “our Zifa” and help “our football” in general.

I am sure Zifa will welcome help.

The problems at Zifa are not anything new or peculiar only to this current executive. We have many well-documented stories since independence of national teams failing to travel on time getting stranded and I have experienced that.

There is nothing new here.

It is unfortunate that when faced with a loss we tend to find the easiest way out. Our problems are bigger than this simplistic approach we are made to believe.
Since independence we are yet to win the Afcon or Champions League.

I prefer to hear a coach being constructively criticised. I prefer to hear voices of reason in football talking based on a tangible plan with realistic expectations and fair not emotional evaluations.

I want to see the coach being given all the support and when he fails we can take a different direction.

Our team had a descent performance at CHAN, lost away to Tanzania and drew at home. For me this does not pass the test to fire anyone.

Gorowa had some injuries and did not get the best preparations.

If we are to fire a coach for drawing at home then the bar will be too high for anyone to coach this team. This will be a problematic precedent.

The time is too short and unreasonable to make such judgment. This is a game of inches you can be an inch too early or an inch too late but that cannot be used to return or fire coaches.

The frustration by our supporters is clearly understandable but football is a technical game that has gone beyond average and simple conclusions.

The German system has a clear pathway from districts to the senior national team. Every level of the game is well managed and funded.

On my checklist I am failing to check all the boxes so that I can fully blame either Zifa or the coach.

There are sticking areas that need serious conversations such as but not limited to: development, Fifa grant, government support, corporate support, economic climate, player management/education, commitment/patriotism and coach education (especially in lower leagues and Premier).

Team preparation is equally a strong area of concern but is influenced by the financial position of the association and support from all sectors.

The grant from Fifa is not good enough to cover all the developmental needs. Zifa have a responsibility to be professional and try to attract sponsorship in this poor socio-economic situation in the country.

As long as these areas are not attended to, it will be a joke to think about firing the coaches first.

Zifa administrations, under pressure from the masses after a loss, have given in, and fired coaches only to wake up to the reality that nothing has changed in the very next tournament.

Coach education is very critical in lifting our standards in the country, if our league is not competitive enough to win the Champions League how then do we dream to have a descent national team?

It’s even difficult if the bulk of our best players are across the Limpopo River.

The best footballing nations currently are Brazil, Spain, Germany, Italy, Holland etc and we need a presence there if we dreaming of going to World Cup.

Egypt has one of the most competitive leagues in Africa and it’s not by coincidence that they have enjoyed relative success.

Surprises do happen but to maintain a consistent performance will require a deeper analysis and good strategic planning.

In Spain experienced UEFA A and Pro Licensed coaches now handle almost every level of coaching. The national coach does not have to deal with basic stuff and clubs are ushering complete products.

Player education is an area of concern and most of our yesteryear products have limited intellectual skills or managerial skills.

This has led to the current status core were the game has been hijacked by vultures whose only skill in football is their ability to write their names on paper and they have pulse.

We need to discuss means and ways that will see our footballers scale the heights both on the field and off the field (academically) so that when the time comes they can equally sit on a round table and make a strategic plan.

Do we have blue print strategic plan from Zifa or coach or technical director etc?

How are we judging their success and failure?

For as long as we can’t answer all these questions positively then we have a very limited case against both coach and Zifa.

We have so many grey areas that we can’t just wish away and hope the arrival of a new executives or coach will usher in a new era of success.

What is the way forward?

There is need for strategic planning by football brains and the media, in particular, need to control and direct the conversation than insinuate negativity.

All we want is objective and balanced articles where our experts take the lead.

This is in both print and electronic media.

I would like to hear coaches/players talking more on the direction of the game.

Charles Mhlauri is the Director of Coaching at Lightning Soccer Club of 16 Beaver Meadow Road, Norwich, Vermont, United States. He is a former coach of the Warriors and took them to the 2006 Nations Cup finals.
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