A DARK spell clouds the future of Zimbabwean football. As the Seychelles referee Bernard Camille blew the final whistle at the National Sports Stadium last Sunday, Ian Gorowa looked like a dead man.
The Warriors had been booted out from their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at the first hurdle by unfamiliar opponents. A dream had been shattered. It was over. Pain and anguish engulfed the 50 000 plus fans who were walking home with their tails between their legs. It was in sharp contrasts to the fans who shouted with hope just an hour earlier.
It was the highest attendance at the giant stadium in years, more than those who thronged it in 2010 to witness up and close a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when football gods Brazil were in town. Last Sunday’s pain and grief spread beyond Harare.
The tragedy rang as far as overseas. Just three months into his re-election, under-fire Zifa president Cuthbert Dube — who was, as usual, not at the stadium — now appears to have gone into hiding. Concerted efforts to get hold of him last week drew blanks.
But it is the norm in world football that an association president utters at least a word after such a calamity, Dube has instead remained silent. Legendary Warrior Peter Ndlovu was also present to witness the catastrophe. He wants an audience with Zifa before he could speak his mind.
“I don’t want to say anything at the moment until I speak to the association,” he said. “I have to talk to them first and hear what they have to say otherwise I might get misquoted. I will also seek council from my friends and see what advice I can offer to the Warriors.”
Another legend George Shaya could be seen endlessly shaking his head, trying to come to terms with what had happened. He was failing to down the Lion Lager can he was holding with his left hand while the right one was stuck on his back. His old friend and Zimbabwe’s first export to Europe Freddy Mukwesha could also be seen consumed by apparent disbelief. The day’s events were just a tiny portion of the broader picture of the state of Zimbabwean football.
With the national Under-17s and U-20s currently serving a Caf ban, a bleak future lies ahead. In reality, the dream to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games is now as impossible as sending the first man to the planet Sun.
There are no feeders to the Under-23s. The channels are broken down, evaporating all hopes of getting out of the doldrums.
Zimbabwe’s youth footballers lack international experience, just the same as the Chan crop who were not up for the Afcon level. An Olympics level is just a bar too high for the international football-starved youths.
But Zifa woke up last Tuesday to tell the country that they were now eyeing the Olympics. A signature tune the fans are tired of hearing. Women’s football has not also been spared of the tomfoolery.
The Under-17s were not registered for the Afcon and the Under-20s failed to qualify for their continental competition.
It is not certain if both teams would be registered for the next editions.
Their seniors, the Mighty Warriors, are in Zambia today and on the brink of collapse that would see them failing to book a place at the African Women’s Nations Cup, plunging Zimbabwean football further into abyss.
There is not futsal or beach soccer to talk about. Hopes for a bright future have vanished!