Home » Sports » I Live in the Real World to Know That a 0-1 Defeat, Away From Home, Is a Very Tricky Result in a Two-Legged Contest

In the event that we have to live through the catastrophe that awaits us, in the case of failure, can we really continue calling ourselves a football nation when our Warriors are out of international football for TWO years, our Under-17s are out of international football until the start of the 2017 African Youth Cup and our Under-20s are out of international football until the beginning of the 2017 African Youth Championships?

LAST year we completed our worst World Cup campaign in history and the irony of it all is that it came exactly 20 years after our best aenture when the Dream Team took us within 90 minutes of a place in the United States in ’94.

In the year that zifa turned 50, the Warriors plunged to new depths of mediocrity, failing to win even a single game in six World Cup group matches, taking just two points out of a possible 18, for an appalling 11.11 percent failure rate.

There was a massive 16-point difference between us and group winners Egypt, who won all their six matches, representing an 88.88 percent gap and our head-to-head contests with the Pharaohs ended in an aggregate 6-3 victory for them.

The same Egyptian side, which had looked flatteringly world-class in our mediocre company, suffered a 1-6 thrashing in Ghana, in their first game outside our group, and the final aggregate loss, in the final qualifiers for a place in Brazil, was 3-7 to the Black Stars.

We suffered the ignominy of being ONE of just FIVE teams, out of 40, who failed to win a single game in their six 2014 World Cup qualifiers with the others being Mozambique, our misfiring group cousins, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, who won but had the result nullified, and Rwanda.

Our points tally, TWO out of EIGHTEEN, represented the worst return by any of the 40 African teams that battled for a place in Brazil and we shared that wooden spoon with, of course, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and a Sudan that had three points nullified from their win over Zambia.

Tanzania needed to play a qualifier, which they only won on away goals after losing their home tie in Dar es Salaam to Chad, for them to join us in the Group of 40 but, to their credit, the Taifa Stars performed better than us, in heavyweight company that included Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco, as they picked six points with two wins at home and losing all their away ties.

Last Sunday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania beat us 1-0 in a 2015 Nations Cup qualifier to thrust themselves into a g position and pushed us onto the edge facing the grim possibility of completing our worst Nations Cup campaign in history, in the event we fail to overturn the deficit, just eight months after waving goodbye to our worst World Cup campaign.

What surprised me was the pace with which we tried to move away from what had happened in Tanzania, to pretend as if we were not sitting on a time bomb that could explode, with frightening consequences for our national game, both in the immediate and long term, in the event we don’t get it right in Harare next Sunday.

By Wednesday, just three days after our loss in Dar es Salaam, the back pages of our mainstream national newspapers had turned to the domestic Premiership — after all champions Dynamos were back in action, and debate about what had happened in Tanzania and, crucially, the tragedy that it could represent in the event we fail to wipe out the deficit, had disappeared from the pages that mattered.

At least, we stretched the Warriors story into Wednesday, retaining them on the back page that day even when everyone else appeared to abandon them and had already jumped onto the glamour, and appeal, that comes with the Glamour Boys when they are in town at a time when they hadn’t won a game in four.

But, with the benefit of hindsight, we should have done more, as a national newspaper that is expected to lead the way when it comes to issues that have national interests and we should have continued singing the Warriors song all week, even though the lyrics made it painful to continue doing so, because that was more important than what Mourinho calls the small horses, the small constituents.

Instead, we all retreated to the comfort that the domestic Premiership provides, in its feel-good world where a national tragedy can’t be scripted, where our tribal instincts find refugee and space to be explored and displayed in their full repertoire, where our teams have 30 chances to be champions or avoid relegation or remain in mid-table.

We retreated to our league, and all the innocence that it provides, because if Tawanda Muparati says he is injured we know that he means it and it won’t torch controversy that he is deliberately feigning injury to ensure that he is at Borrowdale because that is the only way he can win a car on race day at the OK Grand Challenge.

We reached out to our Premiership and found all the warmth that it provides because in this community there isn’t the animal called club-versus-country and everyone’s allegiance is to his club and when Kuda Musharu scores seven goals in his first six league matches we have a reason to be cheerful because, we tell each other, we won’t be as bad as those whose Golden Boot winner scored only 10 goals all season.

The media led the way, and we are part of that community, part of that group that led in taking the wrong detour, and everyone just followed, and rather than confront issues that matter, issues that are national in scope, we retreated to the comfort zone of our small communities, small horses, small constituencies as if these little constituencies will ever one day become bigger than the nation.

Why We Have A Right To Be Concerned

Like every Zimbabwean, I’m praying that we beat Tanzania next Sunday by any margin that enables us to qualify for the next round where another duel against Mozambique looms — just a year after we slugged it out in World Cup qualifiers that ended in a stalemate.

But I also live in the real world to know that a 0-1 defeat away from home is a tricky result, in a two-legged contest, because it gives Tanzania not only the lead but the benefits that will come with scoring an away goal in Harare, which will count twice, in the event of an aggregate draw.

Players will tell you that the toughest matches are those when a 2-0 lead, even in time added on, remains a fragile cushion, playing while carrying that extra burden that comes with knowing that if the opposition score, from one free-kick or one corner kick it’s over, the pressure that it brings and, crucially, the mistakes that come with all that.

Of course, home should provide certain comforts, the fans behind your cause, familiar surroundings and the psychological boost that comes with defending your fortress, but it also comes with a heavy load, especially in such games where you are playing catch up, where every minute counts, where every chance lost could be defining and, when pressure starts building in the terraces, it usually has a huge effect on the players.

Therein lies our monumental challenge and we haven’t done exceptionally well, in two-legged ties, in recent years to give ourselves the false sense of security that come next Sunday we will, without any doubt, turn this into Mission Possible and the Taifa Stars won’t be shining after 5pm that day.

In the past four years, in which we have ventured into two failed Nations Cup campaigns and a doomed World Cup campaign, we have played SIXTEEN international matches in these two big tournaments and only TWICE, in those matches, did we end up with a better aggregate score than our opponents — against Liberia and Burundi.

When you break it all down for analysis you will see that we have played eight countries during that time — Egypt, Cape Verde, Mali, Guinea, Mozambique, Burundi, Liberia and Angola — and in 12 of these games the aggregate score would favour our opponents.

Egypt (6-3) Cape Verde (2-1) Guinea (2-0) Mali (2-2 but the Eagles would have been in a better position because of the away goal they scored at Rufaro) Mozambique (1-1 but the Mambas would have been in a better position because of the away goal they scored here) Angola (3-3, they won on the away goals rule).

Someone can rightly argue that most of these matches were group games and it’s different, in terms of approach, to the knockout games like the one that we face against the Taifa Stars next Sunday.

I will give himher the benefit of doubt.

But let’s look at our recent history, when we have played such knockout games, and you will find that we failed, in those four matches to qualify for the 2013 Nations Cup finals in South Africa, to outscore our two opponents on aggregate even though one of them was Burundi, whom we beat on away goals rule after a 2-2 draw, while Angola beat us on away goals rule after a 3-3 draw.

Crucially, all the key figures whose goals kept us going, even though we ultimately failed to get to the Promised Land, in those matches against Burundi and Angola — Knowledge Musona (two), Khama Billiat (one) and Archford Gutu (one) — are unavailable for the tie against Tanzania.

We have only scored two or more goals at the National Sports Stadium TWICE, in the past four years, against the Pharaohs (TWO), in what was a dead rubber for us, and against Liberia (THREE), when we were no longer in control of our affairs, while on the only two occasions that we went to Rufaro, in pressure and tougher make-or-break games against Angola (THREE) and Mali (TWO), we appeared to be more settled.

Crucially, and this is what sends shivers down my spine, we have conceded in all ALL our last FOUR home Nations CupWorld Cup assignments against Guinea, Mozambique, Egypt and Angola.

The Tragedy That Failure Could Represent

Given the catastrophe that failure against Tanzania could trigger, I tend to agree with Shepherd Dube, a Bosso fan, that at this stage nothing in our football matters more than the Warriors and everything else that is happening is just a sideshow that should play second fiddle to the national cause.

After all, when we are done with the Taifa Stars, either as heroes who lived to fight another day or as failures who wrote the worst story in the history of the Warriors’ Nations Cup campaign, there will be a lot of time, a lot of weeks for Dynamos, Highlanders, CAPS United, FC Platinum, you name them.

Ian Gorowa saw the worst possible scenario and he didn’t like the picture he was seeing which forced him to ask for a postponement of this weekend’s domestic fixtures, which should have been done for the sake of the nation, to enable him to spend more time with his players.

But Gorowa didn’t succeed, we never expected him to succeed in a poisoned football landscape where the appreciation of national interests is very limited, where egos float around every day and where some people now believe they have become bigger than the game itself.

It’s tragic but it’s real that in the event we fail to clear the Tanzania hurdle, and let’s all pray to the Almighty Lord that we clear this hurdle, it could have serious repercussions on our game.

The Warriors will be out of international football for TWO years, the six months that remain until the end of this year, the whole year that will follow next year and the first four-or-so months of 2016 when the qualifiers for the 2017 Nations Cup are scheduled to start.

Knowledge Musona, who turns 24 on June 21 this year, would be 26 by the time we return to international football, a good two years of his prime time in the game wiped away just like that, in the event we fail to clear the Tanzania hurdle next Sunday.

Khama Billiat, who turns 24 on August 19 this year, would be 26 by the time we plunge back into the jungles of international football, a good TWO years of his prime time in the game wiped away just like that, in the event that we fail to eliminate Tanzania next Sunday.

Willard Katsande, who has courted a lot of controversy in the past week with the media seemingly united in condemning him for turning his back on his nation when it needed him the most, would be 30-something, by the time we return to international football, probably on the way out that the whole country would not mourn in the event he decides to stay in his adopted home for some awards ceremony.

Kuda Mahachi doesn’t turn 20 until September 20 this year and, having just played his first Nations Cup assignment, just imagine the damage that a two-year isolation from international football, simply because the Warriors failed against Tanzania, will have on his international career?

But it’s not only the prominent guys who worry me.

What about Ronald Pfumbidzai, the Young Warriors skipper, who has just been eased into the Warriors, who has already suffered the agony of not playing international football as an Under-20, save for the regional Cosafa Youth Cup, and who could lose TWO big years of his transition into the senior national team?

He is not the only one.

What about Wisdom Mutasa, what about Walter Musona, what about Brett Amidu and all the teenage talents around the country who have been isolated from the African Youth Championships, and only been exposed to the regional competition that comes with Cosafa, losing a further two years, of what is supposed to be their graduation, into the senior national team?

In the event that we have to live through the catastrophe that awaits us, in the event of failure, could we continue calling ourselves a football nation when our Warriors are out of international football for TWO years, our Under-17s are out of international football until the start of the 2017 African Youth Cup and our Under-20s are out of international football until the beginning of the 2017 African Youth Championships?

If that happens can our national football leadership still claim legitimacy, as the bona-fide leaders of our national game, in the event that it has been pushed into isolation for TWO years at all levels — Under-17, Under-20 and Warriors?

A nation that begins to talk about the 2017 Nations Cup, and the possibility of qualifying for that showcase, when the real qualifiers for a place at the 2015 Nations Cup finals haven’t even started and a nation that starts to talk about the 2018 World Cup when a ball is yet to be kicked at the 2014 World Cup finals.

It is against this frightening background that I expected our zifa leaders to assume responsibility this week, after the events in Tanzania, and lead the way in how we were going to respond and I have to say that I was disappointed with the silence which gave the impression of either lack of leadership or the reluctance to lead or a combination of all this.

This was the week I expected the zifa leadership to have come out with a firm position on Gorowa’s appeal for a longer training camp, even if it meant them dictating to their affiliate the PSL, because there is nowhere in this world where just a weekend’s round of fixtures for the top-flight league can be deemed to be more important than a national cause in which we are battling to avoid TWO years of isolation from international football.

Of course, there is the issue of SuperSport, and the fact that it had already committed its personnel to cover the weekend’s fixtures, but that’s where a leadership uses the power of dialogue, the power of diplomacy, and when the nation’s interests are at stake, as is the case with the Warriors, you expect to get more from your leaders.

I expected our football leaders to address the controversy surrounding Willard Katsande, for them to talk to the coach and talk to the player and see if a solution couldn’t be worked out and the gritty midfielder, for all the mistakes he might have made last week, could be rehabilitated back into the fold, for the assignment against Tanzania, because everyone make mistakes.

They could have reprimanded Katsande for misleading Shariff Mussa that he was driving all the way from Johannesburg, when he knew that he wouldn’t be coming at all, and then let bygones be bygones, for the sake of a nation that possibly needs the steely midfielder’s services, and find a way of bringing him back for the forthcoming game.

I expected zifa to come out and say that the game against Tanzania would cost US$1 for the cheapest tickets to try and lure 60 000 fans into the stadium, which is the same as charging US$3 and 20 000 fans come, the aantage with the other model being that it brings the noise that we want to make the Taifa Stars feel they are in alien territory and, more importantly, make our men feel the nation is behind them.

But all we got from zifa were leaks of the politics that can’t go away and we had an association seemingly more worried about who resolved the impasse between Gorowa and Mashingaidze rather than celebrate the mere fact that someone, indeed, found a way to make them work together.

You can see the hawks now ganging up to fight Omega Sibanda because he came trying to preach peace, in an organisation where some people feel it’s taboo to offer an olive branch.

Of course, I would have wanted to go into detail about the drama at the National Sports Stadium on Wednesday, especially against the background of the massive feedback that the issue and our coverage of it has generated — both positive and negative — but you have to forgive me guys because, at this stage, it’s about the Warriors and everything else doesn’t matter.

Someone, though, thinks that professionalism is saying what they want to hear or what they believe is right, and in our domestic Premiership, you are professional if you attack Dynamos and say they staged a robbery at the giant stadium even though you are ill-equipped, save for your view from afar likely to have been compromised by distance, I’m not sure whether that’s what is called optical illusion, to back your point.

But that can wait for another day, all that matters now are the Warriors.

To God Be The Glory!

Come on Warriors !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Source : The Herald