Home » Sports » Yanga – a Big Dent On Mapeza’s CV

I have always held Norman Mapeza in high esteem as a player, coach and person. His life is a perfect inspiration to any young footballer who aspires to dream for bigger things in football.

Despite not being recognised much in junior and schools football, Mapeza grew in stature at Darryn Textiles FC to become one of their main men and a permanent feature in their matches.

Through hard work and sheer determination, he became the second Zimbabwean to feature in the glamorous UEFA Champions League with Turkey’s Galatasaray in the 1990s in a glittering career that took him to Poland, Turkey, Austria and South Africa.

He justified football as a worthwhile career by becoming the first footballer to own a house in the leafy suburb of Glen Lorne neighbouring the other sports greats like Byron Black. His ‘clean’ life set him apart as a perfect football role model. A footballer, who doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t smoke and always keeps his private life private, that’s usually unheard of.

A perfect Warrior with 92 caps for his beloved country some of which he was the captain, Mapeza stands tall among Zimbabwe’s football greats.

After years in Europe he came back to join CAPS United as a playerassistant coach 2003-4 and moved to Ajax Cape Town (SA) in a similar role in 2005-6. That was the beginning of his coaching role again exemplifying a smooth and successful transition from being a player to becoming a coach.

In 2008, Mapeza won the domestic Premier Soccer League championship with the now defunct Monomotapa. That was after an indifferent start to the season where they lost four consecutive games casting serious doubts about Mapeza’s pedigree.

Fortunately, the Solo Mugavazi led executive had faith in the young lad and it paid off. Maybe, it was because he had saved them from the chop in the 2007 season when he was romped in with about seven games to go with the team in the relegation zone.

That feat in Mapeza’s first head coaching role put him on the limelight and ZIFA and the nation noticed. This was one young coach who oozed serious passion for the game such that he seemed as if he had no time for anything else. All his life was football and he had a certain way he wanted it done — his way, and nothing else.

I had the chance to play with and against him in the social football circles and you can’t afford to miss the demands he puts on his colleagues to play in a certain way and win all the time. He hates losing and that makes him come out as a bully and know-it-all type of person to some at times. He is just a natural born winner and his life is a testimony of that.

After leaving Monomotapa in a surprising and unexplained move, Mapeza found himself knocking on the doors of the national teams. First, he had a stint with the Young Warriors.

Then he took charge of the Warriors for the 2013 AFCON qualifiers where he had a promising start until ZIFA bungled and brought in Madinda Ndlovu as a co-coach and the wheels came off.

He was eventually suspended in February 2012 for his alleged participation in the Asiagate match fixing scandal and then given a six-month ban from football activities after ZIFA ‘investigations’.

And then he disappeared from mainstream football even after the expiry of the six months only to come back after the mid-season break last year taking over from Lloyd Mutasa at FC Platinum. He then led them to a ‘respectable’ fourth place league finish and won two trophies along the way.

With that huge expectations were heaped on him to end Dynamos dominance this season. Most people have their money on FC Platinum dominating this season mainly because of the deemed high coaching capabilities of Mapeza. And to his credit, he has managed to assemble a decent squad comprising of a good combination of youth and experience.

The participation of FC Platinum in the African safari meant that we were going to assess their pedigree against the best in Africa albeit in a less superior league, the CAF Confederation Cup. As expected they dismissed Sofapaka of Kenya in the preliminary round with a 4 – 2 aggregate win coming victorious in two legs by the same 2 – 1 margin.

That meant they progressed to the first round where they were to meet Young Africans of Kenya and we all thought this was a relatively easy opposition considering they were not paired against the much dreaded North and West African teams.

Little did we know that this was the game that was going to expose the otherwise magnificent Mapeza? Even the alleged participation in the Asiagate scandal didn’t put a dent on Mapeza’s CV more than the 5 – 1 massacre FC Platinum suffered at the hands of Yanga on Saturday last weekend.

With the Asiagate scandal, Mapeza managed to file a $400 000.00 lawsuit against ZIFA for wrongful suspension and dismissal, and was awarded $243 000.00 in damages by arbitrator, Caleb Mucheche.

Besides, he had already been cleared by the ZIFA-commissioned investigation team back then in 2012.

Unfortunately, with the Yanga disaster there is no one to sue. It is not that Mapeza is the first to have lost by such a wide margin. No. But this is Norman Mapeza we are talking about. And Yanga is not from West Africa or North Africa. This is Mapeza who many are expecting to put up a serious challenge on Dynamos dominance in our domestic game. A man who is expected to have a big shout in many cup tournaments this season.

And it’s not that losing by such a margin is new in African football but it is the manner in which it happened to FC Platinum and Mapeza with all the tactical astuteness expected of him.

FC Platinum went down 2 nil early in the first half something that you wouldn’t falter any team that is playing away against a team that they know little about and one looking for an early goal to destabilise their opponents. But they pulled one back and went to half time trailing 2 – 1, a very respectable score line.

The half time was then supposed to be time for Mapeza to show his tactical prowess now that he had an idea how Young Africans play. Instead, his deficiency was rudely exposed. The logical thing would have been to do a Mourinho and ‘park the bus’ and avoid further damage. Yes, it is detrimental to progressive football but in the scorching East African sun no-one would blame you if you do that.

The left side had already been exposed and the Moyo twins were targeted. Some protection of some sort was needed but obviously Mapeza didn’t do that hence four goals came from that channel.

This is a game that badly exposed our beloved Mapeza and one hopes that it was just a bleep that doesn’t happen more often.

Now that he has conceded defeat I sincerely hope that he picks the lessons learnt and move on. For that is the only way out.

Still I think FC Platinum should give it their best shot when they play Yanga in Mandava because ‘miracles do happen’. More so, they have absolutely nothing to lose.

Source : The Herald

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