Home » Sports » Let’s Play It Safe for Young Warriors

It is saddening that after 35 years, Zimbabwe’s Warriors were for the first time not in the hat for the football World Cup draw after failing to settle a paltry $81 000 debt owed to Brazilian coach Valinhos.

After months of speculation, world football body, Fifa, announced last Tuesday that the Warriors would not be part of the global football festival, adding another chapter to the already saddening Zimbabwean football history.

The blow that was caused by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa)’s well documented ineptitude and slowness in dealing with important issues has hit hard not only the Warriors, but also the fans who will not be afforded the opportunity to watch top African football stars in the qualifiers.

Also hard-hit are the players themselves who have been deprived of the chance to play top class football and exposing themselves to top club scouts that offer opportunities for better paying jobs in Europe, as opposed to South Africa which has become the usual destination.

The blow was the second in less than a week after the women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors, were also put in the line of fire after they failed to travel to the Ivory Coast to fulfill a 2016 Olympic Games qualifier.

It surely was a painful week for the football family as matters in both cases should not have been allowed to deteriorate to such levels.

The tragic events still seem far from over. There is a danger the Under-23 side may also be on their way to being disappointed. The Young Warriors should this week be on their way to South Africa for the second leg of the final qualifying round of the 2015 Africa Youth Championships.

But with Zifa’s failures telling more strongly now than ever before, the Young Warriors may also fail to travel as happened with the Mighty Warriors who were kept waiting until the last minute, only to be told the journey was off.

Right now, there is no guarantee that Zifa have or will have the money to pay for the Young Warriors’ air fares. So, to avoid another international embarrassment, it is better that we play it safe and make the Young Warriors leave early, even if it’s by road.

The game against the impressive South Africans needs Kalisto Pasuwa and his team in their right frame of mind. Already, there is the psychological disadvantage of the goal that South Africa scored at Rufaro. Arriving on match day or a day before will not help matters.

The suggestion would be for them to leave either on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning so that they arrive in South Africa on or just after the day the hosts are forced by the international football controlling bodies to take care of visitors in such competitions.

But the big question is : Can we rely on Zifa to organise that road trip when they cannot make proper arrangements to have a bus pick up the national team from their hotel for training?

The last time the Warriors travelled was to the Comoros when the Sports and Recreation Commission chartered a plane, albeit at the very last minute. Yes, the SRC are having their share of financial troubles, but I don’t think they are broke to the extent of failing to afford a bus for the Young Warriors to travel to South Africa.

We cannot wait for Zifa. The SRC should act right now. If they can afford the airfares, then that will be a bonus for the young boys. If they cannot, then the latest the Young Warriors should leave is Wednesday morning so they arrive in time for a relaxed stay in South Africa.

Pasuwa’s senior and junior teams have grinded good results in Cameroon, in the Comoros, and in Swaziland after arriving shortly before the game, but we cannot continue living dangerously. The coach himself has said it.

The Africa Championships are very important as they will also serve as the qualifiers for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro.

For the record, the Olympic Games are the world’s biggest sporting festival and their football section show the rise of some of the international football stars we know of today; the likes of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Nwankwo Kanu.

Having lost the 2018 World Cup without kicking a ball and with our women’s team losing the chance to play in the Olympic Games and our clubs out of Pan African football, we cannot risk the Young Warriors being thrown out of international football by failing to travel to South Africa, of all places.

Let us play it safe and let the Young Warriors leave early.

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February 2018
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