Returning Zimbabwe senior team coach Sunday Chidzambwa has promised to turn back the hands of time by leading the Warriors to another success story in the qualifiers of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon. The veteran coach was confirmed to the hot seat this week to succeed Callisto Pasuwa on a substantive basis. The Warriors had gone for 10 months without a substantive coach.
But that changed when Chidzambwa signed a one-year performance-based contract with the mandate to take the team to the next Nations Cup finals to be hosted by Cameroon. Zimbabwe are in Group G which also includes Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville. Two teams from each group will qualify for the expanded version of the Nations Cup which will now have 24 countries instead of the 16 that had traditionally competed at the continental soccer show-piece.
Chidzambwa, who was the first coach to take Zimbabwe to the continental football jamboree in 2004, believes he has been thrust in familiar territory having also worked with the team on various stints in the last 15 years in which he also won the COSAFA Cup a record three times. "Basically, I am grateful to the association and the football fraternity in Zimbabwe for showing confidence in me to lead this team going forward.
"I want to do my best to make sure that we qualify for the next AFCON finals. Of course our group is not a walkover, it's tough. But football is all about eleven versus eleven and the team that scores more and concedes less than the other wins.
"What I'm simply saying is, football is played on the pitch and not through talking. We expect tough opposition along the way but we have to fight tooth and nail to get to the Promised Land. It's possible, we need to continue working hard," said Chidzambwa.
The 65-year-old, who led the Warriors to mixed fortunes at the COSAFA Castle Cup and in the CHAN qualifiers this year as interim coach, has been given the leeway to hunt for his own assistants under his new contract. As he begins his work immediately, Chidzambwa has also promised to make an announcement on the composition of his technical team in the not so distant future.
"I am going to name my assistants soon. I am still having some consultations with all the relevant people and after that process is over then everything will be made public," said Chidzambwa. Zimbabwe are currently top of Group G in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers after thrashing Liberia 3-0 at the National Sports Stadium in the opening match of the campaign earlier this year.
The Warriors who claimed their victory via a hat-trick by skipper Knowledge Musona were then under the interim guidance of Norman Mapeza. Chidzambwa believes the flying start by the Warriors at home has given them a good head start ahead of their next assignment against Congo Brazzaville away next September. The veteran coach will have to keep monitoring his players at home and abroad and possibly lobby for more international friendlies to keep his side oiled.
Chidzambwa also applauded the job that was done by Mapeza in laying the foundation for the qualifying campaign and will look to build on the positive footing when the matches resume next year. I think we started off well and got a good result at home with that win over Liberia. I think we have to compliment the coach who was in charge for a job well done. We have to take it up from there and continue with the journey. As I see it, all the teams in that group are competitive. I think two of them are even ranked above us on the FIFA rankings, which only shows the amount of work we need to put in," Chidzambwa said.
Chidzambwa also commended efforts by ZIFA to reach out to overseas players especially those born in England or who migrated with their parents at an early age but are willing to come back home. ZIFA recently managed to convince the quartet of Tendai Darikwa, Macaulay Bonne, Kundai Benyu and Leicester City's Admiral Muskwe to come for two international friendly matches against Lesotho and Namibia with the hope of integrating them into the Warriors fold in the future.
"It's a very good thing for the nation to be able to access your best talents dotted around the globe. I think we must accommodate all those good players out there who have shown interest in playing for their national team. At the end of the day we need to have our best national team possible," said Chidzambwa.