Zimbabwe: A Job for Home-Based Coaches?

21 August 2019

One of them sparked interest by revealing his ambitions in his latest autobiography, the other did it by visiting his homeland for the first time in more than a decade.

But, when D-Day came, it was the same old story synonymous with the Warriors in the past 10 years.

Bruce Grobbelaar declared his ambitions of another romantic fling with the Warriors in his latest book, "Life in The Jungle," released towards the end of last year.

Charles Mhlauri's homecoming show in March provoked interest he was set for another dance with the team.

Sources revealed Mhlauri was contacted by the ZIFA technical committee, and he even consulted with his confidante back home about getting the job he last held when he guided the Warriors at the 2006 AFCON finals in Egypt.

However, those who make the final decision eventually settled on Chicken Inn gaffer Joey Antipas, preferring an interim coaching set-up for the Warriors, who mark their return to the World Cup qualifiers and start their 2021 AFCON qualifiers in the next few months.

Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya and his Harare City counterpart Lloyd Chitembwe will be Antipas' assistants.

Some analysts have already questioned how the new technical set-up can be considered to be better than the one which had Sunday Chidzambwa, as the head coach, and Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa as the assistants.

Others have also been questioning what happened to all the other coaches who were being linked with the Warriors and if their names were just part of a circus that would never come to town?

However, a look at how the Warriors' story, when it comes to the recruitment of new coaches, has panned out over the last decade, shows a similar trend - the announcements of high-profile names, to boost expectations, before the leaders settle on a domestic choice.

The late Steve Keshi of Nigeria, Englishman Mark Harrison, Belgians Ronny van Geneugden and Jean-Francois Losciuto, Portuguese gaffer Vaz Pinto and Cedomir Janeviski of Macedonia have been linked with the Warriors job in the past decade but, ultimately, nothing materialised.

"Zimbabwe speaks English and they impressed me in their pre-World Cup friendly with Brazil. They have the basics and, with my experience in Africa, surely it will be an opportunity," Keshi said back then.

And the Nigerian agent, David Meshioye, even confirmed they had sent an official application for the job.

"We are interested in the Zimbabwe job and Keshi is available right now," said Meshioye.

"We have been trying to get in touch with the football leaders in Zimbabwe over this issue to see if we can get a deal done. We have sent in an application for the job."

A few years ago, ZIFA even announced they had received more than 600 applicants from around the world, including six from Belgium, three from Czech Republic, five from Slovakia and others from South Africa for the Warriors job but ended up settling on Chidzambwa.

And, after Chidzambwa quit at the end of the 2019 AFCON finals, there was a lot of focus on either Grobbelaar or Mhlauri with the Jungleman's connection being confirmed by what he said in his autobiography.

"Looking back, thinking about the dreams I was carrying as a kid, I am happy with what I have conquered in life. I wanted to play for Liverpool and made that dream come true. I wanted to play for my country, I have played for the Dream Team," he wrote.

"I wanted to manage my country; I've managed my country five times. But I still dream of taking Zimbabwe to a World Cup before I get too old - I would love a last dance with the Dream Team."

But, those dreams have to be put on hold, for a while, as ZIFA have settled on Antipas.

Interestingly, it was the same scenario four years ago when the ZIFA leadership, after sacking the entire technical team led by Callisto Pasuwa, chose Antipas to take over as Warriors coach with Ndiraya, then as now, being one of his assistants.

"At an extraordinary meeting of the ZIFA national executive committee on December 17, 2015, in Harare, it was resolved that the entire technical team for the men's national team headed by Callisto Pasuwa be relieved of its duties," ZIFA said in a statement. "National team camp is hereby dissolved with immediate effect and new camp dates will be announced in due course."

Antipas was named as head coach, Ndiraya the first assistant while former Bosso's Mandla "Lulu" Mpofu was the other assistant in the new set-up. However, the changes were reversed and Pasuwa retained his post, took the Warriors to the 2017 AFCON finals and then left the post after the tournament.

And, in March 2017, it again emerged ZIFA were lining up Antipas to replace Pasuwa with Ndiraya again as his assistant.

"I know nothing, I have heard nothing and I say nothing," Antipas, who was coaching in South Africa back then, said. "Who is linking me the Warriors job? It's news to me.

"(But) Zimbabwe is my home and if offered, it would depend on some issues." And, two years later, four years after his name started being linked with the Warriors, Antipas has now been unveiled as the head coach with Ndiraya coming in as one of his assistants. For the umpteenth time, all the stories about Grobbelaar, Mhlauri and 600 other coaches from around the world, have just turned into mere speculation.

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