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Where is our coach?

IN June, the Warriors of Zimbabwe will start their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations journey with a game against the Lone Star of Liberia at the National Sports Stadium.

insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI

African football history has it that teams which win convincingly at home usually qualify for major tournaments and Zimbabwe must win that opening game with a glut of goals to set themselves on course for qualification for the finals to be held in Cameroon.

From the outset, this game is a clear cut victory for the Warriors, but the warning is that football has evolved and there are no small teams in African football anymore.

This was evidenced by Guinea Bissau’s qualification for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon as well as Namibia’s appearance at the 2008 edition in Burkina Faso.

Of interest was the fact that when the likes of Guinea Bissau were making the trip to Gabon, powerhouses like Nigeria and South Africa were at home after failing to make the 16-team continental football festival.

In that respect, the Warriors should be fully-prepared for whatever opposition they are going to face in the run up to the Nations Cup finals in Cameroon if they are to avoid falling by the wayside in the manner in which the Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana did.

Underestimating the Lone Star could be disastrous and preparations should begin now and that must start with the appointment of the national team coach.

As a build up to the marathon 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Cup qualifiers, Ghana’s Black Stars have moved swiftly and have reappointed Kwesi Appiah to replace the departed Avram Grant — a former Chelsea boss, who resigned following the team’s disastrous show at the 2017 gathering.

Not to be left behind were the Desert Foxes of Algeria, who have gone for former Granada coach Lucas Alcaraz, a retired Spanish footballer, as a replacement for Belgian Georges Leekens who also left his post in the wake of the unfavourable results in Gabon.

The South African Football Association are making desperate attempts to reach a settlement with ousted former coach Shakes Mashaba in order for them to appoint a coach to take charge of their next game against the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

Apart from South Africa, most, if not all, the other African football teams that form the Confederation of African Football now have national coaches in place and are preparing for the start of the 2019 Africa Cup qualifiers.

Sadly, though, with only a month left before the Warriors welcome Liberia, they still do not have a coach and worse still, there is not the slightest of hint, as to when the coach will be appointed, or from where.

Even the current caretaker coach Norman Mapeza is in the dark as to whether he will be allowed to continue after taking charge of the Warriors in their goalless draw against the Chipolopolo of Zambia in an international friendly.

Although Mapeza might not want to talk about it, there has not been any communication from the football controlling body since the day he left the National Sports Stadium after the Zambian game.

This is saddening considering the fact that most of the African teams, including Liberia, have already started their preparations for the qualifiers in which only the top team from the four teams that make up each group, qualify automatically for the finals.

Those at the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) should be reminded that their performance in office can only be judged by the performance of the Warriors on the international stage, and their actions at the moment do not guarantee success.

Zifa do not have to wait to be reminded of such important issues as the appointment of the national coach because that should be one of the first things on their work load.

Most of the leagues in Europe and South Africa, where most of the Warriors are based, are winding up their seasons in May and the coach needs to have a look at the players while they are still in action in order to decide whether or not he needs them in his set up.

In that short space of time, the new coach also needs one or two international friendly matches to fine-tune his team ahead of the June game.

It would be unfair to blame the coach when disaster strikes when those at the head of Zimbabwean football are not giving the coach the right platform to succeed.

The truth is that time is running out and Zifa should act swiftly and give Zimbabweans their national team coach.

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