Talking Football with Lawrence

On the 1st of January 2021,  days before the start of the AFCON finals,  I questioned the quality of players and the selection criteria used by national team coach Norman Mapeza to recruit players.

Based on the squad, I argued that the Warriors were bound to fail, risking a barrage of criticism by people who failed to separate emotions from reality.

After yesterday’s poor display by the team, I hope that we are now agreeable that the explanation for the Warriors’ recent dismal performance lies with one man – Coach Norman Mapeza.

Zimbabwe finds itself in this situation because of unwise decisions. In the first place Mapeza’s appointment made no sense at all from the beginning.

His appointment instilled confidence only to those who just love him naturally, and not those who see football through objective lenses.

Mapeza was appointed head coach of the national team on an interim basis in September, replacing sacked Croat Zdravko Logarusic, who was shown the exit door for incompetence.

His task was clear- impress in the remaining four World Cup qualifiers and take the team to the 33rd edition of the AFCON finals in Cameroon.

When he took over, Zimbabwe still had a mathematical chance to top Group G (which comprised of Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia) but he only amassed one point from four matches and finished bottom.

His flatterers were quick to claim that when he was appointed, his mission was to prepare the team for AFCON. What nonsense!

How could Mapeza prepare for AFCON using the World Cup qualifiers yet he was not guaranteed of taking the team to Cameroon in the first place?

When Ghana sacked Charles Akonnor and replaced him with Milovan Rajevac with only two games into the Road to Qatar, the Black Stars had three points, but went on to top the group.

When Mapeza came in, two games into the campaign, Zimbabwe were just two points behind Ghana, but went on to finish a massive 11 points adrift.

Clearly, there was no evidence that the Warriors were developing under Mapeza’s guidance. But those in charge of our football, believed otherwise.

Yesterday’s defeat to Malawi was the seventh game Mapeza has overseen in the national team dugout. He has won none.

In fact, his charges have scored just three goals in those seven matches.

Heading into yesterday’s clash, Zimbabwe had last lost a competitive game to Malawi in October 2006.

Heading into the 0-1 defeat to South Africa back in November, Zimbabwe had last lost a competitive match to Bafana Bafana, in May 2001.

Put simply, Mapeza has broken both records, within a period of two months but that is something you will never read in the newspapers.

The striker he chose to lead the Warriors, Olympique Lyon’s Tino Kadewere, has scored only three goals for Zimbabwe since his debut in 2015. That is also something you will never read in the newspapers.

I’m just curious to hear the excuses Mapeza’s sycophants will have to offer, now that reality is there for all to see.

Despite his illustrious career in football and enviable curriculum vitae, Mapeza is nothing more than a Chibuku Super Cup coach, not the supposed tactician who can scale the national team to competitive international football.

What justification would one possibly give to sanitize the failure of a coach who had the privilege to choose players from a running Castle Lager Premier Soccer League, yet failed to deliver?

The problem is not that we are disappointed because the team has failed when it was pampered with resources, it is that we expected extraordinary performances from an average, and overrated coach.