Mapeza-Zemura fiasco: Whose version makes more sense?

As Norman Mapeza was celebrating his birthday this week with family and friends, as well as players and staff at FC Platinum, the former Warriors captain ought to have been shocked that he was trending for something else other than his 52nd year of existence.

Mapeza dominated discussions among football fans on social media, after lifestyle tabloid H-Metro carried a story in which Italy-based Warriors star Jordan Zemura, accused the veteran coach of forcing players to do “military training routines”.

Zemura, according to a source qouted by the publication, was referring to the manner in which Mapeza handled the country’s senior men’s national team, at the recently held four-nations tournament in Malawi.

It was even claimed that JZ, as Zemura is fondly reffered to, said he will take a sabbatical from the Warriors, if Mapeza continues to be in charge of the national team.

Mapeza, as outspoken as the former Galatasaray midfielder is, was never going to cast a deaf ear to Zemura’s alleged remarks, and responded 24 hours later.

Is Zemura the first Warriors star to complain about Mapeza’s style of management though?

Speculation is rife that former Wigan captain Tendayi Darikwa, who has not answered any Warriors call-up since October 2021, was not happy with something related to Mapeza’s management style, during the World Cup qualifier against Ghana.

Khama Billiat might not have lifted the lid on his actual reasons to quit the Warriors in November 2021, but some reports indicated that the pint-sized winger’s retirement was necessitated by something related to Mapeza’s management style.

Former Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare however, vehemently dismissed both theories.

“I’m obviously aware of claims that Darikwa’s continued absence from the national team, as well as Khama’s retirement, had something to do with Norman (Mapeza) but let me say this once and for all, it’s false,” Mpandare told Soccer24.

“You remember when Darikwa last played for the national team against Ghana? He came but his wife wasn’t feeling well. After the game, he asked to see both Norman and I and showed us messages from England related to his wife’s health.

“He asked to be excused for the return leg in Harare three days later and naturally, Norman and I gave him the green light, as well as our blessing to  leave camp attend to the problem.

“For your own information, Darikwa made a mistake leading to Ghana’s second goal, but it was Mapeza who actually kept motivating him after the game, saying to him that even the biggest players have made mistakes.

“Norman even gave the Roberto Bargio 1994 World Cup final penalty miss example and Darikwa was happy. There was never a problem whatsoever between the coach and the player,” said Mpandare.

The former Gunners official insists Billiat’s surprise retirement from international football, also had nothing to do with Mapeza, contrary to popular belief.

“To begin with, Khama is not a problem child who can have issues with coaches. What happend was that he was getting a lot of pressure from Kaizer Chiefs, who felt he wasn’t delivering much for them despite getting a lot of money,” explained Mpandare.

“So he (Billiat) decided it was now time to focus on club assignments only, that’s why he retired from the national team,” said Mpandare.

On the Zemura issue, Mpandare is of view that the former Bournemouth star should have used a different chanel to communicate his problem, that is if he has any.

“I still highly doubt that Jordan said what is being claimed but if he did, I feel he should have approached either the coach, team manager (Clemence Matawu) or anyone from the ZIFA Normalisation Committee,” reckons Mpandare.

“I also struggle to believe that Jordan can criticize Norman in that manner and publicly for that matter, because he is the very same person who once told Mapeza during the 2021 AFCON finals in Cameroon that “coach, your drills are amazing and you can coach anywhere in the world.

“So if he could compliment Norman like that just three years ago, what has changed about the coach’s style? Is it a case of Jordan’s current coach at Udinese being so different that Jordan now feels he was wrong about Norman previously?”

Mpandare defended Mapeza, saying there are agendas against the former Warriors captain because he is “not approachable.”

“Look, Norman stands by his principles, and is not easily approachable for deals in the national team, that’s why people don’t like him. There are people who are hellbent on capturing the national team in terms of the selection of players,” said Mpandare.

“So those people are setting agendas so that they push Norman away from the national team. They simply want a coach they can control and we all know Norman cannot be controlled like that,” added Mpandare.

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