D-Day looms for Sun­day, so it’s from hero to zero

African Independent - - SPORT - MONTHATI MOTAUNG

A WEEK is a long time in pol­i­tics and two weeks in foot­ball can trans­form some­one from a na­tional hero to a zero.

Take Zim­babwe coach and for­mer na­tional team cap­tain and cen­tre-back Sun­day Chidzambwa (for­merly Ma­rimo) for ex­am­ple.

On July 9, the south­ern African nation won the re­gional Cosafa Cup a record fifth time by sur­pris­ing favoured Zam­bia 3-1 in the fi­nal in the South African plat­inum min­ing belt.

Chidzambwa, as quiet and hum­ble a per­son as there is in African foot­ball, was feted by his coun­try­men and branded a hero.

In­stead of be­ing side­lined in favour of an­other for­mer Zim­babwe star, Rah­man Gumbo, for the African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship (Chan) campaign, the Cosafa Cup-win­ning coach was re­tained.

Cosafa and Zim­babwe foot­ball boss Philip Chiyangwa ditched, at least tem­po­rar­ily, the mu­si­cal-chairs ap­proach to coach­ing the na­tional teams.

Since coach Kal­isto Pa­suwa quit af­ter a firstround exit from the 2017 Africa Cup of Na­tions in Gabon, Zim­babwe di­vided the job in three.

Nor­man Mapeza, yet an­other ex-na­tional team star, was put in charge of the 2019 Cup of Na­tions squad, Gumbo got the Chan post and Chidzambwa the Cosafa job.

But af­ter a 1-0 de­feat in Namibia last week­end - the first Chan qual­i­fy­ing loss suf­fered by Zim­babwe since their 2008 de­but Chidzambwa is in dan­ger of a down­grade from “hero” to “zero”.

It was bad enough los­ing to an early sec­ond-half goal from Hen­drik So­maeb at Sam Nu­joma Sta­dium in Wind­hoek, but Zim­babwe failed to score with a Tal­ent Chawapiwa “goal” dis­al­lowed.

Namibia can, pro­vided they score at least once, af­ford to lose by a one-goal mar­gin at the Na­tional Sports Sta­dium in Harare and still qual­ify on the away-goal rule.

So Zim­babwe and Chidzambwa face a rockand-a-hard-place chal­lenge of need­ing to score at least once while know­ing that con­ced­ing just one could be fa­tal.

It was a praise­wor­thy win by the “Brave War­riors” as feud­ing among foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion and league of­fi­cials in Namibia has meant vir­tu­ally no top-flight do­mes­tic foot­ball for more than a year.

Zim­babwe apart, the form book proved re­li­able in the Chan south zone as the bi­en­nial com­pe­ti­tion for foot­ballers play­ing in their coun­try of birth got un­der­way in earnest.

Zam­bia thrashed off-form Swazi­land 4-0 in Lobamba with Cosafa ab­sen­tee Cla­tous Chama bag­ging a brace, mak­ing the Lusaka re­turn match the “dead rub­ber” of all dead rub­bers.

An­gola won in Mau­ri­tius, makeshift South Africa tri­umphed in Botswana and Mozam­bique drew in Mada­gas­car, mak­ing the now home-based trio favourites to go through.

There is still all to play for in Maseru, though, where the tra­di­tion­ally hard-topen­e­trate Co­moros de­fend a 2-0 ad­van­tage over of­ten goal-shy Lesotho.

Ethiopia are Cen­tre-East zone “bankers” hav­ing left peren­nial whip­ping boys Dji­bouti with a 5-1 lead, and Rwanda and Uganda also seem likely qual­i­fiers hav­ing drawn away.

Bu­rundi host Su­dan in a first leg de­layed be­cause the vis­it­ing nation had just been un­banned by Fifa and did not have suf­fi­cient time to pre­pare and travel.

In the west, it is hard to imag­ine Benin, Guinea, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Sene­gal not emerg­ing ag­gre­gate win­ners and reach­ing the fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing round next month.

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