HARARE – Last week, world football ruling body Fifa declined to answer a pertinent question posed by a Zimbabwean football website, which had written to enquire if the temporary leadership governing the country’s national association will have its term extended after it expires in June.

It appeared to me like a straightforward question to respond to, so the non-committal tone of Fifa gives away strong hint: that the so-called normalisation committee (NC) of Zifa is likely to stay in office longer than its initially specified one-year tenure.

There are quite a few indicators towards a new mandate for the NC’s head, Lincoln Mutasa, and his lieutenants.

The one that sticks out is the snail pace on the roadmap to the election of a new substantive executive of Zifa.

Constitutional amendments, and the overhauling of domestic structures across the country, will determine whether Zimbabwe is ready to usher in new elected football leaders to replace the old Zifa board sacked over two years ago.

Some three months away from this target, there has been little movement on that front, leaving Mutasa & Co likely to get the nod again from Zurich.

If this scenario unfolds, it will of course come as a lifeline for the members of the NC and their close associates, because of the financial comfort that has been guaranteed by Fifa’s deep pockets over the past nine months they’ve been in control.

But as much as it will boost bank accounts, an extension could turn out to be a poisoned chalice because of the ill-informed decisions the NC has made since it was first thrust into office by Fifa in July last year.

The NC has flatly rejected rational decision-making during their current tenure, arguing rather thoughtlessly that as an interim committee they shouldn’t be making binding decisions as these will have bearing on their eventual successors.

The biggest mistake of the NC, so far, is the stubborn refusal to listen to sound advice after Baltemar Brito made a huge impression as Zimbabwe’s caretaker coach during last November’s World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and Rwanda.

For a knowledgeable coach who has been an assistant to no less a brilliant gaffer than José Mourinho at top European clubs, the refreshing early signs were evident in those two drawn matches four months ago that the Brazil-born Brito had established good chemistry with all the players that Zimbabwe is attempting to build a firm foundation on – both European-groomed and locally-based.

Zimbabwe’s FA surprisingly decided against continuing with Baltemar Brito as the country’s coach.

There was little disagreement in Zimbabwe that Brito would, sooner than later, unlock the winning formula for this country if given time to continue with his exciting Warriors project.

Alas, Brito and his assistants from Europe were told in no certain terms that their services were no longer required. Senselessly not for the reason that they had failed their test, but because Zimbabwean club giants Highlanders – the full-time employer of Brito and his assistants – had chosen not to renew their contracts at the end of last year.

With two important June World Cup qualifiers requiring methodical preparation under the guidance of a capable coach – and given Brito’s obvious ability – reasons by the NC why the ex-Porto and Chelsea trainer couldn’t be retained as national coach varied clumsily with each interrogation by reporters.

But it was clear that the NC didn’t see what everybody else had seen in Brito because it is a committee stuck in the old ways of doing things, trapped in a past when it was okay to gather a national team squad on ad hoc basis every time, with different set of coaches.

We now can all see, that the NC didn’t believe in the logic of having a substantive coach in place, four months before resumption of competitive action. Surely a national federation worth its salt cannot fail to see the value of such global practice – not in this professional era when international football coaches do so much more than selecting players or issue instructions on match-day. Evidently, modern-day football is alien to this NC.

And now, the NC has created deeper problems for itself in trying to correct its own mistakes.

Making Norman Mapeza the Warriors’ caretaker coach, for yet another spell in the coaching career of the former Zimbabwe captain, was a gamble that backfired badly at the recently-concluded four-nation tournament in Malawi.

I wouldn’t put is past the NC that they had hoped for Mapeza to produce something special in Malawi so they could present him to the nation for June’s World Cup qualifiers.

Re-appointing Mapeza for June’s crucial battles, had things gone according to plan in Lilongwe, would kind of make up for the Brito gaffe on the part of the NC.

The Malawi trip has instead achieved the opposite effect and frankly speaking – the NC knows – Mapeza can’t be the man in the Warriors dug-out come June.

The latest attempt to package Mapeza as a national team coach has ended in shame, again, and the red-card he was shown in the 3-1 defeat to Kenya in the final on Tuesday just sums it all up.

Due to Mapeza’s ineptness in approach on Tuesday, perhaps desperation to prove his legion of doubters wrong, Zimbabwe lost while trying to win a friendly contest they ought to have played with freedom and adventurousness in pursuit of the right combinations ahead of more important games to come.

Mapeza’s biggest downfall on this tour was putting his personal interests ahead of those of the players and the nation. Some diaspora players – credit to the NC for convincing such an encouraging number to answer the motherland’s call – were not fielded at all in the two matches in Malawi as Mapeza went more for the results than the quest to shape a great Warriors team for the future.

But this is all the NC’s series of bungling actions coming back to bite them. The uncomfortable but right question to ask the NC now is: who will be the next coach of the Warriors come June? Norman Mapeza again? Yet another caretaker coach, a third one in seven months?

It’s a really problematic question. But the problems are all of the NC’s making, to be honest.


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