ZIMBABWE’S Warriors may have to wait a little bit longer before thinking of returning to international football and will be conspicuous by their absence during the upcoming FIFA international break.
The next two weeks, from September 4 – 12, will see almost the entire globe involved in international football, with African teams also concluding the 2024 AFCON qualification marathon.
ZIFA had targeted friendlies with neighbours Mozambique and Zambia to announce the return of the Warriors to international football following the lifting of the FIFA suspension two months ago.
But the proposal may not be possible during the September break as the ZIFA Normalisation Committee is currently seized with setting up structures and also sifting through piles of applications in search of the national team coaches.
“We are still working on it,” said the Normalisation Committee chairman, Lincoln Mutasa yesterday.
“But we obviously have to start with installing the national team coach. Once we have restructured ZIFA and have our national team coaches in place, then everything else will fall into line.
“There is a committee that is looking into the recruitment of the Warriors coach. They are looking at the applications; this committee will then make recommendations to the Normalisation Committee which will be followed up.”
The successful candidate could be named in the coming days, following meetings between the Normalisation Committee and the technical committee that has been conducting the interviews.
ZIFA advertised for the national team jobs last month as they seek to recruit the technical personnel from the age-group teams to the senior men’s and women’s teams.
Before the FIFA suspension, Croatian Zdravko Logarusic was the last substantive Warriors coach before being replaced by Norman Mapeza in interim capacity less than two years ago.
The Warriors last played competitive football in January 2022 at the AFCON finals in Cameroon. The Warriors, who are expected to take part in the 2024 CHAN qualifiers next month and the 2026 World Cup qualifiers beginning in November, need to regroup and move on after morale had hit rock bottom during the 17-month suspension.
Last week ZIFA revealed they would want to give the team a good head start by organising sparring matches before embarking in the CHAN and AFCON combat.
The CHAN qualifiers are scheduled to start on September 22 to 24 with the second leg set for October 6 to 8. The draw for the CHAN is yet to be done.
Mutasa said an announcement, on the proposed friendly matches against the neighbouring countries, will be made once they finalise the Warriors technical setup.
“The coach will make a decision on which players to use. But with that decision with the CHAN tournament around the corner, we might use the local coaches and then use the October window to field the foreign players.
“But what is occupying our minds is to look for the coaches,” said Mutasa.
Mozambique and Zambia, who were ironically among the first teams to play the Warriors in independent Zimbabwe in the Uhuru celebrations in 1980, would make great opponents.
Zambia have since qualified for the 2024 edition of the AFCON tournament to be held in Ivory Coast and their upcoming match against Comoros on September 9 has been rendered academic.
They are under the tutelage of former Chelsea coach Avram Grant, who has since named a 27-member provisional squad for the Group H AFCON qualifying dead rubber in Comoros.
The Football Association of Zambia has also hinted Chipolopolo could play unnamed opponents as part of their preparations for the World Cup qualifiers.
Mozambique are currently focused on the decisive home encounter against Benin at the Zimpeto National Stadium on September 9. They just need to avoid defeat to seal their place at next year’s AFCON finals in Ivory Coast.