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PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 19: Norman Mapeza (Head Coach) of Chippa United during the Chippa United media open day at Nelson Mandela Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

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What Mapeza said, and also didn’t, or couldn’t say

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IT perhaps needed somebody like Norman Mapeza (pictured) for Zimbabwe to take stock as a footballing nation and reform, once and for all, the way we play the game across the nation. 

ENOCK MUCHINJO

The well-respected former Zimbabwe captain this week offered his typically blunt opinion, this time on the standards of the domestic game in this country, which he labelled below par.

The source of this most frank and unflattering assessment of Zimbabwean football, Norman Mapeza, is enough for us to take a hard look at ourselves and then, out of it, an overhaul of the system from grassroots right through to the top-flight league, the PSL.

Mapeza clearly is not trying to make excuses for any pending failure with his team, FC Platinum. In fact, the Zvishavane miners could so easily clinch a fourth straight title this term if they manage to outfox at least three chasing clubs, something Mapeza’s side has become accustomed to after shaking off its nearly-men tag few seasons ago.

So what can drive a man in such a very good space, a proven coach on the domestic front, to vent frustration over how opponents play their game? Why should he care, honestly, given that good results for his team is all he needs to stay in his job in a sport where coaches are sitting ducks of axe-wielding club bosses?

Well, the easiest explanation is that Mapeza is a professional guy, a proud man who cares so much for the integrity of the game in his homeland. Add that he does also care how Zimbabwean football is perceived or seen by outside lens, and that he feels for the long-suffering fans who have to endure what he described as “route-one football” – devoid of any kind of structure, pattern or any deliberate intent to entertain spectators.

But you could also get deeper with the analysis and argue that Mapeza’s frustration also has something to do with his own team, FC Platinum.

Not that the former Galatasaray defender is not happy with Platinum’s approach to the game, neither did he single out any teams as the culprits of the dull football that he condemned this week.

In fact, Mapeza praised his team, Platinum, for its attacking brand of football, a philosophy that has its roots deep at Mandava Stadium.

But then, week-in-week-out, whilst Platinum have dominated the PSL over the past three seasons, they have had to face mediocre opposition who oftentimes make it difficult to execute a better organised side’s own structured approach to the game.

Because of this, Platinum have not locally been tested sufficiently at a level that the rest of the continent has moved on to. Subsequently, the men from Zvishavane have consistently been found wanting when they venture into Africa for the Champions League, which is getting tougher and tougher each passing year.

Perhaps this was what Mapeza came short of saying this week, to say: “Our failure in Africa as Platinum is that the other clubs in this country haven’t helped us with good competition to prepare ourselves for the tough challenge of the Champions League.”

Then, of course, you could also look back at Zimbabwe’s performance at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in January under Mapeza’s interim tutelage.

Mapeza was brave to include in his squad a big chunk of locally-based players, some he had worked with before at Platinum and some he only knew from the other clubs.

It is a story for another day, maybe an old story and an irrelevant one now long after the first-round exit in Cameroon fourth months ago. But the quality of some of these players, how they have been wrongly coached in the PSL going by what they brought to the Warriors’ table at the Nations Cup, could also have influenced Mapeza’s insightful but long-shared view.

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