ZIFA president Felton Kamambo has promised thorough preparations for Warriors’ Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.
Zimbabwe secured their ticket to the finals set for Cameroon next January after beating Botswana last week.
The team’s last appearance at the continental showpiece was marred by player protests over participating fees and allowances, leading to their group stage exit.
Warriors captain Knowledge Musona last week told NewsDay Sport that his squad could have done better at the 2019 Afcon finals played in Egypt had they not been distracted by off-field challenges.
Kamambo, who made history by overseeing the Warriors qualification to the Afcon finals twice in just under three years of his four-year term as Zifa president, is promising a smooth trip to Yaoundé next year.
“I’m a very happy man… happy for the nation and all the stakeholders. It always feels good to qualify for a major tournament,” Kamambo said.
“I remember when you first interviewed me after I assumed office, I said football will do the talking for my board and that is exactly what is happening. I told you that qualification for major tournaments for our national teams will be the norm. Going forward, we want to qualify to all the tournaments, particularly the Afcon.”
He said the association had already started mobilising resources for the players so that the chaotic events that blighted their previous participation is avoided.
“Now that we have qualified, we are working to go beyond the group stages. I have a feeling that this team will go past the group stages. When we go to Cameroon we will need to work hard and qualify to the knockout stages.”
“Yes, we had our shortcomings particularly on the issue of player contracts. That is what we are already looking at so that we won’t repeat the same mistakes. The biggest mistake was going to the Afcon finals without player contracts, and those who were interfering took advantage of that. We target to have finalised player contracts before the end of September this year. All the players will be informed. Those who will be agreeable to the contract will come into camp. We have already sounded the team’s captain about it and we will meet with him before September so that we can come up with the contract that is agreeable to all the parties.”
But before they can think of the Afcon finals, Zifa will need to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers which will be played between June and November this year.
Kamambo said they would use the congested World Cup fixtures as preparations for Afcon
Zimbabwe will face Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia in Group G for a ticket to qualify for next year’s World Cup set for Qatar.
“We will need to put more effort to qualify for the World Cup, and we will try to do that. It is very difficult, but we have a good chance to qualify for Qatar 2022 World Cup finals. Now that we have qualified for the Afcon, I’m hoping that stakeholders will come together and work with us for the betterment of our football. We want to go into the World Cup qualifiers and then the Afcon finals as a united nation. Together we will achieve more.”
Despite success stories that Kamambo has recorded since taking over which include qualifying twice to the Afcon and the African Nations Championships finals as well as clearing the association’s legacy debt which had ballooned to US$8 million, he still faces criticism from a section of football stakeholders.
Some have accused Zifa of inadequately preparing the team the last time around, which they blame for the team’s early exit from Egypt.
But Kamambo disagrees.
“Some people say that we had poor preparations last year, but we had very good preparations. We had some players in camp a month before the tournament and we played at the Cosafa tournament a few weeks before the Afcon finals, games which we used as preparatory matches. We then went to Nigeria and played a friendly match there. We were in Egypt seven days before kick-off of the tournament. What else then were we supposed to do in terms of preparations?
“The biggest challenge that we had (in Egypt) was of interference in our camp which caused the team to perform badly. Of course, we will try to improve our preparations, but it will be wrong to say we didn’t prepare well the last time. The players were in camp in time.”