Mapeza’s Curse : Will History Repeat Itself?

Mapeza had been given the chance to guide the Warriors in their last game against the Flames of Malawi after national team coaches Charles Mhlauri and MethembeNdlovu had been sidelined following the Warriors failure to make the continental football rendezvous from a group that also included Morocco.

The group was left to be contested by three teams after Sudan withdrew at the last minute leaving the Atlas Lions of Morocco to take that vital place at the Ghana finals while the Warriors of Zimbabwe fell by the wayside.

But despite the Warriors failure to make the football festival, Mapeza brought back the excitement in Zimbabwean football with his team’s classic display at Babourfields that brought pride in the smile and gusto in the applause.

And suddenly the fans had forgotten that their team was not going to the Nations Cup finals in Ghana and were now talking with deep affection about their new crop of heroes such as Richard Mteki, Kingstone Nkata, and Ovidy Karuru.

Convinced soccer fans from all the four corners of the country started campaigning heavily to have Mapeza the former Warriors captain be appointed the new Zimbabwean coach.

But that was not to be.

Despite bringing back that self belief in both the players and the fans, Mapeza was inexplicably sidelined in favour of a relatively unknown Brazilian, Valinhos, who was accorded the honour of taking care of  Zimbabwe’s 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers.

But Brazilian coaches have never been successful in African football and Valinhos was no exception. Drawn in the same Nations Cup group with the likes of Kenya, Guinea, and Namibia, the Warriors were no match for their opponents and Valinhos will go down in history as the only Zimbabwean coach to suffer the heaviest defeat at the hands of Namibia’s Brave Warriors after Zimbabwe were thrashed 4-2 in Wiendhoek.

The Warriors then finished third in the four team group, and gone was their place at the Nations Cup finals in South Africa.

That in itself signalled the beginning of the end of the Brazilian and in November 2008, Valinhos, who had never coached a national team as head coach, was given the boot and the search for a new national coach began.

But Mapeza was once again not in the picture. The former Galatasaray defender was relegated to the position of Under 23 team coach and at the same time also acted as Warriors assistant coach to Sunday Chidzambwa, the new man in charge.

Their team won the COSAFA senior Challenge in Harare beating Zambia in the final. Chidzambwa, however, was not to stay for long deciding to leave for a better paying job at Black Leopards in South Africa.

Mapeza’s chance had come and the former Darryn T midfielder gladly accepted the job. His first assignment was an away game to Liberia and his team put up a brilliant show and forced a draw thereby picked up a vital point away from home.

So Mapeza had set the perfect stage for the Warriors’ qualification to the 2012 African Cup of Nations. But that was not to be as the curse refused to desert him.

On the verge of the Warriors match against Cape Verde at the National Sports Stadium, Mapeza was relegated and in his place came Belgian Tom Saintifiet. However, things did not work out well for Zifa and Saintfiet, as the coach was denied a work permit by the Department of Immigration and deported.

Mapeza then thought he had been presented with the opportunity to prove a point. But that was not to be as Madinda Ndlovu was offered the job to coach the same team with Mapeza but with Ndlovu the man in complete charge.

The result was a disaster.

The Warriors were held to a goalless draw and so went Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying for the Nations Cup.

Mapeza  resigned as co-coach and Ndlovu took a Warriors team of locals to the African Nations Championships in Sudan where they came back after losing to a South African Under 23 side.

The whole country was incensed. Ndlovu was fired and Mapeza was brought back but the Nations Cup damage had already been done.

Although he won convincingly games against Liberia and Mali, fans and analyst pointed to the game against Cape Verde in which Ndlovu was in overall charge as the day Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup.

Now the curse has returned to haunt Mapeza again.

With about three weeks before his team takes on Burundi in a 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifier, Mapeza has been suspended on the grounds of suspicion of the results of his makeshift team’s participation at the CECAFA tournament in Tanzania.

But the question is : Will history repeat itself that the Warriors will fail again to qualify for the Orange Africa Cup of Nations  as has happened in the past whenever Mapeza was sidelined.

Or, what should Mapeza do to make sure that such bad luck does not follow him again for this was the opportunity for him to begin and end his own Nations Cup campaign.

We wait for answers.