Discarded Flames captain Limbikani ‘Pupa’ Mzava has attributed the team’s failure to qualify for 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) to trial and error in team fielding, among other things.
The South Africa-based defender was dropped in the last three qualifiers against Cameroon, Comoros and Morocco after coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) questioned his commitment when he excused himself from the first round away fixture against Cameroon on the basis that he was recovering from an injury.
“It’s sad and painful to see teams such as Tanzania, Burundi and Madagascar qualifying.
“Of course, we were in a tough group which included Cameroon and Morocco, but if we were serious, we could have also qualified.
“We kept on changing the team and with due respect, most of the young players that were used in this campaign were not yet ready for the big stage because they did not have the experience,” he said.
The Golden Arrows defender said while the youngsters are good, they have not reached the level of playing in Afcon qualifiers.
“Instead, they were thrown to the deep end. You do not experiment players in the qualifiers of such a big tournament and against teams like Cameroon and Morocco.
“The right tournaments for exposing players are the Cosafa Cup and Chan [Championship of African Nations].
“It is not right to select a player for national duty at senior level just because he was outstanding in a domestic league match and then drop them after failing to perform because you end up destroying him,” he said.
Mzava said players shouldgo through the proper stages by playing for Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 before graduating to the senior team to mature with time.
“The other problem is that when some technical staff members have issues with some players they influence their exclusion which is not good at all,” he said.
Going forward, Mzava suggested the maintenance of the current team, saying: “We are out of the Afcon qualifiers and there are Chan and Cosafa Cup engagements coming up. So, I guess we can continue with the same squad so that they get more exposure.”
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda also cited trial and error as one of the reasons for the team’s poor showing.
“The combination of low quality players and the coach can hardly produce outcomes,” he said.
However, RVG said the players had come of age having graduated from Under-20 and Under-23 national teams.
“This group of young senior players have shown that they are now ready by holding African giants Cameroon and Morocco to [goalless] draws. It is important that this team is maintained other than starting all over again with old players,” he said. n