Sharuko on Saturday
THOMAS KWENAITE, one of the pundits on SuperSport’s weekly programme, “Soccer Africa”, on Thursday night said the Mighty Warriors could write one of football’s greatest fairy tales if they qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Given that chaos has become part of the DNA of domestic football, a leaderless game that has been operating on autopilot for the last five years, the mere fact that the Mighty Warriors now stand on the threshold of qualifying for the Olympic Games is one of this game’s greatest miracles.
A team who, only a few months out, appeared down and out of the qualifying battles after the ZIFA leaders failed to send them to Cote d’Ivoire for a showdown against the West Africans, somehow now find themselves just 90 minutes away from writing one of this game’s finest Cinderella tales.
Just as well, Cinderella is the tale of a poor and unfortunate young woman who overcomes her challenges, defying insurmountable odds and clearing huge hurdles along the way, on the way to achieving success that captures the imagination of the world.
And football has, over the years, provided a number of stories that fit such fairy tale status like Calais, a Fourth Division French team of amateurs, going all the way to the final of the 2000 Cup of France, the main knock-out tournament in that country, beating established clubs like Lille, Cannes, Strasbourg and Bordeaux along the way.
As the world prayed for their success in the final against Nantes, Calais even had the temerity of taking the lead through Jerome Dutitre and, remarkably, they defended it right to the break, making us believe, every attack which they repelled being cheered by strangers around the world they will never know.
However, a second half equaliser by Nantes marked the beginning of the end of those dreams and, a controversial last-minute penalty winner for their fancied opponents, ensured that the game didn’t provide the happy ending the world desired.
But, even in the wreckage of this heartbreaking defeat, there was no doubt that the moral victory belonged to Calais and Nantes, to their eternal credit, acknowledged that too and the sight of the two opposing captains, the winners and the losers, going together to receive the trophy, remains one of world football’s finest moments.
Or Greece, who had — until they arrived at Euro 2004 — only qualified for two major international football tournaments, failing to win a game on both occasions, before exploding in the Portuguese sunshine as they knocked out holders France in the quarter-finals, beat the Czech Republic in the semis and, as the world watched in shock, beat the hosts, who had Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo leading their attack, 1-0 in the final.
The Crazy Gang of Wimbledon beating mighty Liverpool to win the 1988 FA Cup final, just 10 years from the time they were singing the blues of Division Four football, Danish players being summoned from their off-season holiday beaches to Euro 92, after the disqualification of the then Yugoslavia, and then going on to win a tournament they had failed to qualify for in the first place.
Or my beloved Manchester United rising from the ashes of the 1958 Munich plane crash which wiped out a generation of the Busby Babes, a young team experts believed was on the verge of dominating world football, with eight of its best players perishing in that disaster, going to reach the FA Cup final that season while using a makeshift team.
And, exactly 10 years after Munich destroyed its finest flowers before they had even bloomed, Manchester United — inspired by Bobby Charlton, a survivor of that plane crash — thrashing Benfica 4-1 to be crowned champions of Europe, the very special prize they had been chasing, and were favourites to win after reaching the semi-finals in ‘58, when disaster struck in Munich.
And, of course, Zambia, emerging from the disaster of that plane crash off the coast of Gabon in ’93, which destroyed a generation of her finest footballers, and left scars that might not heal in a lifetime, to field a makeshift team, led by Kalusha Bwalya, which not only qualified for the ’94 Nations Cup finals, but reached the final and, for good measure, even took the lead against a very powerful Nigeria, before losing 1-2.
The Mighty Warriors might not have flirted with tragedy in this adventure for a samba dance with the game’s aristocrats at the Olympic Games in Rio next year, but such were the odds stacked against them, the dangers of the vast minefield they had to navigate, in a tough journey that tested them all the way, a triumph tomorrow might be remembered as one of football’s finest Cinderella tales.
A game that the domestic football leadership described as “petty”, in an astonishing attack not only on the Mighty Warriors but the women of this world, a game that has suffered immensely from the vicious boardroom battles that have pitted its leadership and people at 53 Livingstone Avenue, a game that remains scarred today simply because some of our game’s leaders would rather see it die than embrace some of its leaders.
A game that has two rival leagues because some of the clubs refused to be used as pawns in the boardroom battles between their leaders and some of the people who run our national game, now stands on the verge of producing a team that qualifies for the Olympic Games, the first time this has happened in our football.
And they could become only the second representative national team from this country after hockey’s Golden Girls in 1980, to make it to the Olympics. For a team whose coach was fired midstream in the campaign, amid reports that she was being victimised for not carrying out certain orders to ignore players who were playing the league under former women football boss, Miriam Sibanda, to come this far, is a miracle that should be celebrated, irrespective of the result at Rufaro tomorrow.
Even Kwenaite, an award-winning South African journalist, cannot understand how these girls have defied all these odds.
REMEMBER THESE ARE THE SAME GIRLS WHO WERE FED ON MATEMBA IN CAMP
As the Mighty Warriors stand on the threshold of writing a very special story, it’s easy to forget that these are the same players who, only recently, were being left stranded at the ZIFA Village, with barely enough to feed them, and no money for them to travel back home after they had eliminated Botswana in the African Women Championships.
Amid the euphoria created by their date with destiny, as we all rush to embrace them as our darlings who are about to do us proud, fly our flag very high, it’s easy to forget that these are the same players who felt unwanted, dumped at the ZIFA Village by the constituency that should have been supporting them, not so long ago.
Remember those images of the Mighty Warriors having a small portion of sadza and a portion of boiled matemba and muboora for their lunch, at ZIFA Village, and using plastic chairs as makeshift tables for their meals, which were leaked to the media and caused a huge uproar that even spilled into Parliament?
A team that was held up at the ZIFA Village, four days after they had knocked out Botswana, because our national game’s leaders said there was no money, even just for their bus fares back home, something that formed part of the charge sheet against Cuthbert Dube and his board, which led to the revolt from councillors, resulting in the game’s leadership being booted out.
“As this was not enough, your (Dube’s) board failed to send the Mighty Warriors to Ivory Coast,” the councillors said in their charge sheet.
“The board has failed to take care of the welfare of our players in all categories, resulting in a number of boycotts of camp and training by the players. All these actions received a lot of negative reports from the Press, thereby bringing the game of football into disrepute.
“The board failed to manage the national teams’ welfare properly, leading to the disgraceful trip to Malawi by the men’s team and failure to travel to Ivory Coast by the Mighty Warriors.”
The Mighty Warriors’ former fitness trainer, Gerald Maguranyanga, claimed that the team doctor had to bring supplementary food secured by her own funds and even provided six protective knee guards for the players on match day while the $5 that the players were promised did not get to them.
“The girls were hungry on the eve of the Botswana match, their diet was matemba, nyevhe, no tomatoes, no soup, no onion,” charged Maguranyanga.
Well, God works in a lot of mysterious ways and here there are today, on the verge of writing one of football’s greatest success stories and, of course, should they achieve it, you can be certain they will have a lot of many friends on their side.
No wonder they say that failure is an orphan and success has many fathers.
(The worst blasphemy since John Lennon said, almost 50 years ago, that Christianity was in decline and his sensational pop group, The Beatles, were more popular than Jesus Christ)
In March 1966, John Lennon, the leader of The Beatles, told the London Evening Standard, in an interview with journalist Maureen Cleave, that he believed Christianity was in decline and his pop group had become more popular than Jesus Christ.
“CHRISTIANITY WILL GO. IT WILL VANISH AND SHRINK. I NEEDN’T ARGUE ABOUT THAT, I’M RIGHT AND I’LL BE PROVED RIGHT,” Lennon thundered in that interview.
“WE’RE MORE POPULAR THAN JESUS NOW, I DON’T KNOW WHICH WILL GO FIRST — ROCK ‘N’ ROLL OR CHRISTIANITY. JESUS WAS ALRIGHT BUT HIS DISCIPLES WERE THICK AND ORDINARY. IT’S THEM TWISTING IT THAT RUINS IT FOR ME.”
When Datebook, a US teen magazine, quoted Lennon’s comments in August, protests broke out in the United States, some radio stations stopped playing Beatles songs, their records publicly burned, media appearances cancelled and threats issued against them.
Demonstrations spread to South Africa, Mexico and Spain where the Beatles music was banned on national radio stations while a number of their performances, during a tour of the United States, were disrupted by protesters.
Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980 by Mark David Chapman, who had become a born-again Christian in 1970 and incensed by Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” remark, called it blasphemy.
Forty five years after Lennon was gunned down, and almost half-a-century to the year when he uttered his infamous words that his band was now more popular than Jesus, Sam Allardyce, the British football manager has brewed another shocker in his autobiography called “Big Sam”, which is being serialised by The Sun newspaper.
“It does rankle with me at times, the double standards you see in the Press. Jesus walks on water and they build a religion around him,” he wrote in his book.
“I get Bolton into the top six with one of the smallest budgets in the Premiership and everybody calls me a long-ball manager. Anyway, if Jesus is such a miracle worker, how come he got caught? You’ve got to win your battles.
“By the way, the walking-on-water thing is a myth. I’m not saying he didn’t do it, just that it’s easier than it looks.
“Any non-Newtonian fluid of a minimum viscosity can be subjected to a short period of shear stress if the body exerting the force is light enough — and people were a lot smaller in biblical times, that’s a known fact.
“We actually tried it on a warm-weather camp in La Manga once. We filled the pool with cornflour and Sammy Lee was able to run across without breaking the surface. We’ve got the Prozone printouts to prove it.”
You are a pathetic man Big Sam and no wonder you have been sacked at West Ham, Blackburn and Newcastle and, boy oh boy, I don’t think you will last at Sunderland because no one makes a mockery of Jesus Christ and gets away with it.
After all, one of those who built The Titanic, the mega ship they said would never sink, boasted “not even God himself could sink this ship,” and we all know what happened on that maiden voyage to the United States, downed by an iceberg.
For it is written Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sow, that shall he also reap.”
Tancredo Neves, a Brazilian presidential candidate said if he got 500 000 votes from his party, not even God would stop him becoming the country’s President.
Of course, he got the votes but, a day before his inauguration as Brazilian President, he was taken ill and died before taking his oath of office.
Unlike foolish Big Sam, let’s pray for our Mighty Warriors so that they triumph tomorrow.
If we all believe, then it can be done and, 22 years after the Indomitable Lions ended our Dream Team’s quest for a place at the ’94 World Cup in the United States in controversial fashion in Yaounde, maybe the football gods could smile on us, this time, and — for a change — it’s the people of Cameroon who will shed tears this time around.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on Mighty Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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