Sharuko on Saturday
FOOTBALL is such a very powerful game it sparked a war, known as the La Guerra del Futbol, between South American countries, El Salvador and Honduras, on July 14 1969, as the battle for a place at the 1970 World Cup triggered a deadly conflict of nations.
After an ill-tempered two-legged battle, littered with violence, with the media in both countries heightening the tension with inflammatory articles, Honduras broke diplomatic relations with El Salvador on June 27, 1969.
Amid the chaos, Salvadoran residents in Honduras were attacked, an unknown number killed and thousands were forced to flee the country and, finally, on July 14, 1969, El Salvador launched an attack on Honduras, sparking a war that raged on for 100 hours.
It took the intervention of the Organisation of American States to bring the two countries to the negotiating table and sign a ceasefire, which brought to an end, a war between nations that had originated from events on the football pitch.
Exactly 55 years earlier, the game had also demonstrated its incredible power, in the trenches of the battlefields of Europe, in the midst of the battles of World War One, when British and German troops momentarily put their weapons down and played football during the famous Christmas Day truce of 1914.
The Germans won 3-2 but the victory was insignificant, dwarfed by the powerful symbolism of two warring armies, finding the value of love expressed in their football battle where the winners were not determined by the number of the dead, but the superiority of their sporting talent.
The gloom of that bitterly cold December afternoon, and the horror of that great war which had claimed millions of lives, illuminated by a football game on a makeshift field where tackles, passes and goals were all that mattered.
When Pele visited Nigeria in 1967, at a time when he was the greatest player that football had ever seen, a 48-hour truce was declared, among those who were fighting in the Nigerian Civil War, so that their troops could have a chance to see the Brazilian superstar playing in an exhibition game in Lagos.
Even the inmates of the infamous Robben Island, where the cruel leaders of the apartheid regime of South Africa dumped those activists who were fighting their evil discriminatory system, turned to football to ensure that their spirits would not be broken in that bleak, tough and isolated off-shore jail.
They formed the Makana Football Association in 1966 to provide rules and structures for those inmates who wanted to play football, in an organised way, with everything based on the FIFA rules and regulations and South African president Jacob Zuma, once a Robben Island inmate, used to be a player and became a referee.
“We played every day. Sometimes, we had no ball. If it was there, it’s not got air. If it is got air, it is slightly flat,” Tokyo Sexwale, a former Robben Island inmate, said.
“We played with whatever was available and the football nets were made from real fishing nets which had washed up on the island. We asked for permission to pick them up from the shore.
“The game of football kept us alive.”
In 2007, FIFA granted the Makana Football Association honorary membership of the world football controlling body and, in the same year, a movie, More Than Just A Game, which tells the story of how the beautiful game had a defining impact on the lives of the inmates of Robben Island, premièred.
Two years later, FIFA gave Zuma an international referees’ certificate, for his role as a referee on Robben Island, and hailed him for being one of those who used football to ensure that their lives would not be destroyed by the hostility of the environment they found themselves in during South Africa’s dark past.
FROM MAKANA TO
CHALLENGING FOR THE FIFA PRESIDENCY
Tokyo Sexwale didn’t only survive Robben Island, and all the hostilities that it threw on those prisoners, thanks in part to the role that football played on that off-shore prison, but he also rose to build himself a business empire, in Independent South Africa, whose roots were in mining.
At the last count, he was worth about US$200 million, and his investments include a yacht, vineyards, a private Learjet and an exclusive US$70 million private island on the Indian Ocean that he bought to provide him memories of the years he spent cast away from the real world on Robben Island.
Before his incarceration, his links to football were through the small amateur club that his father owned in Soweto.
His political dance saw him being appointed the Minister of Settlements in South Africa and he was part of the group of people, who fought in the background to bring the 2010 FIFA World Cup to South Africa, and the network of contacts he created saw him being appointed head of the FIFA anti-racism committee.
Now, Tokyo Sexwale, who as young man loved karate, has just launched an audacious bid to become the FIFA president in February next year.
He might not have the same track record as football legends like Jomo Sono and Kaizer Motaung but that has not stopped him dreaming of becoming, not only the leader of the South African Football Association, but the boss of world football.
His candidature, rather than being mocked by the South Africans, is being celebrated in the Rainbow Nation with SAFA president, Danny Jordaan, announcing that they were fully behind him because, “I think he has the credentials.”
German football legend, Franz Beckenbauer, who captained his country to World Cup glory in 1974 and returned to win the World Cup, as a coach of his national team at Italia ’90, has also thrown his full weight behind Sexwale.
“I certainly believe that the German Football Association would support his candidacy,” said Beckenbauer.
“At some point there will be the opportunity to appoint a president from an external source — someone from economics, someone from politics.
“That is why I refer to Tokyo because he is someone different, who has a political past, but he also knows his way around sport. He has the smell of neutrality and that’s why I think he would be a good solution.”
Tokyo’s candidature for the FIFA presidency, and the way it has been widely embraced by the South Africans, has made me question a number of things about our football and a number of myths that we have allowed to grow and become guidelines, cast in stone, which we should always follow.
It’s only in this country where you hear people saying that politics and sport should never mix, where people who have had a flirtation with politics should never be allowed to have a role in our football, even when global football is being driven by politicians.
We ignore the fact that the SAFA president, Danny Jordaan, regarded as one of the finest football administrators in the world today, was once a Member of Parliament, for the African National Congress, from 1994 to 1997 and, because of his other political side, he is now mayor of Port Elizabeth, appointed on an ANC card.
We seem to deliberately forget that Pele, widely regarded as the finest footballer of all-time, served as Brazil’s Minister of Sport from 1995 to 1998.
That Albert Guomundsson, who played for AC Milan and Arsenal, ran in the Iceland Presidential elections, Romario, the star of the ’94 World Cup, has been a Member of the Brazilian Senate since 2010 and the immortal Gianni Rivera, an AC Milan and Italian legend, was a Member of the Deputies in his country from 1994 to 2001.
That Titi Camara, who made his fame at Liverpool and Marseille, and crushed our ’94 World Cup hopes by playing a starring role in the 3-0 destruction of our Dream Team in Conakry, became the Minister of Sport in his country and that George Weah, the only African to win the FIFA World Player of the Year, even ran in the elections to become Liberia’s President.
AND WE SEEM TO LOVE
THE “HAASI WEBHORA”
SONG ALL THE TIME
Somehow, we live in our own isolated world where we are quick to say, “haasi munhu webhora”, even in an era where someone, whose links to this game was organising a football league in prison for the inmates, rises to challenge for the FIFA presidency.
Even when CAF has been led, for the last 27 years, by a man, Issa Hayatou, who was a middle distance runner in his youth, breaking records in the 400m and 800m in Cameroon, and whose other sport was basketball and, today, is now the interim president of FIFA.
Greg Dyke, the English FA chairman, never played football, his links to the game being that he was a Manchester United fan and, when others of his age were plunging into this game, he was training as a manager at retail chain Marks & Spencer before becoming a reporter, whose assignments had nothing to do with sport.
As a broadcaster at TV-am, Dyke produced a segment for children dominated by a puppet rodent called Roland Ral, and by the time he worked his way to become the Director General of the BBC, it was revealed that he had donated $91 000, over five years, to the Labour Party.
In 2003, after an inquiry was launched after the BBC reported that the British Government had exaggerated claims about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, which led to the Iraq invasion, and the subsequent report was highly critical of the BBC reporting, Dyke was forced to resign.
France Football Federation president, Noel Le Graet, is a businessman and politician and was mayor of Guigamp from 1995 to 2008, while the founding president of the German Football Federation was a professor of hygiene.
In the past 115 years, the German Football Federation has had only 11 presidents while, in just 35 years, we are matching them in numbers.
The average Zimbabwean football fan, or the journalist, don’t know who is the German Football Federation chairman because that is the way it should be, when the system works, while here we have made the ZIFA presidency something so fashionable, the be-all-and-end-all of everything about our football.
The average Zimbabwean football fan, or journalist, don’t know who is the Dutch Football Federation president because that is the way it should be, when the system works, while here we have made the ZIFA presidency the nerve centre of everything in our football, where everything starts and end, when it should be the system that works.
And, at a time when FIFA could have a president whose only links to football was organising a league for inmates, we are busy throwing bricks at each other, languishing in our strange world where all that we do is sing about “vanhu vebhora”, in an age where we should even be pleading with the likes of Douglas Mboweni, who has excelled as Econet Wireless Zimbabwe boss, to come and lead us.
Or a business executive like Maxen Karombo, the Delta Marketing Director, or Never Gombera, the AFDIS boss, because the game has long evolved from being one that is only for those we call “vanhu vebhora”, when it comes to leadership, but those who can add value to it and take it forward.
THE COUNTER ATTRACTION OF THE ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP
So, the Chibuku Super Cup final is on this afternoon, at the same time that Chelsea and Liverpool lock horns, in an English Premiership game with a lot of sub-plots, including the possibility that this could be Jose Mourinho’s last supper at Stamford Bridge if the Blues lose.
What I can’t understand is why our league’s leaders didn’t move our big game for tomorrow, so that it doesn’t fall victim to the counter attraction of what a Chelsea/Liverpool titanic clash brings, a game that draws a lot of fans even in this country, which many of them can watch from the comfort of their homes, without running transport costs, or at the nearest pub?
We need to adjust to the reality that the English Premiership is now a massive counter attraction to our league and the tragedy about the Chibuku Super Cup final is that it might not project the true picture of the number of fans that it might have attracted without competing with a Chelsea/Liverpool game.
This isn’t a Dynamos/CAPS or Dynamos/Highlanders showdown but a DeMbare/Harare City battle and only the Harare Derby or the Battle of Zimbabwe can compete with such a counter attraction.
Our sponsors want mileage and, if there is a full house, it would be worth it and the last thing we need is a stadium, for the grand finale, with just a few thousand people because the game has clashed with a big English Premiership tie when we could have moved it to tomorrow.
Just my thoughts, hopefully, I won’t be labelled “haasi munhu webhora”.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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