FOR me it was a very, very scary affair, being hidden under my parents’ bed in the middle of the night, after a group of men stormed our home, 30 years ago, on a mission to teach me a lesson for what they perceived to be negative reporting related to their football club.
I was a mere schoolboy back then, a budding correspondent for the local weekly newspaper for the Kadoma/Chakari area, The North Midlands Gazette, learning the ropes in this trade, carrying the dreams of an ambitious teenager who hoped to make it on the big stage one day working for a national newspaper.
My part-time job back then was to report on matches involving Division Two teams, my beloved Falcon Gold that I had supported from my boyhood days, and Seven Flames, the fiery new kids on the bloc.
The soldiers’ base was some 30 kilometres away but since there was no suitable football ground there, Seven Flames adopted Chakari Stadium as their home ground, and from my vantage point, I used to be a witness to all that madness, and the messenger who would deliver it to those who were not there, through my reports.
Then, one night, it all exploded.
A group of violent men, a combination of supporters and officials of the club, stormed our home, clearly out to teach me a lesson, or two, and as my late father negotiated with them outside the house, and tried to find a compromise, my mother hid me under their bed.
It was a tense stand-off, which lasted more than 30 minutes, and ended only after neighbours, alerted by the disturbances, armed themselves with rocks and whatever they could get, forming a unit to defend me, and with their numbers having swollen to more than 50, the invaders retreated.
Shaken and confused, I was dragged from my hiding spot, my late mother furious that I was putting my life in danger, my father saying I had been provided with the ultimate test that should make me consider whether I should pursue this line of profession, or look elsewhere, and my brothers and sisters swearing at me that I had disturbed their sleep.
Incredibly, all the fury that came from my family that night toughened me and, the aborted attack, rather than frighten me out of the profession of my dreams, actually strengthened my love for this job.
And although I was bombarded by some sickening jokes the following day at school, after details of how I ended up under my parents’ bed leaked in our small, closely-knit community, it toughened my resolve to be a journalist.
About 10 years later, as I refused to bow to Ghanaian authorities’ demands that I either go live on national radio and apologise for a report that I had filed for this newspaper, during a Nations Cup tour of duty with the Warriors, or be thrown onto the first plane out of Accra, the events of that night when the Seven Flames’ officials and fans stormed our house, came flooding into my mind.
On Thursday I was sitting in my office when news broke out that Dynamos’ combustible Portuguese coach, Paulo Jorge Silva, a man with an ego as inflated as his wild touchline theatrics, had attacked a ZBC News crew that had gone to the Glamour Boys’ training ground to cover the club’s training session.
And, as I digested the wild events at that training ground, I thought to myself, 30 years later, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Journalism, what a bloody profession, lives lost in the pursuit of the truth, what a beautiful profession, creating even celebrity journalists like Jon Stewart, Bob Woodward, Tony Kornheiser, Peter Kennings, Barbra Walters, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer and CNN’s White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski.
Or even our own screen beauty, Rumbidzai Takawira, who has a huge army of fans, and admirers, who went to the extent of launching the #BringBackOurNewsBabe on Twitter when she was briefly removed from being the main anchor of ZTV’s main news.
There have always been dangers in this job, there will always be dangers in this job, because that’s the way it is, that’s the way it was and that is the way it will always be and friction between the journalists, and the people they write about, has always been on the horizon and will always be there.
FROM THE WINNING ONE TO THE VIOLENT ONE
When I was given the privilege, together with my colleague Charles “CNN” Mabika, to be one of the first journalists to have an in-depth interview with Paulo Jorge Silva on the weekly authoritative ZTV football magazine programme, Game Plan, I have to concede that I was blown away by the Portugal national’s confidence.
He might have appeared too brash, at times, to the extent of even being disrespectful to the quality of his opponents in the domestic Premiership, as he predicted that he was going to turn Dynamos into champions in record time this season, but he was clearly not short on confidence.
And he even had the courtesy to say we had also impressed him, given that we were not reading from a script on live television, but generating everything from our heads.
Silva thanked us for asking his club president, Kenny Mubaiwa, why Dynamos — given that this team is the biggest in the country and one of the biggest on the continent — had not invested in even a training ground throughout the more than 50 years that the Glamour Boys have been in existence.
And why it was not converting its commercial potential into money in the bank.
Little did we know that, just a few weeks later, Silva would be in the headlines for attacking a ZBC News crew, and that he even chose to wrestle with a female camera person, was at worst disgraceful and at best a monumental error of judgment.
Attacking or insulting male journalists is one thing but when such an attack is directed on females, by a macho man who believes he is football’s version of Charles Manyuchi, should be condemned in the strongest terms possible and, as West Indies’ star cricketer Chris Gayle found out with his suggestive comments to a female Australian television journalist during the Big Bash tournament, it can create a huge storm.
There were even calls, from around the world, for Gayle’s contract to be cancelled by the Melbourne Renegades who then fined the big-hitting batsman £4 900 for asking dashing female journalist, Mel McLaughlin, for a night out, live on television.
Gayle insisted his comments were blown out of proportion but that did not stop the backlash that followed and the Windies’ superstar was forced to publicly apologise given his comments had offended people who believed that he had belittled women.
If Gayle had to face that backlash, for his suggestive comments, what about a coach, of the country’s biggest and most successful football team, who went on to act in a manner that could be described as a physical assault on the helpless ZBC cameraperson?
Maybe, we should have known that this was a man who lives on the edge, his wild touchline antics might have given an impression that he is very passionate about the project he is building but it has also masked his dark side, his instability when things are not going according to plan, and reports of him using the “F-word” now and again on his players, and other members of his coaching staff, underlines the volatility of his fiery character.
There is always a disturbing perception by foreign coaches, especially European coaches when they come to Africa, that they are coming into a an area pregnant with primitive people, men and women who still live in the Stone Age and they know everything, and we know nothing, when it comes to football and we should count ourselves lucky that they chose to come into our jungle.
And when a coach like Silva finds out that Dynamos, for all their history and success, do not even have a training ground, that perception that we are people still stuck in the past, and he is here carrying the light and we should never question anything he says or does, finds permanent residence in his little mind.
Unfortunately, what he doesn’t know is that DeMbare, for all their limitations, or lack of property and so forth, are far bigger than any of the clubs he claims to have coached, including those teams who have been disowning him in reports being carried by our colleagues at NewsDay, and rather than being overwhelmed by the limelight, and the challenges that he now faces, he should try and embrace it.
Dynamos are a heavyweight football brand, part of the soul of this nation, and that is why their friendly game against Division One side WhaWha was a bigger game in terms of media coverage than one, on the same day, featuring our two CAF inter-club representatives Chicken Inn and Harare City.
If Harare City’s Ronald Chitiyo and Raphael Manuvire make a mess of the Lionel Messi/Luis Suarez passed penalty, it’s unlikely to make headlines, or drive the social media crazy, but the fact that it was done by Rodreck Mutuma, in Dynamos’ colours, in a game for the Glamour Boys, does not only make headlines but has turned social media into a frenzy.
Such power, and media presence, comes with responsibility and it’s something that Silva should learn, and learn very quickly, because Dynamos are not that obscure Nigerian team that he dumped or those kindergarten European teams that he coached.
And Silva should know that he has an obligation not only to the proud legacy of these Glamour Boys, every man, woman, boy and girl who believes in them and believe they are much more than a football club, but apparently a way of life, and to the club’s flagship sponsor, BancABC, a bank that has stood by Dynamos in these times of economic distress, an all-weather friend that values tranquillity and not to see their logo being carried by a reckless European amateur fighter-disguised-as-football-coach with a propensity for attacking women.
He should not give the sponsors a window for a possible flight from their partnership with this club, which has made the Dynamos of the post-2010 era a ruthless machine that has dominated domestic football and helped these Glamour Boys find a path back to the heights they used to scale with regularity before they went on that barren 10-year wait for the league championship.
He should also be careful not to corrode Mubaiwa’s quest to become the next PSL chairman.
FOR ALL HIS MADNESS, IT’s IMPORTANT WE GIVE SILVA A CHANCE
Silva is not the first coach to clash with the media, Sir Alex Ferguson did not speak to the BBC for seven years, banning the corporation from interviewing him from 2004 to 2011, because he was angry that a BBC documentary made some damaging allegations against his son Jason who was working as an agent.
Ferguson demanded that the BBC apologise but the corporation refused and, for seven years, there was acrimony between the two parties.
BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker described the stand-off as a “shame, we would like him to speak to us because we respect him and his teams, and always have done. It makes no difference to the programme because it’s action-led. But it does make a difference to the Manchester United fans. They are the ones missing out. I get letters saying: ‘We never hear from Sir Alex’, and I have to explain. It’s something he feels very strongly about, so what can you do?”
The standoff ended in 2011.
SkySports were also banned by Ferguson for several weeks and in April last year, the then Leicester manager Nigel Pearson, stormed out of his Press conference after Leicester’s defeat by Chelsea, having branded journalist Ian Baker, “daft”, and that the reporter was “either being very, very silly or you are being absolutely stupid. I think you are an ostrich. Your head must be in the sand. Is your head in the sand? Are you flexible enough to get your head in the sand? My suspicion would be no.”
Two months later, after helping Leicester avoid relegation, Pearson was fired from his job with the club saying their relationship with the coach had become toxic because of his off-the-field issues, including his attack on the journalist.
A few days later, the Mexico Football Federation fired their national football coach, Miguel Herrera, who had just won the Gold Cup, for assaulting TV Azteca reporter Christian Martinoli, at an airport as the team returned home from their triumphant tour.
That Silva has been under severe pressure of late, given the relentless campaign by our colleagues at NewsDay to unmask him as, at worst, possibly a fraud and, at best, a man who either faked or deliberately misrepresented his credentials, has been there for everyone to see.
When a man, in a foreign land, finds himself under such a siege, there is always a possibility that he will lose it and the events on Thursday might have been a culmination of all this, a man feeling the domestic media was hounding him and if they didn’t want to work with him them he was also not prepared to work with them.
I don’t believe we should all gang up against Silva, simply because he crossed the line, because emotions run high in this game and we all make mistakes and what is important is how we react, after making such mistakes, and move forward.
He was quick to realise he made a mistake, and that he apologised, means he is not a madman and should be given a chance to do what he came here to do, coach football, and what we have been getting from Dynamos is that he appears to know what he is doing.
The DeMbare fans, who have watched their team in the pre-season, love what they have been seeing, the passing game, the quick movement, the structure that he is building, and that should not be destroyed because the coach lost it on Thursday because, if everyone who made a mistake was destroyed, then it would be a tough world to live in.
Even the Bible reminds us, in John 8 verse 7, when Jesus faced that mob that was eager to execute a woman caught in adultery, He put a stop to it with a simple challenge, anyone who had not sinned in their life should step forward and cast the first stone, “LET HIM WHO IS WITHOUT SIN CAST THE FIRST STONE,” and then told the woman to “GO AND SIN NO MORE”.
If Jesus, our Saviour, can preach such forgiveness, who are we to condemn people like Silva and destroy them for making one mistake?
My colleague, The Sunday Mail Sports Editor, Makomborero Mutimukulu, posted on his Facebook page yesterday that he didn’t believe Silva would last a year at Dynamos.
But I think he is learning quickly and, it’s results rather than his antics, which will determine whether he stays the long haul or he goes quickly.
COME ON GAMECOCKS, COME ON SUNSHINE CITY BOYS
Well, tonight is the night, and we declared yesterday, as we congratulated the greatest Warrior of all time, Peter Ndlovu, on the occasion of his 43rd birthday, with a huge back page salute to our superstar, we reminded him that it’s sad that we are fighting in opposite corners tonight.
He is in the Mamelodi Sundowns corner and we are in the Chicken Inn corner, whether they win or lose, they remain our Gamecocks and we wish them all the best.
It won’t be easy but who says it’s impossible, after all dreams come true, ask the new FIFA president, who went into the race with everyone saying he wasn’t going to win.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on Gamecocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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