|A tale of two derbies|
|Friday, 20 April 2012 20:12|
The 2005 movie, Green Street Hooligans, captures the heart and soul of football hooliganism and shows, in graphic detail, the extent to which many fans are prepared to fight in the name of their team.
The defining moment, for me in this movie, comes when an American who is drawn into the football gangs of London during his stay in that city, asks his colleague if the West Ham/Milwall rivalry can be compared to the one between the Red Sox and Yankees in baseball.
It’s the answer that captures the attention with the guy responding by saying that “it’s more like the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
While Green Street Hooligans concentrates more on football hooliganism, it also brings out the degree of spectator passion and explores the power of football rivalry.
Crucially, against a background of all those gory images of blood and broken limbs, the film also shows that the world’s most beautiful game is certainly nothing without the sights and sounds that come from those who follow it. Football is special and it unites us and divides us in equal measure, it fascinates us and frustrates us in equal measure, it delights us and destroys us in equal measure, it excites us and exhausts us in equal measure.
Football is about rivalry, the bigger the rivalry the bigger the game and the big derby is in Catalonia tonight — the one that captures the imagination of the entire football world, the one that features the globe’s two greatest players on either side of the Great Divide.
Barcelona versus Real Madrid; Messi versus Ronaldo; Guardiola versus Mourinho; Rebellious Catalonia versus Authoritative Madrid; Football Artists versus Football Machine; Art versus Craft; Them versus Us!
El Clasico is once again upon us and, for the 164th time in the league, dating back to their first showdown on February 17, 1929, Barcelona and Real Madrid will battle for honours in a league match.
Madrid have won 68 times in the El Clasico, Barca have triumphed 64 times and 31 league games have ended in draws.
The two giants and Athletic Bilbao are the only three teams which have never been relegated from La Liga and their showdown represents the silent battle, which has a lot of political overtones, between Spain’s two largest cities.
Phil Ball, in his book Morbo — The Story of Spanish Football, describes El Clasico as a ‘re-enactment of the Spanish Civil War.’
The controversial transfer of the legendary Alfredo di Stefano to Real Madrid, instead of Barcelona, and the huge role he played in helping Madrid win their first five European Cup titles in the ‘60s, poisoned relations that had always been sour.
Barcelona, thanks to the magical Messi, have been the dominant team of late and the Madrid era, from the Puskas’ generation of the ‘60s to the Zidane generation of the turn of the millennium, looks like a distant memory.
But what this derby hasn’t lost is its intensity and such is the degree of animosity between the two giants that only two Barca players — Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho — have been given a standing ovation by Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu.
There was a time when Manchester United versus Liverpool was the game the whole world wanted to see, the derby of the world, but that now belongs to another era because the Reds of Anfield have somehow lost the aura that made them such an attractive package.
El Clasico is now the big thing and it dwarfs just about everything and you will be forgiven if you didn’t know that the Zvishavane Derby is also on this afternoon when Shabanie and FC Platinum battle for honours in that mining town. But if you live in Zvishavane or happen to pass through that town today, you will see that the derby at Mandava this afternoon means much more to the people of that town than what will unfold on our television screens, via the magic of satellite, later tonight from the Nou Camp.
The Zvishavane derby touches lives of the residents of that town, splits that beautiful place into two — one section being an army of maroon-and-gold, fiercely loyal to Shabanie Mine, and the other being an army of green-and-white, fiercely loyal to FC Platinum.
It’s one special game that touches every home, divides families, pits one family against the other and, while it might not have the superstars and the media blitz of El Clasico, it is a big derby in a very special way and, for a big part of this day, it will be them against us in Zvishavane.
The supporters of Shabanie feel they are the big boys because they were there before FC Platinum and when their team plays against their town rivals, it is more than a football game but a battle against the invaders who want to take over the show in the town they call home. The fans of FC Platinum feel they are the big boys because their arrival has breathed life into a football community that was on its deathbed and their professionalism and swag needs to be copied rather than be hated.
The Zvishavane Derby At Its Best
The Zvishavane Derby reminds me a lot about the Derby della Madonnina, the one that features AC Milan against Inter Milan, because the two rivalries are built on the same class structures that gave birth to the Milan Derby.
In Glasgow, the derby between Celtic and Rangers is built on religious differences, in Turkey, the one between Fernebahce and Galatasaray is built on geographical differences with one club belonging to the European part of the city while the other comes from the Asian side.
In Milan, Englishmen, Herbert Kilpin and Alfred Edwards, first formed AC Milan in 1899 and the Italian giants have remained loyal to their English foundations by retaining their English name.
Then, AC Milan was the team of the city but nine years down the line a dispute erupted following the acquisition of a number of foreign players. A Swiss group, within the membership of AC Milan, opposed the deal and were so upset they broke away to form Internazionale Milano or simply, Inter Milan, as we call them today. AC Milan remained the club of the working class, something like Dynamos here, and Inter Milan attracted the wealthy who were not comfortable mingling with the poor in the society.
While both teams have shared the same city and the same stadium, San Siro since 1947, their differences couldn’t be any bigger and the wall that separates them is even bigger than Berlin Wall. The Bleacher Report said the Derby della Madonnina apty fits that description, given in the movie Green Street Hooligans of a football derby, with that guy in the film saying “it’s more like the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
“The comparison seems oddly fitting. After all, Israel and Palestine are divided by a mere border,” notes The Bleacher Report on their analysis of the AC/Inter Milan rivalry.
“The Curva Sud and the Curva Nord are separated by a pitch. Supporters are sometimes separated by nothing more than a wall in a house, or even a couple inches on a bed.
“This game pauses friendships, divides families, splits offices. This is what soccer is all about.”
This is exactly what football should be all about and the rivalry that defines the Zvishavane Derby, for me, seems to follow the same social structures that divide Inter and AC Milan.
There is a feeling within Zvishavane that FC Platinum is for the wealthy guys, even though most of them are the working class, the majority of them live comfortable lives by mine standards. Most of them have fine jobs, fine houses, active medical aid schemes, a thriving mining operation as an employer and their club is backed by a lot of rich sympathisers, including the Good Samaritan who poured US$45 000 in bonuses to the players when they returned home from a successful tour of Swaziland. Life, by mine standards, can’t be better than the way the majority of the Mimosa employees, and their immediate and extended families, who in turn form the support base for FC Platinum, live.
Basically, they have all they could want and, for good measure, they have an up-market sports bar, in the event they need a drink or two, and they can go to the FC Platinum service station for their fuel needs.
Their team has a modern stadium, renovated at a huge cost, with state-of-the-art facilities while their players earn so much, in just playing football, they all have cars and small businesses they run either in the town or at home.
Compare that to Shabanie.
The asbestos mine is not operational and hasn’t been doing so for a very long time.
Maglas looks a very old stadium, when compared to Mandava, their team is very poor and last year, when it became difficult to sustain the huge cost of their Premiership adventure, they had to plead with one of the supporters to provide transport to away matches.
While FC Platinum were toying with the idea of chartering a plane just for El-Merreikh to play at Mandava, Shabanie needed the help of one of their supporters then, Sam Dread, to provide transport for the team.
The contrast is so much that those players considered excess baggage at FC Platinum, like striker Francis Kanda, are the ones that find their way to Shabanie.
But, even against that depressing background, Shabanie have fans, in fact more supporters in Zvishavane than FC Platinum.
That’s the beauty of football, where someone just loves this team and there are no strings attached, and you can feel the charged atmosphere ahead of the Zvishavane Derby.
That this game explodes when Shabanie are top of the Premiership table, against all odds, and FC Platinum are coming into the contest having just won the Independence Cup, makes it quite an interesting duel.
The last time the two teams met, there was a bit of controversy over the way Shabanie lost to a penalty but that is the nature of derbies.
And it’s certain that Luke Masomere and his men would have accepted the same penalty given by referee Ruzive Ruzive for a similar foul on their man in the FC Platinum box.
Once derbies lose their controversial edge, they lose something special and while it is everyone’s wish that the match officials be as fair as possible, sometimes the charged nature of the game makes it virtually impossible for an error-free refereeing performance.
What is certainly not acceptable is for Masomere, or any coach in this country, to go public in attacking a referee the way he attacked Ruzive because there is certainly a huge difference between criticism, which is acceptable, and a savage attack of personality, which is not acceptable.
For Masomere to say that Ruzive should not be given the responsibility to handle today’s match, simply because he gave FC Platinum a penalty in the last one, is tantamount to dictating to the Zifa Referees Committee as to who should and who should not handle matches.
But, I guess, that is what football is all about and the good thing is that we have a Derby in Zvishavane, something that we didn’t have two years ago, and the interest in today’s game is huge.
Charles Mabika said on television on Wednesday that he will be there today and that means something.
When Mighty Bulls Turn To Madding Bulls
When Motor Action rebelled against authority and ignored orders to go to Gwanzura to play their league match against CAPS United, they were so certain they were playing the right card.
After all, this was their home game and, at their home ground, they had hosted CAPS United without incidents before.
So, when they learnt that they had lost the game, via the boardroom, and saw the negative feedback that came, with all the mainstream newspapers taking a stance against their rebellion, they must have been shocked.
Admittedly, the Mighty Bulls had a case because they were the home team and had hosted CAPS United at Callies without any problems in the past.
But circumstances change year after year and the football leadership have a responsibility to move with the times.
And if the PSL leaders felt there was a serious risk, to ordinary football fans, players and officials, to fixture CAPS at Callies this year, and decided on a switch, they need to be given the benefit of doubt.
After all, they are empowered by their rules and regulations, the bible that governs their operations, to effect such changes as and when they feel like they need to do so.
It was the same rules and regulations, when they fitted the Motor Action cause, which were used in their dispute with Amazulu over the latter’s reluctance to play on Saturdays, something which eventually led to the Bulawayo club’s collapse.
What is good for the goose should also be good for the gander.
Critics will argue that if the last game featuring CAPS United at Gwanzura ended prematurely, abandoned in time added on and a hail of missiles, what guarantees were there, then, that the same stadium could provide a safer venue for their match against Motor Action.
The problem is that if the same incident that occurred at Gwanzura had happened at Callies, the destruction and damage would have been magnified — more fans would have been injured, players would have been injured and the referees would have been injured.
Compared to Callies, Gwanzura provides a secure buffer zone for players and match officials to retreat to safety, in the event trouble erupts, and there was good reason for the PSL chiefs to suspect trouble could have broken out in the game between CAPS United and Motor Action. Their decision to move that game to Gwanzura might have had some flaws but that did not mean it was wrong.
If there is something that cheered the spirit, from this incident, then it was the firm way in which the PSL dealt with the matter and, crucially, Twine Phiri let others do the talking because his words had a danger of being read wrongly given his CAPS United links.
But Tawengwa Hara, the PSL board member in charge of competitions, was firm and he came along as a latter-day Chris Sibanda with the way he handled this crisis.
It’s such fearless leaders that the game has been crying out for and while the Mighty Bulls will feel aggrieved, they know the right way to protest was to go to Gwanzura, play the game and then raise their issues.
When Caf decided that FC Platinum had to play away from Mandava, and preferably in Harare, we all raised dust but once they stuck to their decision, we all knew we had no choice but to do as Caf ordered.
Yes, Motor Action have a home and it is Callies. But the mere fact that they have played their home games against Dynamos at Rufaro, instead of Callies, all with the blessing of the league’s management, means that they remained exposed to one day being told to move from Callies, for one particular match, for this and that reason.
That day came on Sunday!
Flying Start By Bosso
I have always argued that this Premiership needs a healthy Highlanders, a competitive Bosso, the old Mantengwane that we miss, you know, a full Barbourfields, some dazzling skills by their midfielders, some superb goals by their forwards and visitors usually biting the dust. Bosso are a huge constituency of this Premiership, the oldest club in the country, and in four years time they will turn 90 years.
So, when Highlanders starts the season scoring goals and winning games, like they have done in their first two games, their success cheers the spirits of everyone who really loves our domestic Premiership.
Kelvin Kaindu, the Zambian coach, has started well.
The challenge is to maintain that good run and we will get a good answer when they play Buffaloes in Mutare this weekend since their two high-scoring wins have both come at home. Sakubva doesn’t have a fine surface like Barbourfields and the pitch, on its own, will pose serious problems to the Bosso players.
But after nine goals in just two matches, they have reason to believe and if they can tame the Buffaloes in their backyard, those who still doubt them should start taking Bosso seriously.
Football’s Beauty Lies In Its Mystery
You never know what is going to happen in football, and that is one of the game’s biggest drawcards, and in the year that outsiders Zambia won the Nations Cup, who are we to suggest that the Champions League can’t be won by an outsider?
Like a London club who will become the first team from the British capital to lift the trophy?
Given that my beloved United were long blown away in the early rounds by a funny team called Basel(ona), I have to say that I am a neutral in this year’s Champions League.
Really, I don’t care who wins at the end of the day.
But even neutrals seem to like the underdogs and that is why both Bayern Munich and Chelsea cheered our spirits when they edged the favourites – Real Madrid and Barcelona – in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Of course, the good money is still on the Spanish teams to progress, because they now have the home advantage to exploit, but when you stop Messi from scoring, as Chelsea did on Wednesday, you have a reason to celebrate and also believe. Chelsea is the team that Messi has played the most games against, without scoring (seven games, zero goals, 630 minutes or 10 hours 30 minutes).
Chelsea and Barcelona have played each other 11 times in the Champions League, the Blues winning FOUR, Barca THREE, the other FOUR games were draws.
There have been a host of incidents in the Chelsea/Barcelona Champions League games and, somehow, the Blues always ended on the wrong side of the dodgy decisions.
Anders Frisk was forced to retire after receiving death threats after expelling Drogba during Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp in 2005. Tom Ovrebo turned down five Chelsea penalty claims, including one clear handball by Gerard Pique was a shocker, and Iniesta scored in time added on as Barca drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge and went through on away goals. You can feel for Chelsea and under Mourinho they crashed out to a ghost goal at Anfield. And they looked set to win the 2008 Champions League title but John Terry slipped, while taking the decisive fifth penalty, and everything is history now.
Maybe history is on their side now.
Chelsea/Barcelona Champions League Head-To-Head
Apr 28, 2009 - Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea
Oct 31, 2006 - Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
Mar 07, 2006 - Barcelona 1-1 Chelsea
Apr 18, 2012 - Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona
May 06, 2009 - Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona
Oct 18, 2006 - Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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