|It’s a shame really and my challenge to all the journalists, starting with Sharuko|
|Friday, 08 June 2012 22:02|
It’s a shame really and my challenge to all the journalists, starting with Sharuko, is to resign with immediate effect, before even this useless Zifa board quits, so that we can get a fresh crop of reporters who have no attachment whatsoever to these football leaders.In 20 years in this job, I have to confess today that I have never felt as powerless, if not as useless, as I did throughout this very depressing week for a national game that means so much for us as a people.
Twenty years ago, my arrival here coincided with the explosion of the golden period that gave us the Dream Team, Reinhard Fabisch, and memories too beautiful to be forgotten.
This week, as I surveyed the wreckage of our emotions, after the events at the National Sports Stadium, all that I saw were ugly things scattered all around a game that has become a part of the person that I am.
I was just a mere Upper Sixth student, lost in the jungle of Sanyati at a Baptist mission school way back in 1989, when Zimbabwe last experienced the pain that came with losing an opening World Cup qualifying game.
Out there in our private world, detached from the rest of the country going to school every week day, doing sports on Saturday and going to church on Sunday to hear Pastor Ndlula preach, we didn’t feel the full weight of the pain of that defeat by the Warriors.
That it happened away in Algeria, when we lost 0-3, and against a team that was clearly the best in Africa by a mile at that time and, easily one of the best in the world, probably diluted the pain. It was a golden era of Algerian football and seven years earlier, they had shocked the globe by beating defending European champions, West Germany, 2-1 in their opening match at the ’82 World Cup.
That the same West Germany team went all the way to the final, where they were beaten by eventual World Cup winners Italy, put into sharp focus the quality of the Algerian national team of that era.
A few months after handing Zimbabwe a 3-0 defeat in that opening World Cup qualifier, the Algerians were crowned champions of Africa after winning a Nations Cup they hosted — thrashing Nigeria 5-1, Cote d’Ivoire 3-0 and Egypt 2-0 in the group stages. A 2-1 win over Senegal in the semi-finals and a 1-0 victory over Nigeria, in the final at the 5 July 1962 Stadium before an estimated 200 000 delirious home fans, took Algeria to the Promised Land and confirmed their superiority.
Rabah Madjer, Djamel Menad, Moussa Saib, Tahar Cherif El Ouazzanni and Cherif Oudjani were the stars that drove that Algerian team to greatness and the destroyers-in-chief when we succumbed to that 0-3 mauling in Algiers in that opening World Cup qualifier.
But, hidden away in our hideout in the Sanyati forests, haunted by the challenges that my Geography studies threw at me and how to juggle them with my passion for William Shakespeare, the result in Algiers in ’89 came and went quickly without provoking a tsunami in my emotional bank.
Twenty-three years later the Warriors lost, again, in the opening game of a World Cup qualifier and, this time, the proximity of the events at the giant stadium, to every facet of my life, brought the full weight of the pain home.
Having been raised throughout a professional career where the events of Algiers ’89 were somehow avoided, with the Warriors seemingly perfecting the art of winning their opening World Cup matches during that period, Sunday felt like a dagger being driven right into the heart. And, the worst part about it was the feeling of helplessness that swept through my body this week, a guilty conscience, triggered by a sense of betrayal to the ordinary people who looked up to me to say something, say anything as a form of protest, which weighed down heavily on my soul.
Some were bold and said it right in my eye, like the guy I met at the traffic lights on the corner of Samora Machel Avenue and Julius Nyerere Way on Wednesday, who didn’t mince his words and pointed his finger at me for letting a huge constituency down by my silence.
Others were not so bold, and used a battery of third parties, who came from all directions and relayed the same message that there was a strong feeling, among the football fans, that journalism was letting them down at a time when it was supposed to protest and, of all people, I was the main culprit. Others didn’t say anything but, then, they didn’t need to do so because the cold look in their eyes said it all.
They all seemed to be speaking on behalf of Henry Anatole Grunwald, the celebrated journalist who became the Editor-In-Chief of Time, and the message was the same:
“Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”
The signs of horror, as far as they were all concerned, were there for everyone to see but, incredibly, journalism was silent, this was its greatest fault, it wasn’t speaking, it wasn’t doing so immediately.
The Written Protests
Mr Sharuko, I told you before the game kuti don’t wait to write after the game, see where your praise has got us? Why are you afraid to call a spade a spade? Why can’t you take Dube, Rahman and Gumede to the cleaners? How can they drop a player who plays regularly for Charlton Athletic and field the tried, tested and failed Nyandoro, Nengomasha? I cannot believe Rahman can drop a player who plays regularly for Charlton and prefer those old age-cheats who play in Super Diski. Some of them are close to 40yrs of age. You keep quiet but you are the prominent sports journalist in the country. Where are the real journalists who call a spade a spade?
How can a team win while playing a boozers’ friendly match? If Zifa is serious, they must do something soon or should resign immediately. We don’t care even if we play without a coach, Rahman seems a lost sheep trying old horses like Esrom and Nengomasha who no longer command first team jerseys at their respective clubs.
Guys, for how long are we going to sit and watch our football being taken to the DOGS like this? The current Zifa board is the worst the nation has ever had and one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that. We need an operation, ‘Let’s Save Zim Soccer’ vakomana, the same way yamakaita that operation to persuade companies to sponsor the most beautiful game.
Farai C Matambanadzo
To Jonathan Mashingaidze, your utterances are uncalled for, Sir. With all due respect, you have failed the supporters of this country. Yes, the hooliganism was the last thing we wanted to happen. It’s bad. If you really had the nation at heart how could you bring back Gumbo considering his shortcomings? When we lost to Nigeria, he was the guy in charge. The players went on a drinking spree and brought women into their rooms. Today he just shows us his technical appreciation of the game. We are all Zimbabweans, Sir, and we love our team. When we came to the ground, we are not coming to see Musona or Esrom. We come because we are proud of our country. Don’t hurt our emotions for your personal ambitions, Mr CEO. We are Zimbabweans and this is our team. Don’t play with our emotions. Imimi ana Sharuko ndimi munonyora mapepa muchipuruzira zvidhakwa izvi. Mapeza came in and pushed us up the ladder and this one is taking us down. Good luck Zimbabwe in Maputo.
Leave Rahman alone, the strikers failed to score and the whole team lacked urgency. It’s only that Rahman has never been the favourite of many supporters and also that he took over at a bad time where there is too much politics and backstabbing.
The bottom line is Zimbabwe, just like the England national soccer team, does not have quality players to compete at the big stage. The English supporters and their media make so much noise about their national team but it always crumbles terribly. That is the same with our Warriors. Let’s be honest guys. Our star player, Musona, was not playing regularly in Germany, his strike partner Chinyama is said to have fitness problems, Esrom and Tinashe are no longer regulars at their bases and these are the guys we trust with delivering. Hameno!
Mwana abvunzwa kuchikoro kuti ndezvipi zvikafu zvinodyiwa muZimbabwe akati “rice, nyama nemaWarriors.”
What pains most, for some of us mere ordinary fans, is not that our team has lost, because we seemed to know that was inevitable, but that we don’t have powers to change what we all see is wrong with our football. To make it worse, the people tasked with playing the role of supervisor, analyst and critic, the journalists, have suddenly gone into the caves hiding from something that we don’t know. Robson used to be vocal in the past and would hit right on the head but he has since been muted and you wonder, is this all about money changing hands behind closed doors to buy silence and support? You find individuals being glorified today, for doing this and that, and the newspapers and journalists seem to be in a race to become the first to heap all the praises on the Zifa leaders and very little is given to scrutiny. It’s a shame really and my challenge to all the journalists, starting with Sharuko, is to resign with immediate effect, before even this useless Zifa board quits, so that we can get a fresh crop of reporters who have no attachment whatsoever to these football leaders. We are being taken for a ride, as a country, by a Zifa board that has no clue whatsoever about how to manage the game and all they talk about is this and that individual and, the sad part of it, is that they come out tomorrow in the newspapers being glorified for that. I don’t expect any criticism on Zifa to come from ZTV or the radio stations for obvious reasons but, seriously, when things are as bad as they are in our football today, I believe we have a lot of newspapers to take care of the mess. The question is — Why is this not happening? Can someone out there give me an answer please?
The Andrew Jennings Story
Andrew Jennings is an award-winning British sports journalist who has dedicated his life to covering what he believes is wrong with Fifa and the International Olympic Committee.
He has also written a number of books on Fifa corruption and how the world’s most influential sporting organisation runs its affairs from its headquarters in Zurich.
Jennings is banned from Fifa functions but that hasn’t stopped him from his mission.
In his latest contribution in The British Journalism Review, Spinning the Olympics, Jennings asks a big question and wonders whether the spin doctors, who make a living out of giving a beautiful image to an ugly picture, have infiltrated the BBC and other British newspapers.
It sounds very familiar to our challenges in sport today and how the local media is reacting.
“Have dirty tricks spin-doctors from Doha and Zurich captured BBC Sport and its impressive global reach?” writes Jennings.
“These well-funded conmen have already captured some of London’s top reporters in the news agencies and the newspapers. There’s a private club of sports reporters who bring us the news and write about the Olympics. It is called the Olympic Journalists’ Association.
“Run your eye down the membership list and you’ll recognise many of the bylines from the sports pages, radio, television and the wires — Mihir Bose, David Bond, Paul Kelso and Ashling O’Connor — people who cover not just the Olympics, but also Fifa and the other international sports federations. And there’s Charles Battle. No journalist, he. He’s a Georgia lawyer-turned-Olympic consultant who suitcased thousands of dollars in cash from the Caribbean to Florida to win an IOC member’s vote for Atlanta’s bid to host the 1996 Olympics.
“And then there’s John Boulter, former British 800-metre runner, a past member of the once-powerful Adidas International Relations Team and Jean-Claude Schupp, also one of the Adidas team that, from the 1970s, intervened in leadership elections at the IOC, Fifa and IAAF. What on earth were those people doing in the reporters’ club? Whatever happened to journalists’ independence, keeping a distance from the people we write about?
“THE MEMBERSHIP LIST SAYS A LOT ABOUT WHAT IS WRONG WITH SPORTS JOURNALISM, THE LACK OF SCRUTINY AND SKEPTICISM THAT IS ITS HALLMARK.
“Jean-Marie Weber was another member of the reporters’ club. Weber was the bagman for the discredited ISL sports marketing company, handing over US$100 million in bribes to top sports officials in return for multi-billion-dollar marketing contracts for the Olympics and football’s World Cup. That reporters let the media masseurs into their private club is just one symptom of a much bigger problem — lack of scrutiny. Sport is big business, holds huge sway over politicians, and, as London has learned, can be used to eat up acres of land, destroy public spaces, suspend civil liberties and grant preferential tax deals. It is in the public interest that sport should be properly scrutinised.
“It’s so much more fun on the other side. I’ve had a hoot exposing sports secrets over the years. I got a suspended jail sentence in Switzerland for saying that (former) IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch was, corrupt — I’m really proud of that.
“I’M QUITE CHUFFED TO HAVE BEEN BANNED FROM FIFA PRESS CONFERENCES AND PREMISES SINCE 2003, WHEN I PUBLISHED A DOCUMENTED STORY ABOUT A SECRET BONUS BLATTER PAID HIMSELF. I TAKE IT AS A COMPLIMENT.
“And that’s another thing. You meet the nicest, funniest people — and the finest journalists — outside the club. “There’s Jean-Francois Tanda in Zurich, lawyer-turned-reporter using the courts to force Fifa’s leaders to publish a devastating criminal investigation into who got the US$100 million in contract kickbacks — from Jean-Marie Weber. There’s The Sunday Times Insight team of Claire Newell and Jonathan Calvert, who covertly recorded some Fifa leaders soliciting bribes — and forced their expulsion.
“When I visit British journalism schools I quote the late Louis Heren’s advice to a young reporter to find out ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’, and Lord Northcliffe’s ‘News is what somebody, somewhere, wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising.’ I invite the students to chant these calls to arms back at me — and they do. It’s very heartening.”
Crying Out For A Jennings
What is very clear, at this crucial moment in our football, is that the game’s fans — its biggest constituency — are crying out loudly for someone like Andrew Jennings, a journalist who takes no prisoners and who can bring out the beast in this Zifa board. Zifa did pretty well to brush me with all the black paint that I was part of the Asiagate match-fixing machinery and they have found that to be a convenient shield whenever I ask questions about why they are doing this and that thing.
There is no doubt that Zifa are driven by a boiling passion to silence me and the number of damning letters they have written everywhere, in this country and around the world over the past year, trying to gag me, confirms just that. The good thing is that not everyone on the board subscribes to that and, as so often happens, the leaks come out and you get to know of what is being planned and what has so far been done.
Some of the stuff is very scary, some of the stuff I don’t even lose sleep over and some of the stuff is just what you expect from guys in a corner.
The Zifa leaders are right to question why, if Asiagate happened on such a scale, the journalists missed it and wonder, as they always do, if that miss was deliberate because of certain personal interests. The Italian fans are also right to question why, if match-fixing repeatedly happens on such a grand scale in their country, their journalists, in a country that has the Gazetta delo Sport newspaper, seem to always miss it and wonder if those misses are deliberate because of certain personal interests.
Turkish fans are right to question why, if match-fixing keeps stalking their football the way it does, their journalists always seem to miss it, when it happens, and wonder if those misses are deliberate because of certain interests.
Until The British Sunday Times secretly recorded Amos Adamu and his Fifa colleagues, asking for bribes, we all believed votes for World Cup hosts were transparent and the public have a right to ask, now that they know that wasn’t the case, why the global media didn’t pick that out early. But what this shows is that there are misses and hits in this industry, and it might not be all related to personal interests, because if we go the way some Zifa leaders have gone with Asiagate, then the Gazetta delo Sport, would have long closed because they keep missing all the Italian match-fixing scandals when they happen.
All the Turkish football writers, using this same template, should also be fired because, just like their Italian counterparts, they keep missing the match-fixing scandals when they happen and only catch up with the story later after police raids.
Andrew Jennings reveals in his presentation that henchmen have been hired to try and nail him and Peter Hargitay, a Swiss-Hungarian crisis manager, even tried to rubbish him by telling a British newspaper that he used to be a member of the Communist Party, just like Lord Triesman, then the FA chairman and leader of England’s 2018 World Cup bidding team, and they studied at the same university.
While Lord Triesman was indeed a former Communist Party member, Jennings wasn’t and, crucially, they never went to the same university. But in football such gossip can be taken as fact and when Lord Triesman testified in British Parliament about the failed England 2018 World Cup bid, he said something revealing about his visit to Blatter in Zurich.
“The first part of it involved him (Blatter) interrogating me as to whether Andrew Jennings was one of my very close friends and whether we had been to university together,” said Lord Triesman. “I think he was surprised to hear, because he had been briefed that that was the case, that we didn’t know each other at all. Anyway, he was deeply concerned about that and he pressed that point at some length.”
There is one last connection I have with Andrew Jennings and it’s something being used against us by those who suffered our scrutiny back in 2006.
“I reported on the vast ticket rackets run by (then) Fifa vice-president Jack Warner. Viewers saw him threaten to spit on me at Zurich airport,” writes Jennings in his presentation.
“In another encounter, on the street in Trinidad, Warner told me: ‘Go f*** yourself.’”
Warner, of course, is gone but others remain in the trenches today. No prizes, of course, for guessing.
To God be the Glory!
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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