|My wish is just to quit, I’ve served football for 20 years and, this year, I’ve seen a very ugly face of the game|
|Friday, 20 July 2012 21:30|
Tapiwa Kapini chose Nelson Mandela Day, and a rare dance with the Red Devils, to give Zimbabwe football a positive sound-bite that it had been crying for a very long time.
With the world watching, and 50 000 fans crammed into the packed Moses Mabhida Stadium, Kapini conjured a moment of magic that will remain frozen in memory, for those who value brilliance, for some time to come.
It was the standout moment, for a match that had been hyped up because of its date with Madiba’s birthday party, and it overshadowed the cameo role of the £17,5 m Shinji Kagawa who made his debut for Manchester United.
When Dimitar Berbatov connected, first time, a sweet and thunderous volley that was dipping viciously towards its target into the top of the middle area of goal, the script had been written for the Bulgarian ace to dominate the headlines. But, instead, it was the Zimbabwe captain who stood tall, flinging himself into the air and producing a top-drawer flying save, in tipping the ball over the bar, which even the great Peter Schmeichel would have been proud of.
For good measure, he landed on his back but, being the acrobat that he is, Campos didn’t need the help of the use of his hands to haul himself up, twisting his frame up in one artistic movement like a karate expert, ready to face the Red Devils again. The look on Berbatov’s face said it all, the disappointment that his moment of genius had not produced an end product for United to increase their lead and that a ‘keeper, from a league found in the backwaters of world football, had produced that barrier.
In the sports bar where I watched this game, they were all supporting Amazulu and these guys included my mates who are Manchester United fans. Finally, they had been wooed by the charm of hometown heroes like Kapini, which apparently had shattered the bond created by offshore heroes like Chicharito and, given a choice, they chose the devils they knew better. And Kapini was there to provide the moment of magic in the 41st minute, pulling off a wonder save from Berbatov, which was so world-class it would have kept his agent busy on Thursday, dealing with enquiries from interested European suitors, if the ‘keeper was 10 years younger.
It could also make a big difference, between Berbatov staying or leaving United, because if that had gone in, I’m pretty sure the decision-makers at the Red Devils would be thinking twice about granting the Bulgarian his wish to leave and join AC Milan. For me, what mattered, was that a Zimbabwean boy produced that world-class save, that defining moment of the game, the beautiful image that will always represent everything good about this match, the golden moment on which this game pitched its marketing package.
Refreshingly, we had the world, for that moment, chatting about the beautiful and magical performance of a Zimbabwean footballer and not the rumbling show from a Zimbabwean football administrator talking endlessly about how ugly our national game has become. In an era where we have painted our footballers as match-fixers, it felt really refreshing that a Zimbabwean footballer should provide a timely reminder to the world that we still had fertile football nurseries good enough to produce a player to conjure a magnificent stunt to leave Berbatov speechless.
In an era where the majority of football stories that are fed to the world, coming from Zimbabwe, are pregnant with polluted stuff so depressing it pushes you closer to vomiting, it was so nice one of our players provided the moment on which a game featuring Manchester United built its storyline.
In an era where foreign clubs interested in buying our players now need to ask for assurance, in written commitments, that their targets are not match-fixing wizards as portrayed in the media by our football leaders, it felt so good that one of them let his football write the headlines.
In an era where we now have players being forced to take a sabbatical from international football, walking away from the Warriors at the tender age of 22, having scored six goals in eight Nations Cup/World Cup games for an incredible 77 percent strike rate, it felt so refreshing that a veteran like Kapini, our national skipper, can still take is game to such lofty heights. The negativity still stalks us and Zifa chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze, was the latest high-profile football administrator to have a question-and-answer date with the police, in a volatile landscape pregnant with landmines.
But, at least, for some of us who care so much for this game, Kapini provided something to cheer our spirits on Wednesday and we slept peacefully knowing that, in that one grand act of artistry, the goalkeeper had given the world a different view of a Zimbabwean footballer.
The Debate That Won’t Go Away
Knowledge Musona is not the greatest footballer to emerge out of Zimbabwe and that is a fact because Peter Ndlovu was miles ahead and Moses Chunga was, by far, better than the Smiling Assassin. The younger generation, which saw the Flying Elephant when he was in the twilight of a career ravaged by injuries and where he now played at half the pace that he used to burn on the wings of Coventry City, will tell you that they believe Musona is special.
They will tell you that, at 22, playing in a global game that has become very defensive, he has room for improvement and, in a year or two, he could transform himself into something very big forcing those of us, like me, who feel Peter is all there is to greatness, to eat humble pie.
Most of them didn’t even see Chunga in action and with little coming from ZTV’s archives to relive the moments when Bambo turned on the magic, scoring directly from corner kicks with balls that seemed to bend at an incredible angle, his images on the pitch are lost to them.
But some of us, who saw Bambo at his best, when time appeared to stand still as he effortlessly glided past opponents before firing with both venom and accuracy from distance, with either foot for good measure, still remember a true football genius good enough to have played for Barcelona today. I know I will get a lot of bricks thrown in my direction for saying this but I genuinely feel Moses Chunga was so good, as a footballer, he dwarfs everything I have seen from African stars and his class, forget about his discipline or lack of focus, could have been good enough for this Barca of today.
At least, the international journalists who go into Pele and Maradona’s corner when arguments start as to who is the greatest and Lionel Messi is thrown into the fold, have television footage, from as far back as 1958 at the World Cup in Sweden, to fall back on. All we have here, when the young generation challenge us to convince them that Peter and Moses were miles better than Knowledge, are memories, super memories, from a past in which these two football magicians charmed us with moments that will remain frozen in our memory banks forever.
But what is clear is that if Moses was the greatest of his era, in this country, and Peter was the finest of his era by a mile, then Knowledge is the best of his era by a distance. And, like the two great geniuses, he has a dark side.
Moses famously refused to play for peanuts, at the turn of the ‘90s, while representing his country and, for a long time, Peter stayed away from the national team because of differences with the Zifa administrators. Moses came back to play his best football, for the Warriors, during the qualifiers for the ’92 Nations Cup finals, providing the productive hub for a team that was led upfront by the two Ndlovu brothers — Peter and Adam — and they were on course for a place at the showcase until John Sibanda messed it up against Congo.
Peter also came back to play a big role, in helping the Warriors end 23 years of waiting by qualifying for their maiden Nations Cup and he was also there, as the team leader, when they made it to their second straight finals in Egypt in 2006. Peter was 30, when he finally pushed the Warriors through to Tunisia in 2003, and Moses was 27, when he played that inspirational role that almost took us to the ’92 Nations Cup finals before it all came crashing down due to a comical blunder by the ‘keeper.
Musona’s first attempt to take us to the Nations Cup was during the last campaign and, while he failed, you can’t fault him for giving it his best shot, scoring four goals in the four games he played for the Warriors in that campaign, including all the goals scored on the road.
Yes, the Warriors scored three goals, when he was not around due to injury against Liberia, the weakest team in the group that lost all its three away matches, but it’s also a fact that, in their backyard the Lone Star were a handful and in Monrovia, our only goal came from the Smiling Assassin.
When the Warriors needed a hero to emerge, when a goal would put them back into the picture in the game against Cape Verde in Praia, there was only one player with the pedigree to get such a goal in such hostile terrain. Musona’s phenomenal strike rate for the Warriors, if we compile our statistics, is the first such productive spell by a rookie into the team and even matches or is better than Agent Sawu’s goal return as the spearhead of the Dream Team.
When you consider the quality of the players that surrounded Sawu in that team, the supply line that he had, the supporting staff he had in that frontline, and you then compare to what Musona plays with in our current team, you can see the reason why this boy’s goal return is special. Yes, he has struggled to make a big impression in his first season in the Bundesliga but he has time on his hands and even Thierry Henry, who now has a statue built for him at the Emirates as an Arsenal legend, was hopelessly lost when he left France for a season at Juventus.
There are a lot of people who judged Thierry then, described him as hopeless and useless, simply because of his difficult transition, but Arsene Wenge took him away to London and, as they say, the rest is history and all those critics suddenly went quiet as the Number 14 exploded around the world. I don’t want to be like those people and that is why I still give Musona the benefit of doubt that he will make it in Europe and needs just time for him to make the adjustment.
But the Musona I’m more interested in is the one who scores for the Warriors, takes them to the Nations Cup finals and also, if that is possible, takes them to the World Cup finals. A Musona who wins the Bundesliga and Champions League for his German club, while doing absolutely nothing for the Warriors, is not important to us as a nation because all that he does is decorate the trophy cabinets of his team. What we all agree is that Knowledge was wrong to choose the company of Henrietta Rushwaya, if he did meet her, at a time when this lady is being blamed by the Zifa bosses for everything that has gone horribly wrong with our football.
Where we don’t agree is that we should use this incident to banish Knowledge from the Warriors because while the point is that he walked away, the reality is that he was forced to reconsider his association with a team where his every movement will be followed with suspicion. True leaders find a way to help boys like Knowledge realise the folly of their ways, as and when they get it wrong, and they help them use mistakes from that past to march strongly into the future.
Yes, we can win without Knowledge because one man doesn’t make a team but chances are that we are likely to be a weaker team without him because one man can make a huge difference in a football team. If it was my call, I would ring Knowledge this morning, ask him to reconsider his decision, convene some clear-the-air talks and make him see that the bigger picture, of serving the interests of his country, is more important.
Often times when people talk they realise that the differences that divide them are less that the things they share in common, which should be binding them into a single unit. I might be wrong, because I’m not a superman, but we really need Knowledge.
The Battle Of Zimbabwe
In the good days of our innocence, when our football was still a beautiful sport before it turned into this ugly thing without a description, the big match tomorrow between Highlanders and Dynamos would have dominated the sporting headlines. But, in case you realised this week that this was not the case, it’s because things have changed and the real sport, the football that is played on the field, has been forced into the background by the politics of sport. It’s a price we are paying for our obsession with leaders pre-occupied with boardroom issues than what happens on the field of play.
I went to Lafarge last Saturday for the Gunners/Shabanie game and there were about 500 fans, on a cold afternoon in Mabvuku, for that match. I saw Farai Jere, the CAPS United director, and I said to myself “There sits a football man,” because you had to be a football lover to have been at Lafarge that cold afternoon.
I saw Charles Mabika and I said to myself “There sits a football man,” because you had to be a football lover to be in Mabvuku that cold afternoon.
I didn’t see a lot of people who rule our football from offshore positions because a Gunners/Shabanie game at Lafarge doesn’t appeal to them because there is no television to capture them sitting in the stands or talking about the game. Real football people will be at Barbourfields tomorrow for the big showdown between Dynamos and Highlanders because that is what this game is all about.
It’s about Chinyama as much as it is about Graham, it’s about Milton as much as it is about Mparati, it’s about Guthrie as much as it is about Eric, it’s about Kaindu as much as it is about Pasuwa. Mourinho said his Real Madrid team that won the Spanish La Liga didn’t get the special praise they deserved because too many people, who only know football through Google, had parachuted themselves into influential positions in Spain. It’s not only in Spain, Jose, even here in Zimbabwe we have similar challenges of this Google Brigade.
The Case Of Bin Hammam
A year ago, Mohamed Bin Hammam wanted to be Fifa president and challenged Sepp Blatter but was thrown out of the game after the Fifa Ethics Committee found him guilty of conspiring to pay bribes and banned him for life. Witnesses were lined up and there were moving testimonies from leading figures in Fifa and all this was used to nail Bin Hammam to seal his fate.
But Bin Hammam is a rich man and took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport who this week nullified the life-time ban by ruling that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that he was guilty.
Now, how many others, not as rich as Bin Hammam, are having their rights trampled upon by the powerful in the name of football and Fifa this and Fifa that?
How many others are being nailed by witness accounts, which look suspicious, when, if their cases had been brought to a body like CAS, there would be an inevitable conclusion that there wasn’t enough evidence to reach a guilty verdict?
If the Fifa Ethics Committee can be so naïve as to reach a conclusion, on such a sensitive matter, without giving due regard to the strength of the evidence, how many others are being silenced and punished in football’s structures by such flawed committees?
“The (CAS) panel is doing no more than concluding that the evidence is insufficient in that it does not permit the majority of the panel to reach the standard of comfortable satisfaction in relation to the matters on which the appellant was charged,” the CAS report said.
That’s a damaging indictment on the Fifa Ethics Committee that reached the very decision to expel Bin Hammam and, now, as others who are not blinded by the politics are Fifa see the light and courage to question this decision, what impression of that committee does it leave to ordinary men like you and me? Are we wrong to believe, as we now do, that the accusation brought about by Fifa that Bin Hammam tried to buy voters just a way of pushing him aside so that Blatter would not be challenged?
“My wish now is just to quit and retire,” Bin Hammam told BBC’s World Football programme on Thursday.
“I’ve served football for 42 years.
“THIS LAST YEAR, I HAVE SEEN A VERY UGLY FACE OF THE SPORT AND FOOTBALL.”
As I read this statement, something died in me.
Bin Hammam appeared to be talking about Zimbabwean football, about us, about everything that has happened in the past year, all the ugly things. I felt the urge to follow him into retirement and, if I was going to do it, I would just reproduce his statement, with minor alterations:
“I’ve served football for 20 years as its public servant,” I would have said.
“THIS LAST YEAR, I HAVE SEEN A VERY UGLY FACE OF THE SPORT AND FOOTBALL.
“My wish now is just to quit and retire.”
The way I see it, there will be a lot of Zimbabwean football cases at CAS in the coming months.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The only people mad at you for saying the truth are those living a lie. Keep saying it!
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