AMID the bag of compliments I have been receiving in the past week in a nostalgic reminder of the sights and sounds of my quarter-of-a-century adventure in this newspaper’s corridors, there are about four of five comments that have really stood out. Like one from a regular reader of my stuff, now based in New Zealand, who reminded me of an incident when some Dynamos fans – unhappy with my description of their team as “perennial continental misfits” back in the years before their ‘98 adventure completed their transition into manhood – staged a demonstration against me at Herald House.
They were about 40 of them, from the group that used to hold regular daily evening meetings in First Street to discuss their team’s affairs, and it happened that this reader was part of those protesters that day, who sang a number of songs denouncing me in a drama lasting for about 30 minutes.
It turned out that he was the one who was holding a placard, which dwarfed the messages on the other placards.
He simply converted the words that had triggered the demonstration wrote on his placard: “SHARUKO IS A PERENNIAL SPORTSWRTING MISFIT”.
More than 20 years later, with the heat of that standoff having been blown away by the passage of time and the acrimony of those moments having been distilled by the changing seasons, he could now even afford the time to make the long distance call from Auckland last week to congratulate me on the long journey and how he valued my material.
The other one came from our senior photographer, Tawanda Mudimu, who, in quite a touching note, wrote to me about “moments we overlook, the miracles that happen in our lives, not because they didn’t happen but because we think it’s normal,’’ and how he gives me credit for “teaching me when I knew nothing, leading me when there was no way, taking me to the position I never imagined, your hand in my life will always be treasured, being there for me with brotherly love and kindness which has significantly impacted on my life”.
Of course, the best one came from the boss himself, Caesar Zvayi, the Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper, who told the journalists gathered for the small function he hosted in the newsroom to celebrate my Silver Jubilee that, back in the years when he was still running a column in this paper, he picked out that when the newspaper was delivered at his home, his family would first read this column before turning to the one he would have written.
Nelson Banya, the editor of The Financial Gazette, also called and delivered quite a lovely message in which he talked at length about the inspiration he derived from my work – back in the day when he was a reporter on our business desk — and how it helped him climb the ladder of leadership that has also seen him working for the international news agency, Reuters, in the past.
It’s on days like these that, for everything that life throws at us – the good, the bad and the ugly – you are reminded of its enduring beauty, of the immense power of the Hand of the Lord, that God is there and we should always, always, appreciate the gifts he has given us rather than endlessly mourn as to why we were never born into the greatness of royalty like Prince Charles or why we are not as rich as Bill Gates, we have to celebrate what we have and forever thank God for it.
I have never claimed or pretended to be the best sports journalist ever because I know there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of others who are far, far better than me and, in the weekend that Rivaldo is in town, you only need to read this piece below by Rob Smyth (I’m not sure why they gave him my name), in the British Guardian newspaper in 2008 about this great Brazilian football superstar, to appreciate the fact that there are many other better sports writers than me by a country mile.
I am happy with what God gave me, it’s all I ever wanted and all I could have asked from Him if given another chance to do so.
RIVALDO, ON HIS OWN, IS WORTH HIS APPEARANCE IN GOLD
This Smyth masterpiece on Rivaldo for The Guardian was written before the Lionel and Cristiano Ronaldo era, when Zinedine Zidane was considered the King.
“The common, if slightly cringe-worthy, observation of pundits in this country is that, if you could marry British will with continental skill, you would have the perfect footballer, such a mixed recipe was thrillingly in evidence in Diego Maradona and since then, however, perhaps only Rivaldo has fused the two qualities,’’ Smyth wrote in June 2008.
“Yet when we discuss soccer’s AM (After Maradona) greats, Zinedine Zidane invariably comes out on top, with Rivaldo well back among the pack and while it would be dubious to argue that Rivaldo was a better technician than Zidane, it is arguable that, if you took everyone playing at the absolute peak of their game, Rivaldo was the best and most unstoppable footballer since Maradona.
“It is potentially anomalous to argue that a former World Player of the Year was underrated, yet even at his peak, Rivaldo often played under a cloud and he was frequently abused while playing for Brazil, whose fans believed he spared his best for Barcelona. Zidane was an avant-garde footballer, as rich in subtext as it is possible for a sportsman to be, whereas Rivaldo was a rudimentary blockbuster, the ultimate Fantasy Footballer: he dealt relentlessly in the hard currency of goals (86 in 159 games for Barcelona and 34 in 74 for Brazil, outstanding for a player, who invariably played on the left) and assists.
“Apart from a right foot, Rivaldo had everything, his wiry strength allowed him to bounce off defenders, he was an outstanding dribbler and he had a left foot that was both educated and thuggish, subtle and a sledgehammer, he could larrup the ball in, arrow a daisy-cutter a few centimetres inside the far post, coax a free-kick high or low, left or right, and his control – best exemplified by a stunning, über-Le Tissier assist against Deportivo in 2002 – was sensational.
“Rivaldo often looked apathetic and sullen – his smile was so rare that when it came, it broke a thousand mirrors, and at times he seemed to dither like a posh boy pretending to have commitment issues, but when the mood took him and he fancied the challenge, he pursued it with the remorseless will and purpose of Javier Bardem in ‘No Country For Old Men’.
“Rivaldo also scored eight goals in two World Cups – including five in consecutive games in 2002 – and two in a Copa America final and with the ball at his feet, not even the most nationalistic stereotyper would deny that he gave us the best of all worlds.’’
Rivaldo is one hell of a vintage footballer whose appearance, just being here to run onto our field, bend the ball – far better than David Beckham – with that magical left foot of his, take on a defender or two, is worth its value in gold.
Ronaldinho, the other member of the Barca Legends, is paid a considerable fortune just for an appearance at various events around the world and he is in so much demand that you have to book him in advance online and you can be told, depending on location and event, that it will cost you from about $100 000 to even more than a million dollars.
He won’t be here this weekend with his Barca Legends because he has some prior commitments elsewhere in Mexico, but still, even without the magical one whom Real Madrid – for their stupidity – decided against signing him because they felt he wasn’t good looking to suit their brand, and sell jerseys around the world.
THOSE SAYING THIS IS BUNCH OF BOOZERS DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
We still have some, among us, who have been saying these guys are just a bunch of boozers, not worth the hype they have been getting. The same guys who were initially telling everyone who cared to listen to them that the Barca Legends would never come to this country, for one reason or another, the same guys who were saying that Kundai Benyu, Admiral Muske, Macauley Bonne and Tendayi Darikwa would never leave the comfort of England to come to play for this country. The same guys who always see shadows when it comes to this country, who always wish this country burns to ashes, who never want to hear anything positive happening to this country, to an extent that when we win the COSAFA Senior Challenge Cup, they dismiss it as an irrelevant developmental tournament and when our Under-17s do badly at the same tournament, they say it’s a sign of the decay in our game. Maybe, given they have been going on and on about these Barca Legends being a bunch of boozers, they should read this quote from Rivaldo.
“I never got drunk and I never smoked a cigarette. I never went out at night to parties and things like that. I have always been serious and focused on achieving my football dreams,” Rivaldo said.
“If you research, you will find that I have a clear history with no controversies and problems. And today, I am an example and I think I can talk to you about this. Football is not easy. We find a lot of difficulties around us, but you need to be humble and work hard. By doing so, you will find the right way to become a star.”
Why do we suddenly, deliberately ignore the fact that the same Rivaldo, whom we suddenly call a boozer, was playing professional football for an Angolan side Kabuscorp – where he was the richest paid footballer in Africa just three years ago at the age of 41?
In a country where some of our so-called rising stars, notably Denver Mukamba – a footballer who was deemed good enough to even captain our Warriors during a World Cup qualifier in Egypt in March 2013 when he was still just 22 – have lost their way before they have even turned 25, consumed by the destructive power of alcohol and drugs, shouldn’t we be celebrating the arrival of a real legend like Rivaldo so that he provides our boys with a model of what a real professional looks like?
Not because we want to salvage what is left from the wreckage of the career of Denver, which appears to have gone off the rails because of some bad choices he has made, but because we care for the next generation of players – our teenage boys who are the future of our game.
The boys who have been watching from a distance and wondering what has happened to someone who seemingly had the world at his feet just a few years ago and the group, which if Denver remains the image of what our game is all about, could be lost from this sport under a cloud of disappointment.
The boys who need to know that away from the darkness of the world which Denver has seemingly chosen to live in for one reason or another, there is the beauty of the light which someone like Rivaldo – a boy who grew up in grinding poverty in Brazil and used his God-given skills to find a path to greatness and riches – brings to the table.
Come on guys, why can’t we, for a change, look at the positive side – the feel-good factor that one of the all-time greats of world football is set to play on our soil tomorrow, the way our colleagues in Mozambique have gone crazy with the arrival of these superstars in their country ahead of their match there?
Why are we always obsessed with the negativity, the stuff that will never make us a better people, which will never make us a better nation, when there is some light just around us and some fine-good stories that can help cheer our spirits?
Why do we seemingly draw disappointment from the fact that these Barca Legends are here, in our country, when our colleagues just across the border in Mozambique are going crazy that the same players have landed on their shores?
We send each other videos of thousands of screaming American fans in New York’s Times Square, trying to just get a glimpse of David Beckham – another retired footballer – who had gone there to try and promote his H&M underwear range. We ridicule those among us who are going crazy just to get a glimpse of Rivaldo.
A security guard is now suing H&M, claiming she was injured while trying to control crowds at their Times Square store during that appearance by Beckham.
A country that goes crazy to pay $50 tickets to watch two hours of a performance by Jamaican artiste, whose music the guys can play on their mobile phones at any time suddenly finds it outrageous that there are people who are going crazy just because these football legends are in their town and they can watch them play in an exhibition game for the cost of just $2 a ticket.
Zvanzi vakapera, maboozer, imi kaimi, boys, musadaro, nokuti they are here, because anything that comes here is not worth its value, tikawana nguva tikwane.
SO MUCH NEGATIVITY, SO LITTLE POSITIVITY
The better part of this week, a lot of us have spent hours criticising the inclusion of someone like Edward Sadomba in the Warriors Legends team, arguing he doesn’t fit the bill to be called a Warriors Legend, yet the same people don’t find anything wrong in Edgar Davids, who played only 18 matches and scored one goal for Barcelona, on loan, among the Barca Legends.
The same people have been questioning if Zenzo Moyo can be called a Warriors Legend, when they can’t find anything wrong in Danny Webber, who only featured as a trainee at Manchester United before he moved to Watford, Sheffield United, Portsmouth, Leeds, Accrington Stanley and non-league Salford, playing regularly for the Man United Legends and scoring the last time they played the Barca Legends at Old Trafford.
The last time the Barca Legends were at Old Trafford, among those who were in attendance were Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson – two of the most celebrated figures in world football – yet some of us tell each other these visiting guys are not worth our eyes.
Rather than spend all our energy in our favourite past-time of being agents of negativity, we should actually be borrowing lessons from this Barca Legends project, so that we also find a way to honour those who have distinguished themselves in the sporting service for us.
And in the process celebrate that we are indeed one hell of a unique and very special country in this world, the 15 million of us, so tiny a population and so small a country, but so richly blessed by the Lord He gave us Andy Flower, who rose to become a number one ranked batsman in world cricket, the only player to score a century on debut in a World Cup match, Nick Price, who rose to number one in golf in the world, Evan Stewart, who rose to number one in diving in the world.
Kirsty Coventry, the most decorated African Olympian, Brendan Taylor, one of a few select cricketers to score back-to-back centuries at the ICC Cricket World Cup, a hockey team that won gold at the Olympic Games, a footballer who won the European Cup and six league titles with Liverpool and the first black African star to play in the English Premiership.
Along the way we have made the Springboks to be what they are today by giving them Adrian Harvey, Andy MacDonald, Ben-Piet van Zyl, Bobby Skinstad, Brian Mujati, Chris Rogers, David Smith, des van Jaarsveldt, Gary Teichmann, Ian Robertson, Ray Mordt, Ronnie Hill, Ryk van Schoor, Tendai “Beast’’ Mtawarira, Tonderai Chavhanga, you name them.
We have even given the Americans Takudzwa Ngwenya and the best player at the 2015 Rugby World Cup was our boy from Gweru – David Pocock – in the colours of Australia.
Come on guys, we have so much to celebrate as a people because we have a number of Legends among us.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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