Sharuko on Saturday
ON Tuesday, a massive global football party, which has been in the making for a quarter-of-a-century, finally exploded into life — complete with historical fireworks — as the world celebrated the day the English Premiership turned 25.
From Canberra in Australia to Cairo on the shores of the Nile, from Toronto in Canada to Tokyo and from Cape Town to Cape Cornwall, the party was in full swing.
And, from all angles, the globe was bombarded with material — both visual and written — about the life and times of a football revolution in which the Premiership has transformed itself from the locality of being just an English league into this global phenomenon.
The sights and sounds of an adventure that saw a league — weighed down by rioting on the stands, falling attendance figures, the Hillsborough tragedy and Bradford Fire and its best players moving to the comfort of mainland Europe — into what is now the most watched football show on the globe.
There was no way of escaping the avalanche of material, both written and broadcast, fed on us as they toasted this coming of age and how the Premiership had defied just about everything, including the global financial crisis of 2008, which some economists believe was the worst since the Great Depression more than 85 years ago.
In all that merry-making, we were dragged to meet the first footballer to score a goal in the Premiership, which came after only five minutes, with Brian Deane scoring for Sheffield United against, probably fittingly so, the very team that would go on to dominate the league, Manchester United, on August 15, 1992. They even dragged Deane, now 49, to where it happened that day at Bramall Lane, where the retired striker was pictured holding the very ball he scored in that match 25 years ago, which is stored in a protective glass, kept in the Sheffield United museum and could be worth millions today.
They then dragged us to that occasion, in the same first month of the English Premiership, when Eric Cantona became the first player to score a hat-trick for Leeds, who were the then defending champions, against Tottenham on August 25, 1992.
They reminded us that back then the Premiership wasn’t the box-office attraction that it has become today, with full-house crowds at every match, and only 3 039 fans — the lowest attendance in the league’s history — turned up to watch Everton beat Wimbledon 3-1, courtesy of a Tony Cottee hat-trick, at Selhurst Park on January 26, 1993.
And, from the average attendance figures of 21 130 in the first season of the Premiership in 1992/1993, the figure rose to an average 35 805 last season and, for good measure, they told us that 313 million people had paid to watch matches in the league, dwarfing the population of the United States seven years ago.
Oh, yes, they told us the job of managers, back in the first season was a secure one and only one manager, the late Ian Porterfield, whose coaching adventure would eventually bring him here as the Warriors coach in the tail-end of the ‘90s, was sacked in that campaign when Chelsea gave him the boot on February 15, 1993.
The same Chelsea who are the defending champions today, oh yes, the same Chelsea who would sack Jose Mourinho — the first coach to guide this club to their first league championship in 50 years in 2005 — just seven months after winning his third title with them two years ago.
In the madness of today’s Premiership, divorced from the innocence and purity of the first campaign in 1992/1993, they reminded us this week, of how Claudio Ranieri, the only manager to lead Leicester City to a championship crown, was gone after just nine months and Roberto Mancini was fired a year to the day he delivered Manchester City’s first league title in 44 years.
And, of course, they also reminded us that back in the first weekend of the English Premiership only 13 out of the 242 players who started the matches were not British or Irish, whereas today the league has been cosmopolitan, flooded with foreigners, and on December 26, 1999, Chelsea made history as the first club in the league to field a starting XI that didn’t have any British player at Southampton.
FOR US, HISTORY HAS NO VALUE AND WE APPEAR IN A RUSH TO FORGET OUR RICH PAST
You might not like their football and argue, with a lot of reason, that the most powerful club in the world today — the steamrolling Real Madrid machine — is not part of their league, the last four UEFA Champions League winners have all been Spanish clubs, with Real winning three, the last English club to win it was Chelsea five years ago and the best two players in the world, Ronaldo and Messi, are all part of the La Liga show.
But you have to give it to them, if not for the way they have converted a huge part of the world into willing disciples of their football, no matter its inferiority technically to some of the other leagues on mainland Europe, using that to turn it into this money-making machine, then for the pride they have in who they are and what they have.
They have absolutely no apologies or excuses to make for that and it’s a virtue.
This week, I watched from a distance, as Mike Madoda played the role of advocate on Twitter as he tried to defend his views, which I also subscribe to, that Peter Ndlovu is an English Premiership Legend amid a wave of accusations, from a Zimbabwean, who said the Flying Elephant was just a lower league legend in England.
That debate was another reminder of how much we, unlike the English or the Nigerians or the Zambians, have a tendency of finding delight in looking down upon ourselves and the achievements of those whom we call our own.
And, amid the tsunami of material that was directed towards me on Twitter, on television at home, on the Internet every time I went there — of the beauty and history of the English Premiership on its Silver Jubilee — I felt a sense of disappointment with the way we appear not to attach any value to our history, but even twist it to try and remove the richness that will underscore its relevance to be stored for posterity.
I then realised that at this rate, very, very soon, our kids will start asking us “daddy who is this Moses Chunga by the way, daddy who is Peter Ndlovu, who is Ephraim Chawanda, who is George Shaya, who is Ernest Kamba, who is Duncan Ellison, who is Jonah Murewa, who is Charles Mabika?’ and, regrettably, they won’t be wrong and we are to blame for all this.
A football community desperate to forget its golden past that we have already rushed to forget Evans Mambara, as if his golden voice never boomed from our radios back in the days when football commentary was romantic, and gave a meaning and lyrics to our game, a community that has already rushed to forget Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, taken away from us just two years ago.
A community that has forgotten there used to be someone called Francis Shonhayi, as good a captain both for his club and country as they will ever come, who today lies buried in his home area of Chirumhanzi, where no one among us has dared to go and remember him 11 years after we left him there.
And, while others use the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of their league which has become such a global phenomenon and tell us that our own Peter Ndlovu deserves legendary status, not only for the distinction of being the first African player to feature in that league, but the impact he made as a player, including becoming the first visiting footballer to score a hat-trick at Anfield against Liverpool since 1961, we engage into denial mode because we refuse to believe such heroes can ever be found among us.
We are all to blame for this mess because can someone tell me why, eight months into the year, the so-called celebrations to mark the Silver Jubilee of our modern Premiership season have not even started?
We were told that a special commemorative logo will be stitched on one side of the sleeves of the jerseys to be used by all the clubs in the Premiership this season, to commemorate 25 years of our domestic top-flight league, but eight months into the year we have seen nothing closer to that.
Now, if we find it difficult, if not impossible, to just insert a simple logo on jerseys to celebrate the 25 years that we have travelled in this Premiership, surely can we be then trusted to do bigger and more complex things like improving the lot of the very clubs who expected their freedom from direct control of the Association would mean richer pickings for them?
If we fail to just stitch a simple special commemorative logo into the sleeves of the jerseys to celebrate our journey, how can we then be trusted to value the special contribution of those who played a big part in ensuring that our Premiership is what it is today — just one of two Southern African top-flight leagues to provide the region with a club good enough to play in the CAF Champions League final?
Where the Dynamos jersey this year would feature a special commemorative logo, inserted by the Premiership, saying CAF Champions League runners-up 1998 as a way of thanking the Glamour Boys for the way they raised the profile of our league in the last 25 years with their incredible journey in that campaign.
If we can’t simply stitch a simple special commemorative logo into the sleeves of the jerseys to celebrate our history, how can we then be trusted to remind those who jumped onto the bandwagon in the latter years that, at the very beginning of the show, we used to have a special striker called Agent Sawu before Memory Mucherahowa, Tauya Murewa, the only doctor who could fly, and Stewart Murisa came and ruled the roost.
And that Zenzo Moyo, Maxwell Dube, Dazzy Kapenya, Energy Murambadoro, Cephas Chimedza, Joseph Kamwendo, Clemence Matawu, Murape Murape, Ramson Zhuwawo, Charles Sibanda, Washington Arubi, Denver Mukamba, Tawanda Muparati, Denis Dauda, Danny Phiri and Hardlife Zvirekwi also came on board, after the turn of the millennium?
Can we then blame our kids, who are beginning to ask us who was Agent Sawu, who was Joe Mugabe, who was Shepherd Muradzikwa, who was Boniface Chiseko, who was Uyera Mukorongo, who was Clifford Makiyi, who was Collin Semwayo, who was Webster Kurwaisimba, who was Ian Motondo, when we are seemingly leading the crusade to try and ensure that their great contribution to our game is erased from history?
Can we then blame them for having better knowledge of Doctor Khumalo, Chippa Masinga, the Midnight Express known as Helman Mkhalele, Legs of Thunder also known as Jerry Sikhosana, John “Shoes’’ Moshoeu, when we are the ones in an apparent rush to wipe away the history of our own superstars who probably were better than these guys?
If a little club like Sheffield United can find value in preserving the match ball which Brian Deane scored the first goal in the English Premiership five minutes into their match against Manchester United on August 15, 1992, and keep it in their museum as a piece of art, why can’t we as a Premiership find value in celebrating the sights and sounds of the journey we have travelled in the past 25 years?
Isn’t there a shame in all this, an insult to what all these great players, administrators and fans did for the cause of this Premiership?
IF A 100-YEAR-OLD ROSE CAN REMEMBER, WHAT ABOUT US?
I watched the super movie, Titanic, again this week — something I do once every month — to quench my fascination with how this mega ship sank and as part of my research into everything surrounding that tragedy. Okay, now I know that Rose DeWitt Bukater, the central character in the movie, was just a 17-year-old pretty girl when she boarded the Titanic in 1912 and was a centurion, 84 years later, when she was brought back by treasury hunters to tell her story.
Even after such a passage of time, which had seen her survive the horror of the sinking of the Titanic, make it to the United States, marry Juan Calvert, have lots of children, become a success actress, she never forgot the lover she lost when the giant ship went down, Jack Dawson, even though she never told anyone about, not her children, not her husband, not her grandchildren.
And, when told by one of the treasure hunters that nothing on Jack was found on the doomed ship, not even a record of him at all, she opened with words that should shame us for being such a forgetful lot.
“No, there wouldn’t be, would there? And I’ve never spoken of him until now. Not to anyone, not to even your grandfather, a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets,’’ she told her grandchild.
“But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me in every way that a person can be saved. I don’t even have a picture of him. He exists now only in my memory.’’
But, then, it would be unfair to just lump the blame on the Premiership alone because one would have expected CAPS United to also commemorate the 40th year of their promotion into the top-flight league back in 1977.
Or Black Rhinos celebrating the last time they were crowned champions, 30 years ago in 1987, or Dynamos celebrating the special league title in 1997 that gave them a ticket to embark on their landmark CAF Champions League journey the following year.
Or the Glamour Boys celebrating the 10th anniversary of the year they ended their longest barren run without a league title, 10 years, in 2007 when David Mandigora and his men finally returned them to the place they believe is where they belong. DeMbare marking the 40th anniversary of the year George Shaya won his fifth and final Soccer Star of the Year award in 1977 — an achievement which might never be matched again — or Bosso marking the 30th anniversary of the first year one of them, the legendary Mercedes “Rambo’’ Sibanda, finally was crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 1987.
In the week that Charles Charamba finally ended his lengthy wait to give us a new album, maybe it is fitting that I should quote lyrics from the greatest gospel musician ever to come out of our country of the value of using the time we have to do the right things because the inevitability of it all is that one day we will all be judged by our history.
“Ko muchaitiiko kana Mwari Baba Vachikubvunzai, Vana Vangu
Ko makaitei, ko makaiteko mazuva ose amaiva panyika?
Ko muchaitiiko kana Jesu okubvunzai, kereke Yangu
Ko makabatei, makaiteiko, neropa Rangu rakadeuka?
Muchatiiko paari mukadzi muSamaria achiti ndaive pfambi ndakatendeuka ndikashumira
Makaiteikooo nenyasha dzese dzaive panyika?
Ko muchatiiko kana Zacheo opupura kuti ndakwakwira mumuti kuti ndimuone Jesu
Makaoneiko, makaoneiko nameso enyu zamaiva panyika?
Ko tichatiiko kana Elijah wopupura achiti ndini ndakapardaza maporofita vaBaairi
Makaietoko, makeiteko nemifananidzo yaive panyika?
You couldn’t have put it any better my good pastor.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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