Belittling Peter, insulting history
Sharuko On Saturday
SEVEN months ago we said GOODBYE, kissed each other on the cheek and walked away into the sunset, followed by lengthy shadows and eventually darkness.
It was over!
It’s still over, the romance which the SOS blog gave us, the bond which it created, the love which it provided and the fun which became a huge part of its DNA.
For more than two decades we made a weekly pilgrimage to meet on this page, in this newspaper which, if it was a football team, would be called Juventus — the Grand Old Lady.
We agreed on some issues, strongly disagreed on others, some swore at me so many times l even lost count, others embraced me so many times we have become lifelong friends.
Take for example Robert Marawa!
The man who, in my little book, is the greatest sports broadcaster Africa has ever produced, the boy from KwaZulu-Natal who found a way to make it big in the City of Gold.
Along the way we met, seduced by mutual respect for our crafts, inspired by the thrust to make a difference and driven by the passion to tell the story as it was, and as it should be told.
We became friends, united by respect, bonded by our enduring love for sport, and everything it represents, and propelled by a desire to reach the stars.
Of course, we are still friends now, distance has failed to destroy the pact, the disappearance of the SOS didn’t drive us apart and, for everything that has been thrown at him, by those who want to silence him, he still stands told. You have to give it to this Zulu boy.
Maybe, resilience runs in their veins, something which we will once again see, on the screen, from next month, when the epic drama series, “Shaka iLembe”, premières on Mzansi Magic.
But, this isn’t about Robert.
Neither is it about a return from retirement and the return of the SOS blog.
When we drew the curtain on the SOS blog, in the dying months of last year, one thing I realised I didn’t mention was that, as and when I felt something was grossly wrong, I would occasionally write a piece.
And, in the past few weeks, I have been feeling very strongly against what I feel to be some gross injustice being inflicted on one of our own.
Watching from a distance, I have felt so disappointed that those whom we gave the baton to, to protect the interests of our game, with the power of their pens and voices, seemingly appear to have little concern about this aberration.
I’m old now, I can’t fight all the battles with the same passion which I used to have 30 years ago, when ZIFA were trying to block Chris Sibanda and Morrison Sifelani from pursuing their PSL dream.
Or 20 years ago, in 2003, when Amazulu’s huge investment into their project was finally, and rightly, rewarded with a league championship.
It has taken 47 years but, finally, a football club with roots in religion has finally once again emerged as the best in this country, joining St Paul’s Musami (1966), in this exclusive company.
HISTORY SHOULD BE RECORDED CORRECTLY
In March this year, SuperSport announced a ground-breaking campaign for fans to select the greatest African players to play in the English Premiership.
It’s part of the activities to celebrate 30 years of the top-flight league with the biggest global followership and, at the end of the campaign, an African All-Star XI will be chosen.
The All-Star team will be unveiled at a glittering gala in Lagos, after a roadshow of promotional events which will be held in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.
The All-Star XI will be chosen from 30 players who have been shortlisted — Adebayor, Aubameyang, Yakubu, Diouf, Eboue, Essien, Gyan, Kalou, Kanu, Lauren, Mahrez, Mane, McCarthy, Mendy, Mikel, Victor Moses, Muntari, Geremi, Okocha, Pieenaar, Radebe, Salah, Song, Kolo, Yaya, Yeboah and Yobo.
Two of our boys — Bruce Grobbelaar and Benjani — have also been included on the shortlist.
Already, I have a problem with the decision not to include Zimbabwe as part of the roadshow. Why?
Because, when you are celebrating 30 years of the English Premiership, there is no way you can try and undervalue the contribution of this country to this league.
You can’t try and erase the reality that this is where it all started.
Even the Bible places a lot of importance on how it all started with Genesis being the entry point and we are told, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
In the first season of the Premiership, there were only THREE African footballers — Grobbelaar, Peter Ndlovu and Efan Ekoku — and TWO of them were from Zimbabwe.
Ekoku made just four appearances during that historic opening season of the English Premiership, just 111 minutes on the pitch, while Peter Ndlovu clocked 32 appearances.
Bruce Grobbelaar made five appearances that season and that wasn’t for a Mickey Mouse club but for the flagship team, back then, the Reds of Liverpool.
Yet, for all the significance of our place, when the English Premiership started, we don’t seem to be getting the respect that we deserve, when the show to celebrate this league’s history rolls across Africa.
If the producers of the Africa All-Star XI have any doubt that we occupy a special place in the history of the Premiership, I challenge them to go and read the English newspapers from August 1992 to May 1993.
They will see that the word Zimbabwe is mentioned on hundreds of occasions, in the story of the Premiership in that historic debut season, one would be forgiven if it was the only country in Africa.
Now, you can’t just wake up and try and erase such amazing history through a campaign which, while very noble, should be seen to be capturing the true story of the Premiership.
We have to fight for ourselves, for our country and for our stars, that’s the role of the media, it’s as simple as that.
WE SAW AN ELEPHANT WHICH COULD FLY
In October last year, the authoritative FourFourTwo magazine came up with its 20 best African players in the history of the Premiership, as part of the celebrations to make 30 years of the league.
The magazine named Peter Ndlovu as the 20th best African players to grace the Premiership with Salah in first place, Drogba in second place and Yaya Toure in third place.
For me that was fair.
Now, what I can’t understand is how a player, considered by an authoritative international magazine to be among the 20 best African players, suddenly can’t find a place in the top 30, chosen by people from his own continent?
Maybe, those who chose these players have limited knowledge of the history of the Premiership or their interest probably started in the middle and late ‘90s, when more African players had joined the bandwagon.
Any football pundit worth his salt will know that, even though Grobbelaar was an ocean of success in English football, when it comes to the Premiership era, Peter Ndlovu did more.
That is also true about my god friend Benjani.
He did well in the Premiership, far better than what he gets credit for, but he knows that Peter did more, by a considerable country mile.
The statistics tell is that Benjani featured in 119 matches in the Premiership, scored 26 goals, was involved in 42 wins and 46 losses and provided eight assists.
Peter featured in 154 games, scored 34 goals, was involved in 45 wins, 35 losses and provided 13 assists.
El Hadji Diouf was a successful footballer, without a doubt, but he was a failure in the Premiership, at Liverpool, they even considered him the worst flop they have ever boug ht.
To even suggest that McCarthy was more successful in the Premiership than Peter Ndlovu is a sickening joke, an insult to the memory and a betrayal to the purity of excellence.
These are what Shakespeare talked about, when he told us of tales, which were being told by fools, full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing.
To understand, and appreciate Peter Ndlovu, one has to consider that just being signed, to play in the Premiership back then, was itself an endorsement of one’s excellence.
Peter Ndlovu was not only the first African player to feature in the Premiership but he was one of just three footballers, from the continent, good enough to make the grade.
Two were from Zimbabwe and one was from Nigeria.
France, for instance, had just one player in the Premiership, the great Eric Cantona, Germany had two, Spain had one and 52 other African countries didn’t have a single representative in the league.
Go to the package of some of the greatest goals scored by Africans in the Premiership and you will see Peter Ndlovu’s unstoppable stunner against Chelsea in February ’94, his brilliant goal against Wimbledon and his super hat-trick against Liverpool at Anfield.
No other African footballer had scored a hat-trick at Anfield, against Liverpool, before Peter, no other African footballer has scored an Anfield hat-trick, after him.
To appreciate how incredible this feat is one has to consider that until Peter scored that hat-trick on March 14, 1995, the world had waited for 34 years for that to happen.
The last player to do that had been Terry Allcock of Norwich in 1961.
Now, someone wants to erase all these amazing chapters, and feats, in the history of the Premiership by trying to pretend that it didn’t happen. Of course, it did, but maybe they are right — they don’t know that, once upon a time, an elephant could fly and we saw it with our eyes.
Maybe, they didn’t.
And, for the record, this isn’t an official comeback.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys still in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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