Blue tracksuits or Peter Ndlovu?
Sharuko On Saturday
EXCEPT for the minor sideshow brought about by a controversial conversation over the colour of the tracksuits donated to CAPS United by a Good Samaritan, it was generally quiet on the domestic football front this week.
Of course, I understand the frustration, among true fans of the Green Machine, on the occasions their beloved football club is dragged, in one way or the other, into forging an alliance of identity, with the ultimate enemy.
It just doesn’t sit well with them because, in their real world, everything to do with the blue-and-white colours, is something that represents an empire which should be crushed, at all cost.
It’s just the way it is.
Of course, we know that those who died in 1972, never took the memory of a club called CAPS United into their graves because, by then, the Green Machine didn’t exist.
But, for those local football fans, who came into the world after 1973, know about CAPS United and that it is a huge part of our national game.
They also know that, like oil and water, CAPS United and Dynamos do not mix, by both design and display, their only common factor, if you want to call it that way, being that their alternative colour is white.
So, when a predominantly blue tracksuit emerged, as part of the Makepekepe kit, it was always going to provoke a storm of controversy.
Because in the world of the Green Machine, the blue colour is taboo to such an extent that many of them, except for Marshall Gore, have found it even difficult to support Chelsea.
Every time they see the Chelsea shirt, it reminds them of the Glamour Boys whose fans have made it fashionable to come to the stadiums, in the jerseys of the Blues of London.
Against that background, it is easy to understand why representatives of the fans decided to write to the club’s leadership demanding that the predominantly blue tracksuits be withdrawn from their kit.
The problem, though, is that this is a matter which should have been resolved, between those supporters’ representatives, and their club’s leadership, within the walls of their boardrooms.
The supporters’ representatives didn’t need to leak their letter onto social media because, by doing that, they ended up generating the kind of negativity which CAPS United, in their current state, don’t really need.
I am just wondering how much this little sideshow has done, in terms of damaging the interests of potential sponsors, who were possibly angling for a move to get into bed with the Green Machine?
The guys who must have been telling themselves this week that the risk of a possible partnership with CAPS United, is bigger, in terms of the damage to their brand, than the rewards that could be reaped from their partnership.
We are already seeing the potential scary damage that the endless wrangles at Dynamos, and all the negativity they are generating, could have on damaging the kiss of life they received from their flagship sponsors, Sakunda Holdings.
At least, DeMbare have the sponsor in their corner, Makepekepe don’t have such luxury.
The guy who sourced the 50 pairs of tracksuits, Blessing Kapfeni, is a life-long CAPS United fan and he told me that attempts to get the quantity, and quality, he wanted, when he went shopping in Johannesburg, were unsuccessful.
It might sound crazy but it’s worth remembering that only last week, the BBC revealed that about half the English Football and Premier League clubs have both their new home and away kits available to sell to their fans, right now.
The report highlighted that manufacturers have been grappling with supply chain issues so much that only 44 out of 92 English clubs currently have both their 2022-23 season kits on sale.
The delays have been blamed on supply disruption and factory shutdowns in Asia due to Covid-19.
Admittedly, Kapfeni ended up settling on the wrong choice of the tracksuits but he shouldn’t be crucified for trying to help the team he loves with a considerable injection of his personal cash to make a difference.
Imagine the difference which would be made at CAPS United if just 50 other fans followed his example to help their beloved club, rather than just be armchair critics who criticise everything and donate nothing?
This is a club which is struggling to attract just 1000 fans at its home matches yet when it comes to criticism of the few, who are trying to make a difference, you suddenly get more than 20 000 voices.
I have seen CAPS playing in gold shirts and, somehow, no one suggested that this was against the identity of the club.
When club chief executive, Charlie Jones, went public to ask people to come on board, and help the team, it meant the Green Machine lost the power to choose.
DYNAMOS LITE, WOW, WHAT A PHRASE
So, the whole week, we found ourselves engrossed in discussing whether it was right, or wrong, for Makepekepe to get a donation of a kit which, in many ways, turned them into a strange creature, which looked like Dynamos Lite.
That was us, at our very best, a football community which really thrives in controversy, which is excited by negativity and which derives a lot of pleasure in talking about the darkness rather than the light.
When I asked a friend, this week, why we seem so obsessed with negative stuff, he told me that it’s the way it is and we won’t get an answer until we get an explanation why nature decided that we keep a donkey at home while the beautiful Zebra was cast away into the wild to be food for the predators.
In an ideal world, if our football had the right environment, we would have spent the week celebrating the legacy of our greatest Warrior of all-time, our finest captain of them all and the ultimate poster boy of our football.
The ZIFA social media platforms would have spent the entire week feeding the country with some of the best highlights of the Flying Elephant in action, for the clubs he played for, and for a nation he served with both honour and distinction.
We would have seen videos of Peter flying past the Bafana Bafana defence, eliminating the last two standing as if they didn’t exist, and then having the presence of mind to score probably the greatest goal we have seen from a Warrior.
We would have seen videos of Peter scoring against the Pharaohs of Egypt, in Tunisia in 2004, where he became the first Zimbabwean to score at the AFCON finals.
We would have seen videos of Peter scoring twice, against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, in Tunisia, in 2004, taking his tally to THREE goals, in just two matches, in what is probably the most explosive introduction to life at the AFCON finals, in the history of the tournament.
It’s easy to concentrate on the negative aspect, given that is what fits perfectly into our favourite narrative, that the Warriors conceded five goals in that game.
Fair and fine!
But, the flip side is that the Warriors scored three goals in that match, with their inspirational leader, Peter, getting two thirds of those goals that day.
To read the numbers only, without context, would be misleading because they barely tell the story of the drama which unfolded in that battle.
The big story was that, for the first time in EIGHT years at the AFCON finals, the Indomitable Lions conceded more than two goals in a match.
They had last conceded more than two goals, at the Nations Cup finals, on January 13, 1996, in a 3-3 draw against Angola, at the ’96 tourney, in South Africa.
That’s a remarkable statistic and they had come into the 2004 Nations Cup not only as the defending champions but the team which had won the last two tournaments on the bounce.
In scoring his third goal, in two games, Peter became the leading goal-scorer at the tournament, not bad for someone making his maiden appearance at the festival, at the age of 31.
Even though the result meant the Warriors were out of the tournament, their spirited performance that day, was warmly saluted, by a number of leading news outlets, around the world.
“The referee blows for full-time and Cameroon have won a highly-entertaining game,” the BBC noted on their live update.
“Zimbabwe go out of the tournament but can be proud of themselves for sticking at the task in hand and scoring three goals against the defending champions.”
I would have expected Highlanders to flood their social media platforms, and mainstream sites, with videos or flashback reports, of the time when Peter was part of their dressing room.
After all, in their colours, a 17-year-old Peter won the Soccer Star of the Year, in 1990, and an 18-year-old Peter, repeated that magical feat, in 1992.
I would have expected even the PSL to flood their social media sites with videos, and even flashback match reports, of the time when Peter was still part of the domestic Premiership family.
It might have been brief but there is no doubt that the Flying Elephant still left memories, for the top-flight league, enough to generate adequate material to compile a celebration.
They would even have come to our archives and we would have given them files of the match reports, when Peter was still a member of our league, including a screamer of a goal, which saw the ball flying past Peter Fanwell, at Rufaro.
But, of course, it’s not part of our DNA, as a football family, to celebrate what happens in our national game.
Instead, we would rather spend the whole week discussing the colour of a donated kit.
THE EPL LEGEND IS ONE OF US
So, what’s so special about Peter, in terms of this week, which should have warranted us to go down memory lane in celebrating his contribution to football, you might rightly ask?
Well, last night, the latest edition of the English Premiership, the greatest annual football show in the world, got underway when Arsenal battled Crystal Palace in a London Derby.
It’s a monster of a show and, at the last country, it was shown in 188 or the 195 countries, which are recognised by the United Nations.
It’s a league that has an average annual global audience of 4.7 billion people.
A report revealed the Premiership contributed £7.6 billion to the UK economy during the 2019/20 season, which was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, while the clubs’ economic activity had grown by 840 per cent, since the 1998/99 season.
The league and their clubs generated a total tax contribution of £3.6bn to the UK Exchequer in 2019/20, £1.4bn of which was accounted for by Premier League players.
Why am I boring you with all these figures, you might wonder?
Well, it’s just to put things into context and show why there should be a celebration, not only for the quality of the football, which the league provides, but the way it has set a great example, for other leagues around the world, in terms of converting themselves into commercial success stories.
This is the 31st season of the Premiership and the 124th season of top-flight football in England.
The history of the Premiership cannot be written without including Peter Ndlovu’s name in the narrative and without reserving a chapter for the Flying Elephant.
Because, the history of the Premiership, in a way, is also the history of African football, whose stars have gone to England, and left a huge mark on the league.
Mohamed Salah, Didier Drogba, Sadio Mane, Samuel Eto’o, Jay Jay Okocha, Riyad Mahrez, Michael Essien, Nwanko Kanu, Emmanuel Adebayor are all big names in African football and, at some point in their careers, featured in the Premiership.
And, when the history books are written, they will show that the first African star, to feature in the Premiership, was Peter Ndlovu.
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the moment when Peter walked into the history books, as a trailblazer, in African football.
At 9.10 pm, on August 19, 1992, Peter played his first match, in the Premiership, for Coventry City.
He was only 18 years-old.
A screamer against Aston Villa, in a 1-0 home win on September 28, 1991, and a winner against Arsenal, at Highbury, in a 2-1 victory for Coventry, three weeks earlier, had already turned Ndlovu as a fans’ favourite.
And, in the Premiership, he would take his game to a new level, as he gained more experience and as his confidence soared.
“Following his incredible performances for Coventry, Arsenal made a £4 million bid for his services which was swiftly rejected,” reported sportskeeda.com.
“That transfer would have made him the most expensive player in English football at the time.
“However, the move didn’t happen and many fans have been left to wonder what the future would have held if he had made the move.”
His finest moment, though, would come on March 14, 1995, when he became the first visiting player, in 33 years, to score a hat-trick, at Anfield against Liverpool.
What this means is that, in that glorious moment, Peter succeeded, where immortals like George Best, Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law, Martin Peters, Glenn Hoddle, Trevor Francis, the first player to hit the £1m mark, in English football transfer history, and Trevor Brooking, failed.
To appreciate just how special Peter was you just need to listen to the comments made by former Coventry City manager, Bobby Gould.
“I didn’t know much about him at all when I first got there,” he said four years ago.
“He was as quiet as a field mouse.
“But, all of a sudden, when I saw him in training, I thought ‘my goodness, what have we got here?’ He came under the radar really.
“Looking back now, the nearest person I can compare him with today is Eden Hazard. He was so hard to stop when he had momentum.”
Back then, Hazard was one of the best players in the world before he transformed himself into the laughing stock that he has become at Real Madrid.
You would expect a small country, with a population of just 15 million people, which is currently suspended from international football, would grab every chance that comes to celebrate its success stories.
But, of course, we are not a normal football community and, for us, what matters right now is about some blue CAPS United tracksuits.
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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