For us, the Blue Moon isn’t rising

Sharuko On Saturday

IN more ways than one, it was the season when the Blue Moon rose and cast its giant shadow on the entire football world.

From the ecstasy of Doha to the landmark triumph of Messi, from the historic success story of Pep to the routine championship defence in Paris, the Blue Moon just kept on rising.

It rose in Napoli, for the first time since Diego Maradona was part of the natives of this bustling Italian southern city, long before Facebook and Twitter.

It rose in Manchester, for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson was part of the working class of this north western British city, where it rains just about every day.

It rose in the Eternal City of Love, otherwise known as Paris, routinely so for many, and for the last time, with Messi being part of the natives of this city.

It was European football’s gift to the Argentine football god and he now goes in search of his American Dream.

They will probably say it also rose in Milan because no one gave Inter a chance and, even in defeat in the final game, they fought like true Warriors and were a credit to their badge and city.

The Blue Moon rose in Montevideo as Uruguay won a major international football tournament for the first time since 1950.

And, just like in Naples, that success story had a touch of Maradona too with the FIFA World Cup Under-20 trophy being won in the Diego Maradona Stadium in La Plata, Argentina.

As fate would have it, in a season of the Blue Moon rising, all the three teams, which scooped medals – gold, silver and bronze – at that tournament, had blue kits as their primary identity.

Israel had never qualified for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup before until they pitched up in Argentina for this year’s showdown.

Then, somehow, they knocked Brazil out in the quarter-finals and, at the weekend, in their blue kit, beat South Korea to take the bronze medal.

Even the Jerusalem Post appeared to find it difficult to believe that their team, rank underdogs at the start of the tourney, had scripted this Cinderella tale.

“One is reminded of the old Yiddish joke,” the newspaper wrote. “’If you see a Jew with a dog, either the Jew isn’t much of a Jew or the dog isn’t much of a dog.’

“’If you encounter a Jewish sportsman, the conventional wisdom goes, either the Jew isn’t much of a Jew or the sport isn’t much of a sport.’”

Of course, it’s not a joke anymore that Israeli footballers can not only play football, at a high level, but can also win medals at a FIFA World Cup.

But, where there is success, there is also failure.

Leicester City went down, Everton almost went down, needing a nervy final day victory to survive relegation.

Sampdoria, nicknamed the Blue Circle, also went down in Italy after finishing last in Serie A.

But, in a season in which the Blue Moon kept rising, there is no question that we have been singing the blues as a football community, in this country.

Right now, the PSL is suspended, largely because our biggest club, the one which in our youthful days used to call the Boys In Blue, don’t even have a rented home to play their league games.

It’s a stain on our game that DeMbare, 60 years old and counting, and Bosso, 97 years and counting, do not have a stadium, which they call their own.

I’m a member at Alex Sports Club and we have three well maintained football pitches, a rugby ground, a cricket field and a number of tennis courts.

Yet, the biggest and most successful football club in this country don’t even have a piece of real estate, to call their own, which they can use to build their own stadium.

That’s a conversation for another day.

TODAY, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYING LIBERIA

Well, the kids are back from their horror trip to Dubai, where they have been singing the blues, after weeks of being stranded in the United Arab Emirates.

The man who took them on that journey to hell, Archford Gutu, has virtually disappeared, to sing his blues, far away from the raging crowd.

During his days as a player, he used to be a member of the Boys In Blue, he was once dubbed the next big thing in the capital.

But, even by his own admission, the Great Expectations didn’t come to pass.

Of course, that’s part of the brutality of this game, and Archie is not the only one who didn’t touch the heights, and reach the levels many expected.

We can accept that.

What is not acceptable is to deceive a group of innocent souls, who have invested all their trust in you, and take them on a tour built on a foundation of falsehoods.

Last month, Gutu announced he had quit football, at the age of 29.

Everything being normal, given his relatively young age, Gutu would probably have been in camp with the Warriors right now.

He would have been preparing for a 2023 AFCON qualifier against Liberia, yet another team whose primary identity is a blue kit, in Monrovia today.

Of course, we are not playing the Lone Star today.

The match was cancelled a year ago, when it became clear to the CAF bosses that we would not be readmitted back into international football, in time to fulfil our fixtures and fight for a place in Cote d’Ivoire next year.

So, Liberia, already eliminated after just three games, have an off day and will be watching from a distance as South Africa and Morocco, who have both qualified, battle for pride at the FNB in Johannesburg.

The Atlas Lions needed just two games, and two wins, to seal their place at the 2023 AFCON finals.

It’s probably the easiest possible qualification campaign, which a country could hope for, and it’s largely thanks to our absence from the battleground.

Last Saturday marked exactly a year to the day we should have started this Nations Cup campaign, with a home duel against Liberia.

Back then, we were so sure that the row, which had led to our exclusion from the qualifiers, would have been resolved by now.

But, a year into the qualifiers, we still find ourselves locked out of international football, still singing the blues, and only clinging to memories from past adventures.

And, as if the football gods are mocking us, they have again provided Liberia as the opponents we should have been playing today, as if to amplify the pain we should feel from our absence from the playground.

We have not played an international football match since Knowledge Musona, the man who was our leading light for the better part of the past dozen years, finally called time on his international football career.

This is his special month and Liberia were his special opponents, the ones who will always be associated with his time with the Warriors.

The Smiling Assassin will turn 33 on Wednesday.

He was just 20, on September 5, 2010, in Monrovia, when he made his competitive debut for the Warriors.

It took him just half an hour to score his debut Nations Cup goal in that match, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Norman Mapeza, who was the coach, was so sure he had found a man of such remarkable reliability, in terms of leading the line for the Warriors, he told me the country had just found its attacking spearhead.

Thirteen years later, every word, which the good coach said in that initial assessment, has come true.

I’m a true Warriors fan, as loyal as they come, because in the three decades that I have been in these journalism trenches, we have become a unit.

For the first 10 years of our adventure we appeared cursed to fall, every time, at the final hurdle but the more we failed the more our bond grew even stronger.

The days and nights of the Dream Team were as wild as they were beautiful, the pain of failure, on both the AFCON and World Cup fronts, being bandaged, in a way, by the bravery of our campaign.

NOW, IT’S ALL ABOUT MEMORIES

Finally, 20 years ago, in 2003, we finally passed the test and qualified for our maiden Nations Cup finals.

It’s hard to explain, to the team’s new generation of fans, that we waited 23 years for the Warriors to finally make the grade to play at the AFCON finals.

They can’t understand why Zambia and South Africa, whom we consider to be our biggest rivals, have both won the Nations Cup crown, while we have never even played in the quarter-finals.

But, the beauty about football is that it never remains the same.

For, until our suspension from FIFA, it’s remarkable that the same Nations Cup, which has been the source of banter directed towards us by the Bafana Bafana and Chipolopolo fans, had turned into the tournament to showcase our pride.

The pride that came from the fact that at the 2017 Nations Cup finals in Gabon, we were the only Southern African representatives good enough to be there.

The pride that came from the fact that our national anthem was the only one, from this part of the world, whose lyrics were being heard.

The pride that came from the fact that at the 2017, 2019 and 2021 AFCON finals, we were the only Southern African country which featured in all three tournaments.

The Zambians missed all three, including when the participants were increased to 24 teams, roughly about half the CAF membership, while the South Africans missed two of the three.

But, right now, all that we have are memories from the past because we can’t create fresh memories from the pitch.

Like remembering the events at the giant stadium, exactly six years ago, on June 11, 2017, when Musona became the first Warriors captain to score a hat-trick in a Nations Cup qualifier.

The man who had scored a goal, in his debut AFCON qualifier, now had the honour of being the first Warriors skipper, to score THREE times, in one Nations Cup match.

And, just like in 2010, when he made his debut, Liberia were the opposition.

They would have been the opposition again today.

I guess, such is life, you can’t get it all.

And, this week I read about Roy Sullivan, an American part ranger, who was struck by lightning on seven different occasions but survived it all.

Then, I read about Aeschylus, a man who had a bald head which was so shiny and round that an eagle mistook it for a rock.

The eagle thought it could use the ‘rock’ to shatter the shell of a tortoise and dropped it onto Aeschylus bald head, promptly killing him.

The irony of it was that Aeschylus had only gone outdoors because he feared his house was about to collapse and kill him.

On that fateful evening, the Blue Moon was rising.

It’s not rising for our Warriors right now.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brunoooooooooooooooooooooooo!

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You can also interact with me on Twitter (@Chakariboy), Facebook, Instagram (sharukor) and Skype (sharuko58)

 

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