Great Warrior, Good Leader! Knowledge Musona

Robson Sharuko H-Metro Editor

MORE than half-a-century of games, about a quarter-of-a-century of goals and a dozen years in the trenches of national service for a country where football is the king of sport.

The only Warrior to score a hat-trick in an AFCON match this millennium.

Only two others have done that in 42 years of the Warriors adventure in the tough jungles of the Nations Cup.

Vitalis Takawira was the first, illuminating the scene with his sensational hat-trick, in the 4-1 romp over the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, at the National Sports Stadium, on January 22, 1995.

Agent Sawu was the second, reinforcing his status as the go-to-guy for goals for the Warriors, in their 4-0 crushing of Eritrea, at the same theatre, on August 15, 1999.

On June 11, 2017, the exclusive company of these gunslingers welcomed a new member when, at the same stage where their heroics had exploded, another Warrior grabbed an AFCON qualifier hat-trick.

The Lone Star of Liberia were both the victims, and witnesses, of this super show in their 0-3 humbling, in a 2019 Nations Cup qualifier.

He has been the last man standing, from the crew which were part of the senior national football team, before the 2010 World Cup bandwagon rolled into town.

For 12 years, Knowledge Musona did everything for his country – play for it, lead it, score for it, drag it when the going was tough and, now and again, provide the X-Factor to make the difference.

It was love at first sight, between the player and the Warriors, when the teenager from Norton made his debut, in the colours of his country, in March 2010.

Now, as an experienced professional, easing into the twilight of his fine career, he has just said goodbye, just a month short of his 32nd birthday.

He now follows his partner-in-crime, Khama Billiat, who also waved goodbye to national service, last year.

Khama also played his part, his star quality provided the team with a talisman and, in the age of social media, where appearances matter as much as substance, he became the team’s golden boy.

But, everyone knew, the real leader, who was not comfortable with posting his images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, was always Knowledge Musona.

They were not a spectacular team, they have never been one, even under his leadership.

But, they became a solid side, a respectable national squad and they gave as much as they got in the brutal battles, which are synonymous with the fights for supremacy, on the African football landscape.

In Southern Africa, with him as both the attacking spearhead and inspirational leader, they became the best national football team, by a country mile.

The only one good enough to qualify for the last three AFCON finals where, in the case of Zambia, the statistics will show Chipolopolo missed all the three showcases in Gabon (2017), Egypt (2019) and Cameroon.

In the case of South Africa, the statistics will show that Bafana Bafana missed two of the three showcases with their failure to make it to Gabon (2017) and Cameroon, in January, this year.

That the two countries are former winners of the AFCON finals and former runners-up in the same tournament, casts a shining light on the good work which Musona and company have done.

When one considers they have always been given a raw deal, by those who masquerade as their leaders, and partners, at 53 Livingstone Avenue, it then puts their heroics into proper context.

Knowledge Musona, who retired from international football on Thursday, will not be remembered as the greatest Warrior of all-time.

That honour belongs to Peter Ndlovu and, even Musona agrees that, when it comes to ranking the finest Warriors, there is only name fit to be king.

But, in terms of longevity and contribution to the team’s cause, it’s hard to find anyone who will dispute that the Smiling Assassin belongs in the TOP THREE, among Warriors.

It will be even harder to find anyone who will argue that, in terms of his generation, Musona is the greatest Warrior.

In an era where others find it convenient to distance themselves from their national identity, Musona embraced his Zimbabwean roots, and found it fashionable to celebrate it.

He transformed himself into a true Zimbabwean football ambassador and, once on the field, he delivered with regularity, with a glut of goals, and memories to last a lifetime.

How is it possible that anyone can forget that 63-minute hat-trick against Liberia, a one-man demolition job, which he executed with a touch of ruthlessness and happiness?

Incredibly, it would have been four, only for his other effort to kiss the crossbar.

That it was his first match, as Warriors captain, even made it quite impressive and the message was clear – the team now had a leader who led from the front.

How is it possible that anyone can forget his vintage goal against Tunisia at the 2017 AFCON finals?

It came in the 42nd minute, when his team were already 0-3 down, with Musona, barely fit to start the game, spinning between two defenders and scoring a beauty, to give his men a glimmer of hope?

How is it possible that anyone can forget that winning goal against the DRC in Kinshasa in October 2018?

The composure to trust his skills, to believe in his instincts, to refuse to be hurried by fear was in full exhibition as he dummied and fooled his markers, not once but twice, to create an avenue of opportunity, which he took with the precision of a seasoned sniper.

The final score – DRC 1, Zimbabwe 2, in Kinshasa, of all places.

The winning goal, of course, Knowledge Musona.

This was a place where the Warriors routinely lost, including a five-goal thrashing, but these were the new Warriors, Musona’s Warriors. In the last 10 years, it’s probably fair to say Knowledge Musona has been the Warriors and, in a way, the Warriors have been Knowledge Musona.

Take him out of the team, either through injury, the occasional suspension or when he briefly quit after being caught up in the endless madness, which is the DNA at ZIFA, the Warriors would miss their soul.

A part of themselves, which made them competitive, made them tricky opponents and, for the first time in their history, qualify for three straight AFCON finals, would be lost in his absence.

It’s likely better players than Musona will feature for the Warriors in the future but it’s very unlikely the team will ever get someone to lead it, with such humility and who will put in so much.

His legacy as a Great Warrior is firmly secure.

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