Sharuko On Saturday
FOR Peter Ndlovu, it was the beginning of immortality — the age he finally dragged his country over the line after successive generations of Warriors had failed to clear the final hurdle.
The Flying Elephant was 30, when AFCON qualification was secured, in 2003.
For Sunday Chidzambwa, it was the beginning of the end of an era — the age he was forced to end a stellar career, as a footballer, in which he had the honour of being his country’s first captain at Independence.
Mhofu was still 30, when disaster struck, in 1983.
For Moses Chunga, it was the beginning of the end of a beautiful chapter — the age he was forced to call time on his blue romance.
Bambo was 30, when he played his last game for DeMbare, in 1995.
For Benjani, it was the beginning of life among the real big boys, and the big bucks, of English football — the age when he started the season as a Manchester City player.
The Undertaker was 30, when his name featured alongside Robinho, as the City goal-scorers, in the 2-0 UEFA Cup win over Schalke 04, in 2008.
For King Eric, the maverick Frenchman whose arrival at Old Trafford shaped Manchester United’s destiny, and the legacy of Sir Alex Ferguson, it was the age the show came to an end.
He was just 30, when he retired in 1997 and, with that, a football genius, the one who told us that “when you see seagulls following the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” left the big stage.
Tomorrow, Knowledge Musona turns 30.
The one fittingly born in the year Peter Ndlovu won the Soccer of the Year, as a mere 17-year-old, in 1990.
As if the football gods were sending us a powerful, but hidden message, of the events that would happen 17 years later — when Peter’s hugely successful international career would finally come to an end.
His heir-apparent Musona, exploded into the public spotlight after powering the Young Warriors to success in the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in 2007.
The Smiling Assassin was 17, when he rose from the bench to score a hattrick, against hosts South Africa in Nelspruit, as Methembe Ndlovu and his teenage Warriors transformed themselves into regional champions.
In the golden colours of their Warriors, both as leaders and the leading lights, it’s hard to find anyone else who has served with such distinction, and success, like these two gladiators.
Of course, Agent Sawu is not that far behind, his six goals in dragging his country to the gates of the World Cup finals in 1994, just two behind leading African scorer Rashidi Yekini of Nigeria, was the stuff of legends.
That Ajira was still in the trenches, including scoring a hattrick against Eritrea at the turn of the millennium, and making the 2004 AFCON finals squad, provides the longevity needed for greatness.
Nine goals for his country, in the AFCON finals qualifiers, provided a healthy return for the stocky striker.
But, there is an extra responsibility, which comes with leadership, which comes with the captaincy, the expectation for one to lead from the front, for one to go that extra mile, for one to be seen to be making the difference.
To provide the inspiration, when the going gets tough, when hope appears lost, when teammates begin to resign to their fate and when even some fans start to concede the inevitability of defeat.
That X-Factor, which can only be found in a genius, to refuse to be crushed by the challenge, irrespective of the odds, to refuse to be swallowed by the occasion, irrespective of the superiority of the opponent.
It’s in that defiance where greatness is located, where genius thrives and where immortality is stored.
EVEN THE GREATEST FALL, AND ARE HUMBLED, AT SOME POINT
Like Muhammad Ali surviving seven rounds of a barrage of vicious blows, from George Foreman, the hardest puncher in the world back then, in the Rumble in the Jungle in Kinshasa in 1974.
And, then, in the eighth round, somehow, against both expectation and science, finding the power and combination to floor Big George and become world heavyweight champion for the second time.
Lesser mortals, like Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who had been demolished in two rounds by Big George, in an exhibition of both brutality and ferocity, could only watch in disbelief, from the ringside.
Wondering how a beast of a man, who had sent him crashing to the canvas six times in those two rounds, could be brought down by Ali.
The same Ali he had handed his first professional loss three years earlier – a 15-round Madison Square Garden classic fittingly named “Fight of the Century.”
Smokin’ Joe retired in 1981 and, 30 years later, he was dead.
Ali was 29 when he first tasted defeat, as a professional, in that “Fight of the Century,” and, as critics feasted on his loss, and mortality, that the man who called himself “The Greatest’’, could also be beaten, he didn’t choose to hide but, instead, to reflect and fight back.
“I’m not going to cry. I made a lot of people unhappy when I beat them, so it’s my time now. I’m not going to cry. A lot of great fighters get whipped,’’ Ali told the media after that defeat.
“No one can hit as hard as Frazier. I’m satisfied with the fight even though I lost. I know I lost to a great champion but, maybe, another time when both of us had been fighting regularly, the result would have been different. I don’t know, but maybe.”
Three years later, Ali met Frazier again in what was dubbed “Super Fight II’’ at the Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1974 and, this time, the outcome was different as Ali won in 12 rounds.
The following year, on January 28, in the ‘’Thrilla in Manila,’’ on October 1, 1975, Ali once again beat Frazier by a TKO after the latter’s corner asked the referee to stop the fight at the end of the 14th round.
Even the Greatest, like Ali, fall, at some point but, what eventually defines their legacy isn’t the moment they were humbled but how they fought back to show the world they were special.
Ironically, just like Ali, Musona’s biggest test came when he was 29, exactly a year ago.
For the first time, in his Warriors’ adventure, his value to the team was questioned by some of the very fans, who used to pray for him, on the occasions he was injured, to recover quickly and make a return to national duty.
An indifferent show, at the 2019 AFCON finals, where he was a shadow of himself, saw Musona being transformed into a figure of hate, being reduced into a symbol of rejection and a target of persecution.
A divisive character whose leadership, let alone inclusion, in the team, was now being questioned.
There was even a tsunami of abuse, from certain quarters, and a shocking miss against Uganda, when he somehow sent his effort to kiss the crossbar, with a yawing net in front of him, didn’t help matters either.
Five months later, even Zambian journalists were taking the then Warriors caretaker coach, Joey Antipas, to task to justify why he was still including Musona in the team.
“Although he has been criticised, we know that he can deliver and retains the captaincy of the team,’’ Antipas said ahead of a 2021 AFCON qualifier in Lusaka.
“It’s just a matter of time before he delivers for us.’’
And, deliver he did, putting the ball on the plate for Khama Billiat to score the winner.
Like Ali, before him, Musona refused to be buried by the weight of the setback, the storm of hate, the merchants of doom and the pain of failure and, in just five months’ time, came back to show his critics he still had a value for the Warriors.
AT 30, AFTER A DECADE IN THE TRENCHES, MUSONA HAS NOTHING TO PROVE
I have always wondered how Knowledge Musona will be remembered, when he finally calls time on his international career and, as he turns 30 tomorrow, moving closer to that day when this adventure will come to an end, it’s a question that continues to haunt me?
I get a feeling the Smiling Assassin doesn’t get the respect, or recognition, he deserves for the way he has served his country with distinction.
We appear to be demanding more from him, all the time, and we seemingly take for granted, all the good things he has done in our name and for our cause.
We don’t seem to appreciate he top-scored for the Warriors, in the past two AFCON qualifying campaigns and, in the battle for a place in Egypt, only two players on the continent, Odion Ighalo, now playing for Manchester United, and Fiston Abdul Razzak, scored more goals than him.
Musona scored five, Razzak scored six and Ighalo scored seven.
We don’t seem to appreciate that between 2010 and 2014, he was the only player who scored for the Warriors, away from home, in either a World Cup/Nations Cup qualifier.
That Musona’s four goals on the road was the best performance, by a Warrior, in matches away from home between 2005 and 2014, with Peter Ndlovu in second place on two goals, doesn’t seem to matter at all.
That he finished as top scorer in our group, in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, ahead of Cedrick Bakambu, whose US$91 million transfer from Villarreal to China made him the most expensive African footballer of all-time, back then, doesn’t seem to matter among us.
That Yannick Bolaise, who plays for Portuguese giants Sporting CP, on loan from Everton, scored only one goal, during those qualifiers, that Porto’s Chancel Mbemba scored just one goal, doesn’t even matter to us.
For the record, Musona has been our leading scorer, in every AFCON qualifying campaign in which he has featured in more than one game, and that just doesn’t come from an average player.
Maybe, we are disappointed he didn’t reach the levels Firmino, his former teammate at TSG Hoffenheim scaled, when it comes to club football but, such things happen in life.
A Senegalese guy called Ali Dia even signed for Southampton and, after 52 minutes of the worst performance ever on his debut, he was pulled out and was never seen again.
Musona is 30 tomorrow and he has nothing to prove to us, especially when it comes to the Warriors, where he has been an excellent and extraordinary servant.
If he is doubting himself, with his club career at the crossroads, I suggest he reads the Bible throughout this special weekend for him and he will see there is something significant about the number 30.
Joseph was 30 when he became second in command to Pharaoh, after having been a slave in an Egyptian prisoner, when Moses died, the Israelites mourned him for 30 days and David became King at the age of 30.
Ezekiel was 30, when he received his first visions from God, Jesus Christ was 30 when he officially started his ministry and John the Baptist was 30, when he emerged from the wilderness to pave the way for the Messiah.
And, Judas Iscariot even betrayed our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for 30 pieces of silver.
Forget about the critics, my captain, it’s still a wicked world but, remember, there are still some good people, like Abraham who even pleaded with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah, in today’s world.
“May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” and the Lord answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
Then Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” and God answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
Happy birthday my captain, 30 years tomorrow, my skipper, 10 years serving your country, I can tell you one thing, no one of these critics can destroy you or take away what you have done for us.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno!
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