06 Aug, 2016 - 00:08 0 Views

The Herald

Sharuko on Saturday 

WHEN iconic swimmer Kirsty Coventry praised the Mighty Warriors this week, despite the six-goal hammering they suffered at the hands of global women football powerhouse Germany in Sao Paulo on Wednesday night, she probably didn’t anticipate it was going to provoke a fierce social media firestorm.But that’s what it did.

Her Facebook post, in which she said “Our Mighty Warriors did well against such a strong side, they may have lost 6-1 to Germany but they won my heart,” had been shared 252 times, as at 7pm last night, and attracted 302 comments.

Coventry isn’t an ordinary athlete, she is a superstar swimmer, Africa’s greatest Olympian of all-time, has won more medals than any other athlete from this continent on the grand stage of the Olympics in the history of the Games, and when she speaks about excellence in sport, she does so with the authority of someone who has been there and done it.

But her lofty status as our country’s most decorated athlete, and Africa’s finest Olympian of all-time, was certainly not taken into consideration in the stormy debate provoked by her comments praising the Mighty Warriors with a sizeable number of people, who commented, being very critical of her decision to praise a team that had just been hammered for six.

Of course, we live in deeply polarised times when some of us — for one reason or another — don’t want to see, let alone hear, a success story coming out of this country, preferring bleakness to greatness, and anything that cheers the spirits of the nation, like Khama Billiat weaving his magic to take us to the Nations Cup finals for the first time in 10 years, is frowned upon.

There was a barrage of criticism from those who questioned how some people, including Coventry, could see a rainbow of light in the gloom of that darkness of that six-goal mauling with some even saying those who had picked some positives from that humiliation had certainly lost their minds.

Refreshingly, others viewed the events from Sao Paulo in a different light.

“I’m horrified at some of the comments. Germany’s women’s soccer team is ranked 2nd in the world, Zim’s women’s soccer team is ranked 93rd in the world,” argued Nyariyoyo Mupfuti-Mvududu in a comment in that Facebook debate.

“So, our girls really fought! They played so well against Germany who are literally Olympic veterans. Our girls even managed to score. I’m so disheartened at some of the comments. Our girls are not ‘rubbish’! Honestly, who says that about their own? The fact that they qualified to go to the Olympics is an achievement in itself.”

Of course, we can’t mask the fact that we were hammered, in a very big way, and any team that concedes six goals, in a football match, would have been massacred, there are no two ways about that.

If a black man like Jesse Owens could walk into the cauldron of Hitler’s racist stronghold of Berlin in 1936 and scupper the German madman’s belief that the whites were a superior race who would always triumph when pitted against their black colleagues, including in sports contests, by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, why then should we expect the Mighty Warriors — 80 years down the line — to do less and even celebrate their heavy defeat?

If Cameroon could go to the World Cup in 1990 and fight their way to the quarter-finals, beating the defending champions Argentina — who had the great Diego Maradona in their ranks — in their first match in Italy, why then should we expect any less from our Mighty Warriors to an extent that we even celebrate wildly when they are hammered by six goals?

If Senegal, playing in their first World Cup in 2002, could find the courage, and style, to beat the then World Champions France, who had also conquered Europe in 2000 and had in their ranks a number of superstars, in the first game of the tournament in South Korea and Japan, why then should we expect any less from our Mighty Warriors to an extent that we even find comfort, and inspiration, in their hammering at the hands of the Germans on Wednesday?

If Iceland, a country of just about 330 000 could scale the heights they touched at Euro 2016, including eliminating England from the tournament, why then should we expect something less from our Mighty Warriors to the extent of finding a romantic angle to their six-goal pummeling at the hands of the Germans this week?


But, maybe, there are some extenuating circumstances here and that is why those who feel it’s not fair to describe the Mighty Warriors as “a collection of rubbish,” in the wake of their defeat, especially after their sensational collapse in the second half, like our Golden Girl Kirsty Coventry, appear to have a valid point.

Instead of dismissing them as hopeless individuals, who want to celebrate mediocrity, who want to suggest we are such an inferior people who can even stage a national party for leaking six goals in a match against Germany, at an average of a goal every 15 minutes of that match, who want to paint this picture of us being such a hopeless people who find nothing wrong in their national team suffering a six-goal hammering, we need to listen to their arguments.

After all, why do we need a renowned German TV and radio commentator, Bernd Schmelzer, to tell us that the Mighty Warriors surprised him, and most of the world, with their committed show on Wednesday?

“It was spectacular I think for the whole of Zimbabwe, for the team, for all the players, for all the fans. I think a great show,” he told Zimpapers’ Spencer Banda, who is in Brazil covering the Games.

“They need to improve, I think, in playing forward. They have to improve with the goalkeeper, this is a very special thing you know, you saw her, (Lindiwe) Magwede you saw her I think two or three times looking not so good at 3-1. But she had three or four attempts which have been as good as it could be.”

But, for players whose league back home has been dormant, the high-profile victim of that bitter power battle between the game’s leaders, Miriam Sibanda and company, and former ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, isn’t the fact that they qualified for the Olympics, knocking Cameroon along the way, itself a miracle that should be celebrated and everything else, including the results in Brazil, should be treated as a bonus, if we do well, we thank the Lord, and if we don’t then we say tough luck?

How do we expect players, who only meet for national team assignments, which means they only play about four or five games a year, have the fluency to express themselves as freely as their critics are demanding and to play with the same energy levels, and tactical expression, as rivals who play professional football in Europe and have won every European title in the past six tournaments and have won the World Cup twice in recent times?

How do we suddenly expect players that we all neglected, when they were crying out for a helping hand, with only Prophet Magaya coming to their rescue now and again, including ensuring that their trip to Zambia for an Olympic Games qualifier was not abandoned, when they were being fed on a portion of sadza and boiled muboora and matemba for lunch, to suddenly become world-beaters who can slug it out with a powerhouse like Germany?

How do we expect our coach, whose full-time job is to teach students at his Bulawayo school and only handles the Mighty Warriors on an ad-hoc basis, when they have an assignment, to compete toe-to-toe against professional coaches who do nothing in their life but work on improving their teams, studying their opponents and are veterans of battles on such a grand stage?

How do we expect players whose game was only revived six years ago, when Mavis Gumbo took over as the women football boss, to suddenly turn themselves into a side that should be competing toe-to-toe against sides like the Germans who have been having flourishing and competitive leagues for years?

How do we expect a group of amateurs, playing their first match at such a grand stage, to compete against the ultimate professionals who are used to not only playing at such stages but also winning such big tournaments, including the World Cup, which the Germans have won twice, in recent years, and the European Championships, which they have dominated for years?

When Klaus Dieter-Pagels organised a training camp for our Mighty Warriors in Germany, they played clubs in that country, and were beaten by those clubs and if that provides a statement of the difference, in terms of class, between them and us, why then did we suddenly start to demand that they should compete favourably against the national team and a six-goal defeat, including three goals that came late in the game when our women had run of steam, represents a disaster of national proportions?

What I have seemingly picked out is that people who have not followed the Mighty Warriors Miracle, who suddenly united with the team when they saw them playing on television on Wednesday, are the ones who have been fiercely critical of what they saw in that game and who have been describing the team as a ‘collection of rubbish.”

Those who have been walking with the Mighty Warriors, who know their trials and tribulations, appear to appreciate that, while our footballers would have limited the damage given that three of the goals were from set-pieces, and a fourth was from a penalty that shouldn’t have been given, appreciate that our team gave it all they had.


If the Mighty Warriors were an embarrassment on Wednesday, as some of us would like this nation to believe, then why do we hold the Dream Team in high esteem when the Indomitable Lions who eliminated them at the final hurdle of the 1994 World Cup qualifiers suffered a six goal mauling in the United States at the hands of Russia?

A team that eliminated us, thanks to that 3-1 defeat in Yaounde in the final match, proved to be horribly out of place in the United States, being hammered 1-6 by Russia in a group game, as they finished bottom of their group and were sent packing after just the group games?

At least, the Mighty Warriors cleared that final hurdle, they eliminated Cameroon in the final qualifier, and — given all the challenges that they have faced, including failing to travel to Cote d’Ivoire because the previous ZIFA Board did not have money to bankroll their trip for an Olympic Games qualifier — I believe that we need to celebrate the very fact that they are battling against the very best in Brazil.

There are only 12 teams in Brazil and we are one of them and that should be a source of national pride, especially for a game that has no sponsor on the domestic scene, and while we all want them to win, we should be realistic that they are up against it at the Olympics given the quality of the opposition.

There are only two African teams in Brazil, and we are one of them, and that should be a source of national pride, especially for a group of players who were never given a chance of travelling this far in this adventure and whose story appeared to be appreciated by the locals who cheered every touch for our women.

Even FIFA described the Mighty Warriors’ performance on Wednesday as “resilient” and that speaks volumes and, of course, we could have done better, played better, marked better, but that doesn’t mean that we should condemn our team but celebrate its achievements of getting to Rio because that is massive.



Obert Masvotore, a colleague of mine, is a big Dynamos fan and, as his team fires blanks in the championship race, he is clearly a troubled soul right now.

Yesterday, he sent me this message which I found to be quite hilarious.


“Dynamos yazondikona ini . . . Wakamboonepi team ine line up yevanhu vanotanga na ‘M’ chete —Mukuruva, Mushure, Murwira, Mwerahari, Mukandi, Mambare, Muzokomba, Mukamba, Mutuma. Apa technical team — Murape Murape, Muzadzi, Mutasa. Leadership — Mubaiwa, aaaah hapana bhora rakadai. Apa ndeve muMbare, Matapi, Matererini Flats, Mupedzanhamo, Magaba ummmm hazvisi zvega izvi. Rega tiite madraw.”



Come on Warriors!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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