I’M STANDING WITH BRITO
Sharuko On Saturday
THERE was a time when, for about a decade, Rahman Gumbo was the only coach who could boast of having guided our Warriors to a victory away from home.
He led his men to a 2-0 win over Rwanda in a 2006 World Cup/AFCON qualifier in Kigali in July 2004.
Then, just like now, the Super Eagles of Nigeria were part of our World Cup qualifying group.
Two months after that victory in Rwanda, the Nigerians came to Harare and taught us a lesson pregnant with both brutality and a touch of royalty.
Jay Jay Okocha was the conductor of the orchestra at the National Sports Stadium.
Okocha’s solo exhibition, which kissed the edges of brilliance and bordered on the fringes of arrogance, even dragged the legendary Charles “CNN” Mabika into a dark world of uncertainty.
His lifelong ZTV romance was briefly halted.
He was accused of going overboard, in celebrating the way Okocha chose to humiliate our players with his showmanship, in a game we lost 0-3.
The return leg would be even worse as the Super Eagles, in their home comforts, went on a blitzkrieg and thrashed us 5-1.
It’s either a measure of how foolish we are, as a football community, or how the Nigerians have terribly lost their way that some guys have gone ballistic, after our draw against the Super Eagles, on Sunday.
That the draw came on neutral soil, on probably the worst pitch a World Cup qualifier can ever be played on, has seemingly been ignored by the brigade, which now says this was a very poor result.
Fair and fine, the Super Eagles were there for the taking.
Their lifeless home draw against Lesotho had sent that message and Teenage, Divine and Shandirwa should have converted those late chances.
But, there are serious mitigating factors.
Ours was a team playing only its second competitive game in almost two years, whose best player that afternoon, Andy Rinomhota, was playing his first international game at the age of 26.
A team whose coach Baltemar Brito is a rookie in international football and was making his bow, at this level of the game, at the good age of 71.
A team whose assistant coach, Genesis Mangombe, was — just three months ago — considered to be only good enough to help Herbert Maruwa Dynamos coach.
And, a team, whose other assistant coach is only there to translate Portuguese into English.
This is a team whose right back, and ‘keeper, were also making a bow for their country.
A team whose two main midfielders, Marvelous Nakamba and Marshall Munetsi, were playing for their country for the first time since September and November 2021.
A team, whose forward, Walter Musona, was considered not good enough by Polokwane City.
And, a team, whose other forward, Tino Kadewere, has only scored once in 10 competitive games for his country.
RAHMAN REMINDED US OF SUCCESS ON THE ROAD
The bottom line remains that, in both games in Rwanda, we fought better than we have done on the road, for a very long time, and we got due rewards for our industry and indomitable spirit.
It never used to be like that.
Some of us still remember those dark days, and lonely nights when, even getting a point, on the road, was something that was beyond our capacity.
When Rahman Gumbo and his men won in Rwanda, in 2004, it was an isolated island of success.
And, to prove just that, for a decade after that win, the Warriors did not win on the road, in a Nations Cup/World Cup qualifier.
In the 17 matches they played on the road, during that period, they lost 13 times and drew only FOUR games.
They failed to score in 10 of those matches.
Between 2010 and 2014, only one man, Knowledge Musona, scored for the Warriors in World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers away from home.
And, we scored only FOUR goals, on the road, in NINE matches, during that period, covering three Nations Cup and one World Cup.
Six coaches came and went, after Rahman Gumbo masterminded that 2-0 win over Rwanda, and they took charge of 17 World Cup/Nations Cup games, away from home.
They all failed to guide us to a SINGLE victory.
There were losses against Angola (twice), Malawi, Algeria, Morocco, Kenya, Namibia, Mali, Cape Verde, Burundi, Egypt and Guinea, on the road, during that period.
Against that miserable background, I find it strange, if not laughable, that we could have a constituency belittling what Brito, and his men, did in those two games in Rwanda.
Yes, they had a chance to win both games, and they should have beaten a struggling Nigeria.
I HAVE ISSUES WITH BRITO BUT I SUPPORT HIM
But, that’s what football is all about.
And, I doubt if any of these critics had been offered a point, against the Super Eagles, before our game, would have rejected it.
I don’t know what those critics would have been saying today if, for instance, the Black Stars of Ghana, who lost in Comoros, and Bafana Bafana, who lost to Rwanda, were their national teams.
Senegal and Cameroon scraped points away from home and Zambia were beaten in Niger — that’s the reality of life on the road in African football.
I have my issues with Brito, I think he is too defensive and goes into a game not to concede rather than trying to go for victory.
His defensive footprints were all over Highlanders, in those 19 games in which Bosso were unbeaten, as they struggled to score goals.
But, for a man who first knew some of the players he threw into battle when they met in Rwanda, I think it’s unfair to blame him for any passage of our play, where we came short, and any result, which we didn’t like.
Brito still comes across to me as very old school.
As someone, who was left behind by time, and a game which has changed so much since his dance with Mourinho.
But, for all my reservations, I don’t see how I can blame him for the results in Rwanda.
He was in charge of a team, whose main players had never played an international match in about two years and football is not a game of the magicians you see entertaining people at the circus.
I might not have confidence in him but I decided, a long time ago, to support him because he is coaching my national team.
He is coaching the only football team, which I can declare my love for in this country, without provoking a backlash.
I hope he picked lessons from his Rwandan counterpart, who fielded an 18-year-old, Hakim Sahabo, and was repaid with a man-of-the-match performance against South Africa.
Hakim plays in the Belgian Challenger Pro League, which is a developmental zone, for Standard Liege.
We have a player in those lower leagues, Bill Antonio, who has played in the Belgian top-flight, and Brito should start trusting such young talent.
However, I am not singing in the corner of those who are saying we should have picked SIX points.
I don’t have time for that.
I’m singing in the Chegutu Pirates corner, once again, today.
And you know why.
It’s personal, this is about HOME!
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 Pirates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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