SHARUKO ON SAT
WEDNESDAY inevitably came and went and, for many, the dominant theme emerged from the lawmakers of the Ninth Parliament, including the country’s top two football leaders, who were sworn in to begin their adventure in the august House.
And, just a few hours after being sworn in as legislators, ZIFA boss Philip Chiyangwa and his deputy Omega Sibanda, rushed to the National Sports Stadium where they addressed the full complement of the Warriors.
You know it’s the WARRIORS WEEK when two legislators, just hours after having been sworn in, dash for a date with the senior national football team in camp for a 2019 AFCON qualifier against Congo in Brazzaville tomorrow.
You know it’s a WARRIORS WEEK when the entire ZIFA leadership, in their expensive tailor-made suits, descend on the giant stadium and, for an hour or so, take their seats on the stands, watching the boys sweating it out for the cause of their nation.
And you know it’s a WARRIORS WEEK when a good chunk of curious fans also come to the giant stadium to catch a glimpse of their boys preparing for a mission on behalf of their motherland.
When the WARRIORS WEEK comes along, as it did this week, when our boys come home in the name of either an AFCON or World Cup service for their nation, it has this amazing power to relegate everything, in our sport, into the shade.
Including, of course, the Battle of Zimbabwe tomorrow, conspicuously set at around the time the national team will be in action, with the big match in Brazzaville starting while the second half at Barbourfields will be in progress, as if to suggest DeMbare and Bosso fans don’t have any interest in watching their national team in action.
Not even the outrageous rentals of $8 000 a month for a house which the PSL have been paying for renting an Eastlea home in Harare which they converted into their headquarters could manipulate its way into the back pages of the newspapers in the week the Warriors were in town.
That the league have blown more than half-a-million dollars renting a property whose cost is not only outrageous, but borders on flagrant abuse of public funds, paying collectively to date more than four times what would have been the cost of buying a similar property defies logic.
But, not even such a ridiculous arrangement plucked from hell, which would even not have been justifiable if the house was located in Borrowdale Brooke, or those who were forking such outrageous costs were the richest organisation in the country, could smuggle itself into the back pages during WARRIORS WEEK.
When you consider that this monthly rental translates to a staggering R123 477, using Wednesday’s exchange rate of the United States dollar to the South African rand, you probably understand why nothing can relegate the Warriors from the back pages when the boys are in town.
Especially when you realise that a cool R123 477 would be enough to pay for seven months of rentals at R18 000 a month for a three-bedroomed penthouse in Hyde Park, a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg, which billionaire businessman Richard Branson chose as the place where his airline, Virgin Atlantic, had to have their main offices in South Africa.
Or, alternatively, enough to pay for the monthly rentals of six such penthouses in this neighbourhood, which was named after London’s famous Hyde Park.
The same amount the PSL are forking into rentals for their Eastlea office would pay for a YEAR’S rentals for a better two-bedroomed apartment in Rivonia, one of the most affluent suburbs of Johannesburg, or SIX months for an elegant two-bedroomed apartment in Sandown, a stone’s throw from Sandton, built over 208 square metres.
It could also pay for a YEAR’S rentals of a three-bedroomed penthouse in Benmore Gardens, 11 MONTHS rentals for a three bed-roomed penthouse in Braynston, both prime areas in Johannesburg, 13 MONTHS of rentals for a three bed-roomed penthouse in Plumstead, with the Table Mountain in the background in Cape Town, and EIGHT months of rentals for a similar exclusive property in Three Anchor Bay in the Mother City.
But, not even all that – as ridiculous as it appears – could push the story about the outrageous rentals which the PSL have been paying, into the back pages of this newspaper because the boys who really matter in this game, the Warriors, were in town and everything else has to be relegated into the shadows.
IT’S SEPTEMBER AND IT’S ONE HELL OF A DRAMATIC MONTH
It has been quite a week to remember – Joe Mugabe, the Kode from Mabvuku, turned 50 on Monday and
this CAPS United legend told us his adventure into football is only starting.
Japhet “Shortcat” Mparutsa, a man who defined greatness between the posts playing for arguably the strongest and most consistent Dynamos side of all-time that emerged just after Independence, is back home in Mbare today to donate to the school where his career started.
It’s this old neighbourhood that Charles Mabika, a man still trapped in the beautiful romance of Afro hairstyles, who calls himself CNN, also calls home.
Long before his golden voice transformed him into the greatest football commentator this country has ever known, and before his face became a common denominator to football discussions on our national television, Mbare was his home sweet home.
Across the street, there also lived Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, who was so good back in their days as boys in the hood, the opposition football team would always demand to be allowed the privilege of fielding an extra player whenever this genius was playing for Charlie’s team.
To them, Stix was too good he had to be counted as two players, something which Charlie’s team didn’t mind, knowing fully well their little magician would still destroy the opposition.
Maybe, it was living next door to this genius, more than his limitations as a footballer, which made a young Mabika make a decision his future in the game was not going to be best served as a player, but as a commentator.
Others will probably argue the late Evans Mambara, with his high-pitched voice style, borrowed from the legendary Denis Liwewe of Zambia, was a better commentator than Charles Mabika.
While that’s a fair argument, in a world where divergence of views is the bedrock of democracy and should be appreciated and defended, I will stick with Charlie and, in the process, also make it clear that’s not a decision to undermine the brilliance of the great Mambara.
Well, with the Warriors in town in September, for Charles Mabika, it’s a reminder of the events of September 5, 2004, when the National Sports Stadium provided a stage for events that would culminate in the commentator, and not the result from the match, making headlines around the world.
CHARLES MABIKA, JAY JAY OKOCHA AND THAT MONTH FOURTEEN YEARS AGO
The Super Eagles of Nigeria were in town that day and, with the mercurial Jay Jay Okocha at his very best, the West African giants powered to a 3-0 victory over the Warriors in that World Cup/AFCON qualifier.
But the talking point, long after that contest had ended, was the way Mabika had seemingly went into overdrive, praising the talent and performance of Jay Jay, it landed him into trouble with his superiors at ZTV.
A few days later, Charlie had been switched off the air, and his story was making headlines across the globe, including a slot on BBC.
“The recent decision of Zimbabwe Television to sack commentator Charles Mabika was a shock to viewers that loved his unique perspective on matches,’’ BBC said in their report.
“Known to his fans as ‘The Voice of Football’ and ‘CNN,’ Mabika is loved for his fast, high-pitched commentaries interspersed with jokes and humorous tales.
“Mabika began radio commentary in the mid-1980s and covered the 2004 Nations Cup finals, Zimbabwe’s first appearance, for ZTV. But his career came to a bizarre end after Zimbabwe’s 3-0 home defeat to Nigeria’s Super Eagles in September’s World Cup qualifier.
“Labelled as being ‘biased and unpatriotic’ by ZTV executives for his praise of Nigeria’s performance, his sacking was announced on the evening news two days after the 5 September match.
“He was accused of paying too much attention to the skills of the Super Eagles and, in particular, midfielder Jay Jay Okocha. His excited description of the trademark somersaults of Julius Aghahowa, who scored Nigeria’s opening goal, also came under criticism.
“But the phone-in programme ‘This Is Football,’ formerly presented by Mabika, has had many callers asking for the return of their favourite commentator.
“However, ZTV’s head of sport, Josephine Zulu, has emphasised that he will not be allowed back (saying); “We have positioned ourselves as the leader in Zimbabwean sport and this essentially demands unswerving loyalty to the national team, whether it is winning or losing, like any employer, ZTV reserves the right to hire and fire employees, guided by both professional and legal considerations.”
But, amid all that storm, it was the way Mabika responded to those challenges that impressed many, especially his refusal to be described as someone who was not patriotic to the cause of his beloved Warriors.
“My life starts and ends with football, I love my country very much, and I will always remain the Warriors’ number one supporter,” he told the BBC.
“Football and I are inseparable, because that is the only thing I talk, eat and sleep about.”
There is no doubting Charlie’s passion for the Warriors and his country.
That is why on Wednesday, exactly 14 years to the day he ran into the challenges that saw him briefly being pushed out of the job that gave him his name and fame, he remains in the trenches of football commentary and analysis as the leading pundit of the game at the national broadcaster.
They say you can’t pull a good man down and good, old Charlie, is one of those jolly nice fellows.
And it’s refreshing that 14 years after his darkest day, when he made headlines across the world for being dismissed for doing what his then superiors felt was something unprofessional, he remains standing tall and doing what he knows best.
I am yet to meet a more passionate journalist when it comes to the Warriors than Charlieboy, and now and again, I have even clashed with him when he has felt my criticism of the team has gone beyond the acceptable, because – to good, old Charlie, this team can virtually do no wrong.
He is quick to forgive them on the occasions they fail to perform to expectations, something which was probably nurtured in the ’80s and ’90s when failure was part of their DNA and doomed AFCON campaigns were a big part of their identity and the only consistent thing about them was their inconsistency.
He will tell you, now and again, they tried their best, but unfortunately, their best was not good enough, in a graphic and remarkable illustration of a unique relationship between a team which has punched below their weight in this game, and a super fan, who is also a commentator, who has refused to let that diminish their great romance.
He has been with them from the very beginning in the ’80s when they returned to the big stage, back in the days when they were good enough to beat Nigeria 2-0 in an international friendly on August 1, 1981, to those dark days of September 5, 2004, when they slumped to a 0-3 defeat at the hands of the same Super Eagles at the National Sports Stadium.
The very game, which 14 years ago, briefly cost him his job.
He has seen the best of his Warriors – from the king himself Peter Ndlovu, at the very peak of his athletic powers to Agent Sawu establishing himself as a goal-scorer par-excellence for the Dream Team.
From Vitalis Takawira scoring a hat-trick in a four-goal demolition of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to Knowledge Musona becoming the team’s first skipper to score an AFCON hat-trick.
He has also seen the worst of his Warriors – including that destruction at the hands of the Super Eagles 14 years ago, which briefly pushed him out of a job he has seemingly been doing all his life, before he bounced back to provide the voice that has always been the team’s accompanying soundtrack.
And, tomorrow, when they plunge into another AFCON adventure away from home, he will still be with them, supporting them, as he has done all his life, praying that they do well, believing that they will script another success story.
The players have come and gone, the coaches have come and gone, but one thing has remained a common denominator – his golden voice, his distinct Afro hairstyle and his love for his national team.
A number of upstarts have also come onto to the scene, including some ambitious ones who have tried to challenge him for the throne, but good old Charlieboy has remained the leading light.
Wednesday might have brought back bad memories of that day, 14 years ago, when his romance with his team was tested by a cocktail of events beyond his control, which led to him being briefly taken off air.
But time has shown that, while challenges will come and go, they can’t wash away the reality that good old Charlieboy is a damn great Warriors fan.
And, given, he also has a love for music, he could have converted the lyrics of Don Williams’ all-time classic, “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” which, as fate might have it, was released in March 1980 on the eve of the Independence that brought the Warriors back into international football.
When I was a kid Uncle Michael put me to bed
With a picture of the Mastermind George Shaya above my head
Then daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a Bible in his hand
He talked about honour, football and things I should know
Then he’d stagger a little as he went out the door
When I was in school, I ran with a kid down the street
And I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed
But I was smarter than most, and I could choose.
Learned to talk like the man on the six o’clock news.
When I was eighteen, Lord, I hit the road
But it really doesn’t matter how far I go
I can still hear the soft southern winds in the Mbare mango trees
And those boys from my old neighbourhood still mean a lot to me,
Stix and Japhet the Shortcat
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be
So what do you do with good ol’ boys like me?’’
To God Be The Glory!
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Chat with me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @Chakariboy, interact with me on Viber or read my material in The Southern Times. You can also interact with me on the informative ZBC weekly television football magazine programme, “Game Plan”, where I join the legendary Charles “CNN” Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande every Wednesday night at 21.15pm.