Sharuko on Saturday
THE last time this blog appeared in this newspaper, only a week had passed since the inauguration of President Mnangagwa as Zimbabwe’s new leader — the culmination of landmark events in a dramatic year in which powerful winds of change swept across the domestic political and football landscape.
Just a day after the National Sports Stadium provided the majestic setting for the swearing-in ceremony of President Mnangagwa as the leader of this country, bringing to a close a 37-year-old chapter in which former president Robert Mugabe had ruled this land, domestic football also celebrated the dawn of an era.
Finally, after more than half-a-century, the pillars that had held together a Harare/Bulawayo Alliance in its ruthless domination of the local Premiership, collapsed under the weight of a sustained attack from the most powerful football club to come out of the Midlands since Gweru United.
The locals called their team Pisa Pisa, a very powerful football force which used to be the pride of the Midlands, during an era when some of the finest talented footballers to emerge from this country —Nobert Zimuto, Roseman Drago, Ashton Mhlanga, Takesure Tito, Knight Mate and Peter Mazarire — were part of this club.
And, of course, there was the quicksilver Wonder Chaka, a goal-scoring winger who scored 25 goals in 1981, 27 goals in 1982 and 24 in 1983, playing with a consistency that only his fine talent could guarantee, the brilliant Collin Semwayo, who had such a wonderful football brain they nicknamed him Computer, and the immortal Jonah Murehwa.
But not even these superstars, who in today’s football world roamed by many average footballers would have been feted like kings, could help break the powerful Harare/Bulawayo Alliance in its dominance of the domestic Premiership.
That is until Norman Mapeza came along last year and not only fittingly provided the technical genius that finally ended this Harare/Bulawayo Alliance dominance, but also carved his name into the history books as the first coach to win more than one league championship, since Independence, without riding on the back of the country’s Big Three clubs — Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United.
It took 37 years for the country’s leadership to change, the same number of years it also took the old dominant Harare/Bulawayo Alliance to fall in domestic football, with the leaders of both the new political and football order.
The last time this blog appeared on these pages, Ronaldinho was still playing football in a stellar career that had taken the Brazilian from the backwaters of a poor neighbourhood in Porto Alegre to the big time and money of the European game where he played for Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan.
This blog marks its return today in the week the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Ballon d’Or and World Cup winner, one of the finest natural talents to grace this game, whose silky skills used to provide this sport with a beaming smile, announced his resignation from football.
Of course, just like the landmark political changes that happened in this country and FC Platinum’s demolition of the Harare/Bulawayo Alliance domination, the great Brazilian’s retirement came at the age of 37.
AND THIRTY SEVEN YEARS AGO, A JUNGLEMAN ARRIVED AT ANFIELD
In two months’ time, Bruce Grobbelaar — the Jungleman who emerged from among our ranks to grace the biggest stages of world club football — will mark the 37th anniversary of the day he made his breakthrough move by signing for English giants Liverpool on March 17, 1981, on a £250 000 transfer fee back in the days of football innocence before big money had polluted the world’s most beautiful game.
Grobbelaar made his debut for the five-time European champions on August 28, that same year, in an away league match against Wolverhampton Wanderers to start a romance that would see him winning 13 medals in 13 years at Liverpool, including six league championships, a European Cup and many others on the domestic front.
This week, the Jungleman returned home, for the first time in more than a decade, from his base in Canada and his return revived memories of a time when he was a key member of the Dream Team, which came within just a final-game victory of qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals and the pride of that golden era when the two established African players in the English Premiership were both Zimbabwean.
In an era where the absence of our Warriors from any of the major Big Leagues of Europe has become a huge talking point, with some analysts saying it should provide us with a reality check of our bloated expectations when it comes to our beloved senior national team, it was inevitable that Grobbelaar’s return home this week was always going to ignite the raging debate as to why our production line no longer produces the quality that used to walk into the likes of Liverpool or the English Premiership.
Much of the focus, in recent weeks, has been on Warriors captain Knowledge Musona, amid a flurry of arguments — from the reasonable ones to the emotional ones and from the good ones to the outrageous ones — provoked by the possibility that he could have ended up playing in the English Premiership had things turned out differently.
That Musona today finds himself stuck at a modest Belgian football club, KV Oostende, at a time when his former teammate at German Bundesliga side TSG Hoffenheim, Roberto Firmino, has established himself as one of the best players in a star-studded Liverpool strikeforce, has provided fuel for the debate.
Grobbelaar this week threw his full weight behind Musona and refreshingly explained, in detail, that there is a lot more that is involved in getting a player to a major European club, than just his mere talent and not all the best players end up at such clubs and, interestingly, even some of the average ones with the right connections get such big breaks.
What Grobbelaar didn’t mention, though, is this disgusting tendency by most of our players to find refuge in the arms of some foreign managers and agents, once they cross the border into South Africa, in the process dumping their local agents and foolishly believing that their interests would be better served by those foreigners.
Once they get to South Africa and believe they have made it, they start feeling they have outgrown the local agents and managers who helped them take that baby step into Super Diski and they start dining and wining with strangers who don’t even care a damn about their future, but are only interested in using them, or rather abuse them, as objects to make money.
King Peter Ndlovu stuck with Winston Makamure throughout his career and we all saw how this good gentleman managed the Flying Elephant’s career because to him, Peter was not only a footballer, but a brother and a fellow Zimbabwean whose progress at club level was always going to have a huge bearing on the success of the Warriors, a team this manager supported by birth.
Incredibly, despite all the contacts which Winston established during his lengthy spell managing King Peter in England, we have never seen any of our new crop of stars turning to him to help them find a club in that country, something he can do merely by lifting his phone and calling a certain number out there.
Somehow, our later day stars — either because of their foolishness or their lack of advice — believe they have outgrown the likes of Winston Makamure, because he is a black man who stays in Harare and, instead, we have seen them jumping into the arms and stables of foreign managers, most of them white, who have no interest in their welfare save for the agent fees they will get in the event that a move crops up.
People who don’t treat them as brothers, something that someone like Makamure would do, but treat them as objects in a potential money-making venture, people who won’t care a damn about their plight the moment they sign their last contract and won’t even care to visit them here as and when their playing careers are over.
People who don’t know how Highfield, Zengeza, Makokoba, Mbare, Mzilikazi, Mkoba, Sakubva, Mufakose, where all our stars come from, look like, to provide the guidance to them to ensure these stars don’t go back there when their careers, which are very short, come to an end and the tap that was providing a shower of those dollars on a regular basis is switched off.
It’s a shame, whichever way one looks at it, that a country like ours which was blessed with a manager of such repute like Winston Makamure, who started this journey a very long time back, doesn’t have players queuing up at his office to ensure he provides them with the guidance needed for them to possibly strike a deal with a major club in England.
There is a reason why virtually all the big name Portuguese football stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani and coaches like Jose Mourinho, invest all their trust when it comes to their welfare to one of them, Jorge Mendes of the GestiFute company, which he started in 1996.
It’s because they know he is one of them and he knows their interests better than some foreigners, knows their challenges better than the foreigners, he speaks their language, understands their culture, what is good for Portugal because he is also Portuguese, and so far the results have been there for everyone to see and together they have built this football empire.
Ironically, as Bruce revealed this week, none of our current stars have even cared to pick up the phone and ring him for advice, despite the huge network that Grobbelaar has all over the world, to help them make that leap into a major European club.
Instead, they are all content to be stuck with their foreign managers, being repeatedly told that the local ones aren’t good enough, when we have a lot of powerful figures who could have changed the course of their careers even without getting a cent from the deals.
Isn’t it ironic that the agent who helped Firmino make his £29 million switch from Hoffenheim to Liverpool is a Brazilian, Marcellus Portella, used to be a dental surgeon at the footballer’s local club Clube de Regatas Brasil, where he first spotted the potential of this star when he was a mere 15-year-old?
“Yes, it’s true, he’s a dentist, but he no longer is,” Firmino told the Liverpool Echo. “After he spotted me he became an agent.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
This time, last year, just about every serious African football analyst and commentator was speaking very highly of Khama Billiat and saying he should move to Europe there and then, but 12 months later, our golden boy is still stuck in the retirement zone of Super Diski.
It can’t all be just a coincidence, as Ginimbi will say it, my guys.
MAYBE, A PRAYERS ARE JUST WHAT WE NEED RIGHT NOW
Thirty seven is a special number because it’s the normal human body temperature when measured in degrees Celsius, the number of plays William Shakespeare is believed to have written, when one counts Henry IV as three parts, and the prefix for the international dialing code for the Vatican (+379).
The four gospels in the New Testament — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — record 37 miracles which were performed by Jesus, with Mark recording the most, even though it is widely accepted Christ performed far more miracles than that.
“Genesis 37 — Joseph thrown into a pit but is lifted out of it (saved); Exodus 37 — perfection of furniture in tabernacle — things of pure gold, made perfect, anointing oil; Psalm 37 — the Lord will save his people; Isaiah 37 — God will save Jerusalem, ‘for I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake,’’’ the Amazing Word bog argues.
In such times, I usually turn to Charles Charamba’s music and I can hear the lyrics of his hit song, ‘Makaitei’ ringing in my ears right now and I have twisted its lyrics a bit to try and suit the situation with our footballers right now.
“Ko muchatiiko kana Mwari Baba vachikubvunzai ‘Vana Vangu, ko makabatei, makaiteiko, mazuva ose amaivapanyika?’
“Ko muchatiiko kana Jesu okubvunzai kereke yangu, ko makabatei, makaiteiko nezvipo zvenhabvu zvandakupai?
“Ko muchatiiko kana Benjani wopupura kuti nyangwe ndanga ndisina chipo chakanyanya ndakashingirira kusvika ndatambira Man City?
“Vana Kaitano, chipo chizhinji vakange vasina, kana tariro chaiyo, pekutanga chaipo vakanga vasina, chavaingovenacho ishungu chete nekushanda nesimba mumutambo uyu.’’
After all, Luke 1 verse 37 says, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
And, that’s true because, along the way, during the absence of this blog from these pages, in the past few weeks, I had the special privilege of experiencing the beauty of a church wedding, as I tied the knot with my long-time partner Florence, in a ceremony conducted by the hilarious Father Karombo of the Roman Catholic church.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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