Sharuko on Saturday
THERE is nothing that gives a blogger wings than knowing that somehow, somewhere your work provided the foundation, which just like that classic Buddie advert, inspired to change someone’s world.
It’s a difficult job, writing blindly week-in-and-week out, imagining you are speaking to a constituency, blindly doing so, believing you are reaching out to those masses.
And so, on the occasions you get a response from someone who tells you the ravages of life pushed him to the gates of death when he considered suicide until some of your work dragged him back to life to confront his challenges, it really blows you away.
Epyose Dondo Chigwedere is someone I have never met.
He says he is a school teacher in Wedza and has been fighting to get his job back since he was unfairly dismissed some years ago.
Last week, he wrote to me after reading about my 27-year-old adventure on this newspaper, the personal tragedies I endured and, somehow, how I have just kept soldering on.
“Your blog has virtually become part of my DNA, my fountain of hope, solace, comfort and inspiration in these tough times in our country,’’ Chigwedere wrote.
“Some of the issues which you raise and comprehensively articulate are an effective panacea to some of the numerous socio-economic challenges that confront us on a daily basis.
“I COULD HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE IN 2017 WHEN I LOST MY 14-YEAR JOB AS A TEACHER IN AN UNFAIR AND CRUEL FASHION, I STRONGLY CONTEMPLATED SUICIDE.
“But, reading your weekly article proved to be the difference between life and death. I plucked some profound courage and determination from reading and meditating deeply about the issues you had raised in one of your articles.
“I engaged a legal practitioner, cited the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education as the respondent, on October 10 in 2018, I won my case at the Labour Court unchallenged (default judgment).
“Up to this day, the minister has never made an effort whatsoever to challenge the Harare Labour Court ruling and I am yet to be reinstated or, alternatively, paid my damages in lieu of reinstatement.
“You gave me strength in the way you kept going on in the face of the crippling blows that fate cruelly and callously dealt you my brother.
“If it wasn’t you, I could have killed myself on October 3, 2017. On that fateful day, I was given a letter communicating that I had, with immediate effect, ceased to be counted by the Public Service Commission as one of its employees.
“You mean a lot my brother, not only to me, but to my spouse and four children as well, who by now, could certainly have been without a father had it not been for the great lessons of life derived from your weekly articles and how you have soldiered on despite being confronted with tragedy.’’
For me, it’s all that matters.
Where I draw my strength from to keep pushing, to keep writing, and in the words of that Buddie advert, provide something that can inspire someone for his world to change.
And it’s the stories of defiance and resilience which inspire me the most.
Like Marshall University and their community after the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 of their football players along with five coaches, two trainers and the athletics director somehow finding a way to put together a team to compete and represent them.
“Those were not welcome days,” one of their community members reflected. “We buried sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, fiancés. Clocks ticked, but time didn’t pass. The sun rose and the sun set, but the shadows remained. What was once whole, now was shattered.”
Seventy five people died in that plane crash, the worst tragedy to hit an American sports team, but in the shadow of their pain, tears and fears, the students of Marshall University and their community somehow found the strength to start all over again.
Their remarkable story inspired a blockbuster movie, “We Are Marshall,’’ and it’s one you should watch.
SOMEHOW IT HAD TO BE THE ZAMBIANS, THEN, AND NOW
Tomorrow, the Warriors will fly out to Lusaka for their AFCON qualifier against Chipolopolo — remarkably, the first time the two neighbours will clash in this competition in 26 years.
It’s called the Battle of the Zambezi, a derby which started under a blaze of controversy back in 1980, a bizarre quote about a jumbo jet pilot and a contentious victory by our boys.
Back in the day when the Warriors’ home was Rufaro, before migration took them to settle in the golden shadows of their national heroes.
The Independence Cup in 1980 was organised to celebrate this country’s escape from the clutches of colonialism.
After more than a decade of isolation from the international football family, isolated by a global community which rightly despised the racist policies of those who ruled us then, fate ensured we had to play the Zambians in that invitational final to gauge our strength.
For us to know whether, during our years of isolation, we had been left far behind by the rest of the world in terms of the strength of our football, or we were still competitive enough.
We had been competitive back in the Summer of ’69 when we had last played our international assignment against the Australians in a World Cup qualifier, but there were fears a decade of isolation could have taken its toll on us:
The Zambians surged ahead, David “Yogi’’ Mandigora headed home the equaliser and, amid an outpouring wave of nationalism by the newly-independent home fans, the late Shacky Tauro met a cross from Oliver Kateya to power home the winner.
And, with those goals from Mandigora and Tauro in that tight victory at Rufaro, we found a reason to believe in our competitiveness.
To understand that our decade in isolation had not really left us that further behind in terms of our football levels, and we could stand toe-to-toe against a lot of teams on the continent.
That victory against the Zambians provided us with the comfort that, for all the years we had spent in isolation, rejected by a progressive world that didn’t align with the madness of our rulers back then, our national game was still in good shape.
It provided us with the satisfaction that, for all the challenges we had faced in our decade of staggering in the darkness, when the world didn’t even care about our Warriors, we had lost little of the quality and resilience we had shown in those battles against the Australians.
And, it also provided us with a milestone result that inspired to change our world.
AND, WHEN CHIPOLOPOLO NEEDED A SIMILAR TEST, IT CAME AGAINST US
Fast forward to 1993, and under the shadow of tragedy, when the Zambians needed to check if they could again compete against the world in the wake of the plane tragedy that wiped out a generation of their finest footballers, their first test, as fate would have it, would come against us.
We had been last team to play the Zambians at their home before that plane crash on April 27, 1993, and we would be the first team to play them again in the aftermath of that tragedy in the battle for a place at the ’94 AFCON finals.
Since then, it’s like fate, for a reason, has been keeping us apart — for more than a quarter-of-a-century when it comes to AFCON qualifiers — with the football gods, maybe intent not to have a showdown that provides a reminder of the horror of that darkest day in Zambian sports history.
For, the last time the Zambians saw that generation of their ill-fated footballers playing in their backyard in the colours of their country was in a ’94 AFCON qualifier against us in Lusaka on April 10, in a match that ended goalless. Seventeen days later, those footballers were dead, killed in that plane crash when their chartered military aircraft came down off the coast of Gabon.
Kalusha Bwalya and what remained of their shattered team came here, and in a remarkable display of resilience for a side in mourning, won the point they needed to reach the ’94 AFCON finals where they went all the way to make the final.
When the Zambians host the Warriors on Tuesday, this generation of Chipolopolo players would be smarting from a comprehensive 0-5 thrashing in Algeria on Thursday night.
Just like Bwalya and his men back in ’93, they are a broken team.
But, just like Bwalya and his men back in ’93, they are from a resilient country which refused to be buried by the hand of tragedy and fought long and hard to honour the memory of those who perished in pursuit of greatness in that plane crash, and seven years ago celebrated the spoils of its courage.
We, of all countries, should know that and this should tell us that, even the shadow of their humiliation in Algeria, they remain a potent force, a powerful football nation.
Maybe, on reflection, that game in ’93 was one we should not have played given the tragic circumstances surrounding the assembling of that Chipolopolo side which came here for that decider.
But, consumed by our selfish interests to qualify for our first AFCON finals, we forgot about the spirit of Ubuntu, the value of camaraderie.
We forgot that was, after all, just a game which, if we had won, would have meant an appearance at the AFCON finals, but in the context of what had happened to our brothers, their appearance in Tunisia would mean more to them than us.
Blinded by our narrow and personal interests, we lost a great chance to show the world why we are the people with the kindest hearts.
Yes, thinking about it now, after all these years, we should have just asked CAF to forfeit that match, hand over the points to our Zambian brothers, because — more than us — they badly needed that ticket to Tunisia to start the national healing process.
To their eternal credit, they fought and won that ticket, defying tragedy, and in the process, provided that success story which inspired to change their people’s world.
It’s such tales that keep me going, hoping to provide the inspiration that changes other people’s world. And, in the shadow of their humiliation by the DRC in Egypt, resilience — especially the ability to bounce back from disaster — is a character our Warriors need to have as part of their DNA.
It’s such stories, which like that Buddie advert, provide the inspiration to change the world.
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole Ole!
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You can also interact with me on Twitter — @Chakariboy, Facebook, Instagram — sharukor and every Wednesday night, at 9.45pm, when I join the legendary Charles “CNN’’ Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande on the ZBC television magazine programme, “Game Plan”.