TWENTY years ago, George Tillman released his movie, a biopic of the Notorious B.I.G. — the life and times of an extremely fat boy from Brooklyn, New York, who became the king of rap music. The boy they teased at school because of his weight and dark features, who later, as a man, turned all that into part of one of his hit songs by singing, “heart throb never, black and ugly as ever, however, I stay Coogi down to the socks, rings and watch filled with rocks.’’
He was only 24 when he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997.
I have watched the movie, “Notorious,’’ again and again, seduced by the fact that I have always been a fan of his larger-than-life singer.
Even when he went to the very extremes, like telling the world, “when I die I want to go to hell, because I’m a piece of s * ** t, it ain’t hard to f * * *g tell, it don’t make sense, going to heaven with the goodie-goodies, dressed in white, I like the black Timbs (Timberland) and black hoodies,’’ we still listened and some even sang along.
This week, I watched the movie yet again, for the umpteenth time, and every time there is something new that I pick, and there is a whole new understanding to the story and the person.
The moment that caught my attention this week was an episode where B.I.G, then known as Christopher Wallace during his teenage years, is involved in a row with his mother Voletta at home.
At that time, PUFF Daddy, just fired from his job, was trying to find a way to manage and shape Christopher’s natural singing talent into a money-making machine.
“And, I’m starting to question what this job really is,’’ Voletta tells her son.
“PUFFY has got it all lined up,’’ Christopher answers back.
“WHAT KIND OF A GROWN-A * * * MAN CALLS HIMSELF ‘PUFFY’?’’ explodes the mother.
The man, whose queer name the Notorious B.I.G’s mother questioned that day, was born Sean Combs.
Then, he introduced himself as PUFF Daddy during the days of Bad Boy Records, and later P Diddy as he matured, and today he has a net worth of a staggering US$855 million.
And, just like in music, some queer nicknames have been a part of the life and times of football for years.
Back in the day when Manchester United were winning trophies, both in England and Europe with regularity, we had a player called “Three Lungs,’’ because he simply didn’t tire.
His real name was Ji-Sung Park.
And, they had a Croatian nicknamed “Fiery Elbow’’ at Derby County, an American nicknamed “Baby Horse,’’ who won the World Cup with the US women’s team, someone called the “Butcher of Bilbao,’’ in La Liga and the “Mayor of the Street,’’ at Inter Milan.
Former Arsenal skipper Tony Adams was nicknamed “Donkey,’’ they called Jack Charlton “Giraffe,’’ and Ariel Ortega was called “The Little Donkey”.
But, all those nicknames, from Puffy to Three Lungs, from Giraffe to The Little Donkey and from Fiery Elbow to Baby Horse, are cast in a shadow when one just mentions the mother of all nicknames football has probably ever dealt with.
MABLANYO — probably the craziest nickname anyone has ever been given in world football, certainly the most outrageous name a coach can ever get and possibly the worst nickname any Dynamos coach has ever been attached to.
So sensitive that even our sub-editor Hannah Chikeya just could not bear to say it in front of her male colleagues at work last weekend because she was concerned it didn’t sound right to represent something good.
While she was prepared to write it in a headline, she just wasn’t ready to say the word because she somehow felt it represented an attack on everything civil and was a representation of something evil.
That’s the crazy nickname, as the one that confronted the Notorious B.I.G’s mother that night in her living room, which someone chose as an identity for the man, who for a fleeting moment, was the Dynamos coach.
A MAN FATED TO FAIL, BOTH IN NAME AS IN DEEDS
Vicente del Bosque, with a heavy moustache and a rugged face and seemingly allergic to smiling, was never someone created to be a favourite for those who choose poster boys.
And, in June 2003, Real Madrid leadership decided against renewing his contract just 48 hours after he led them to another La Liga title, his second during that spell in which they also won two European Cups, one Euro Super Cup and a FIFA World Club Cup.
His sacking came just a week after Real Madrid signed David Beckham to add to their Galacticos and poor Del Bosque was considered by the club’s hierarchy to be too ugly to be the leader of their dressing room.
Given the club’s mission to peg their future on handsome players, whose global appeal would see a surge in sales of their replica shirts and bring in millions of dollars, Del Bosque was considered to be not the right face, despite his success as a coach, to be their dressing room leader.
“As throughout his time at the club, he carried on with his first-class impression of a slightly tired Rene from ‘Allo ‘Allo,” the BBC’s Tim Vickery wrote about him.
“It is a strange tale from start to finish — how the shy, moustachioed man from Salamanca came to be in charge of the most expensive and talented bunch of footballers in the modern game, won the biggest trophies on offer and then got the boot.’’
Of course, MaBlanyo, the man who lost his job as Dynamos coach this week after having been promoted into the hot seat just seven months ago, was nowhere near Del Bosque when it comes to achievements in this game.
But, in some strange way, have something in common.
A constituency at their clubs that didn’t like them, somehow pointing to their physical appearance for the fault-lines, with MaBlanyo also being mocked for a nickname which some in his camp and many outside his camp described as one plucked from hell.
And, when the defeats started piling on this season, three straight losses in the league and another in the Independence Cup final to a Highlanders side without a win elsewhere in the campaign, the narrative shifted dramatically to his appearance, which they claimed didn’t instil confidence.
And, to his nickname, which they claimed showed the character of the man — never to be taken seriously, a comic identity in the same WhatsApp group like Mbudzi Yadhura, that fellow who used to feature on our television screens in some drama series.
Or, like ChiMaria Chinagwa Bere, loosely translated as Big Maria Lost Her Breast, one of our favourite Nyau dancers during our days as kids growing up in Chakari, where this was all part of the laid-back Sunday activities, a nickname that just didn’t strike a chord.
It’s like being nicknamed Dracula, something just doesn’t add up because you become associated with vampire fantasy, with horror, and when things don’t work out, especially when you are in public service, thrust with the responsibility of serving a football club, it’s easy for people to pick on your nickname and link it to failure.
In a game blessed with such powerful nicknames like the Cool Ruler, Rush, General, Mhofu, Samaita, Computer, to name just but a few, isn’t it ridiculous that a powerful club like Dynamos, for everything that it has represented in our football, including the purity of reaching the Champions League final, they somehow decide it’s normal to be led by someone called MaBlanyo?
Just, for a while, imagine Chigowe, in your fantasy, winning the CAF Coach of the Year award and the announcer announcing to the world that, “the winner for 2019 — MaBlanyo of Dynamos, Zimbabwe,’’ something just doesn’t sound right there, doesn’t rhyme like the lyrics of songs from the Notorious B.I.G.
Then, as the guys at our Bulawayo sister B-Metro observed two weeks ago, his fashion sense, or lack of it, didn’t portray a good picture of his role as Dynamos boss, in particular, and the general profile of the country’s biggest club in general.
“While it is a truth universally held that coaches in world football certainly are not hired for their fashion sense, Chigowe’s dressing left many wondering if it was time that Castle Lager Premier Soccer League coaches were forced to adopt a certain code,’’ B-Metro football writer Fungai Muderere, wrote.
“As his charges were being haplessly pecked by the merciless Chicken Inn on the field of play, he was again being shredded by the fashion police on the terraces.
“Chigowe’s dressing left many wondering if it was time that Castle Lager Premier Soccer League coaches were forced to adopt a certain code. It’s as if some local football managers don’t own a mirror, for there would be no other reason to explain how MaBlanyo was dressed.’’
There are some national institutions and, in our football, Dynamos and Highlanders deserve their place in such company, where things have to be done in a certain sober way.
Whether we like them or not, whether we support them or not and whether we believe in them or not, is immaterial, because that will never erase the reality that the two football giants are part of the fabric of life in this country.
Because of that, because of the special place they occupy, because of the huge interests they represent, they have a responsibility to ensure that, in whatever they do, especially in terms of finding the people who then, indirectly become the faces of their brands, they settle for those who won’t reduce their brands to comedy.
For a man of limited experience in terms of coaching at senior level, who could only point to Rufaro Rovers, Zimbabwe Crackers and Fire Batteries for his previous flirtation at such levels, MaBlanyo was one of the biggest gambles Dynamos have taken to invest all their confidence in for the technical guidance of their team.
But then, this is the same team that took a chance on that joke called Paulo Silva, a comedian from Portugal, whom — if we had taken time to really research about his background — would possibly have been told he had a nickname in his homeland that sounded like MaBlanyo.
ICE GUY HE IS, BUT FINE COACH HE ISN’T
It’s a measure of how far DeMbare have fallen, from the halcyon days when they were the undisputed kings of domestic football and a member of the elite football clubs on the continent, to these days when they have been just a staggering shadow, a pathetic clone of the original Glamour Boy, that we now even spend the whole week discussing someone like MaBlanyo. Where, not so long ago, we used to discuss about Mhofu, about Shepherd Murape, about Callisto Pasuwa, great company of immortals, men the DeMbare fans knew had the pedigree to lead their team, and who delivered with distinction, back in the day when this football club represented greatness.
Today, it’s just a shell, what they call in Shona, churu chakapinda shato, still we try by all means to avoid that hill, because we are told the huge snake went there some time ago, unaware that the python has long left and all that remains is just the hill and the schoolboys of Herentals and their 47-year-old leader can now go and play without fear.
On Wednesday evening, I arrived at Pockets Hill for our weekly football magazine show, “Game Plan With Charles Mabika,” where I joined the legendary commentator and a host of guests to discuss issues related to our football.
Earlier that day, this newspaper had published a back page article in which I was very critical of MaBlanyo’s appointment to be the Dynamos coach which some readers felt was probably a touch below the belt.
Despite all that severe criticism, which some coaches would have treated as a declaration of war to such an extent they would have specified me as their eternal enemy, I was surprised to find MaBlanyo displaying some warmth towards me in a vintage display of professionalism.
There is no question he is a good man and it was his intention to succeed, but given his limited capacity at this level, he could only go so far and beating the relegation battle, with just two wins out of six, was the best he could do.
It’s not his problem that he was thrown into the firing line when he didn’t have the capacity to clear that minefield, the problem is a DeMbare leadership that has lost the plot and, somehow, they always find someone to sacrifice, to throw into the deep end to try and cover their glaring shortcomings.
MaBlanyo was not the first, and he won’t the be the last to be used as a pawn by this Dynamos leadership, it’s only he was unfortunate to also have a name that didn’t sound right and a CV that shows his area is coaching junior players and not those who have moved into the senior ranks.
The ECD teacher who wanted to teach law at the UZ, hoping that like the Notorious B.I.G. before him, he would live the fantasy of escaping the tough ghetto to become the most celebrated fellow in his trade.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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