Marshal from Mabvuku
Sharuko on Saturday
DURING my days in college, I used to be quite nomadic — switching from one place to another and moving from one suburb to the other.
My late old man was so desperate for his kid to have a proper education and, despite the obvious challenges which a mine worker faced, he was relentless in the pursuit of his dream.
So, he would hook me up with his old friends, and extended family members, so that I could get a place to stay, while I studied to be a journalist.
I stayed in Haig Park, at a house owned by my old man’s childhood friend, where his wife made it very clear that I was not welcome, ensuring my stay was brief.
I then went to stay with my uncle in Eastlea, where he worked as a cook for a young white family, and everything looked quite good.
Given the ill-treatment I had endured, in Haig Park, where my presence appeared to provoke raw hatred, in the soul of the wife of my host, Eastlea provided a welcome, and refreshing escape, from my little hell.
But, my newly-found little paradise didn’t last long.
It all came to a head one day when I was caught by my uncle’s employer, rolling his lorry’s spare tyre, through the main gate, without his permission.
Apparently, my uncle had ordered me to take it to a client, rolling it down Samora Machel Avenue on foot, and delivering it to his contact in town.
What he didn’t tell me was that he had stolen it from his employer and, when I was caught, he denied any involvement in the issue, which was expected.
I took the blame, at least for the sake of saving my uncle’s job, and the punishment was my banishment from the house.
Next stop was in Mbare, where I stayed with my grandmother, who evicted me for daring to waste money on buying postage stamps to send about 30 letters to my friends.
The nomadic lifestyle then took me east, again, to New Mabvuku, where I stayed along Chapungu Street, at a house which belonged to some extended family members.
My arrival there was key, in that I was completing the transition from a teenager into a young man, and my experience in Mabvuku, Tafara and Chizhanje, has shaped my life in a very big way.
I quickly realised that, just like Mbare, this was a neighbourhood that loved its football.
Where the game was used as a powerful tool to help the residents escape from the painful reality of the challenges, which confronted this community, every day.
For all the hurdles, which life had thrown into their path, they were a very proud people, hard-working men and women, united by their plight and driven by their search for a better life.
They loved their heroes and, in football, they had many such stars to provide them with a reason to be proud of who they were, these people from the east.
The Mugeyi twins — Wilfred and William — were the emerging stars of the neighbourhood, they were both Foxes, one of them was the silver one, the other was the golden one.
The Silver Fox was Wilfred, the one whose profile quickly exploded because he played in a position where the majority of the game’s superstars express their genius.
For all its beauty, football is quite an unfair game.
It’s probably the only sport in the world where there is such an intoxicating bias towards those whose job is to put the ball into the back of the net.
Their counterparts, whose job is to try and ensure the ball isn’t put into the nets, are barely recognised as stars and mainly embraced as mere supporting acts.
Of course, the case for the defenders is not being helped, in any way, by the arrival of such pretenders, disguised as footballers, like the con artist called Harry Maguire.
A man who will be judged by history for being the one who sold the game its biggest dummy, by somehow fashioning himself into an £80 million fraud, and fooling an institution like Manchester United, to woo him into their corner.
Brenna Msiska had long established himself, by the time I arrived in Mabvuku, as a true football star, as much a talented goalkeeper as he was a colourful character, as honest a human being as any you can come across.
Baba Gari, that’s what we loved to call him, and in the path he cleared, many would follow – Joe Mugabe, the Kode from Mabvuku, Usman Misi, the diminutive genius.
Oswin Kwaramba, the one who, in my little book, was the real deal, James Matola, so powerful they even called him Van Damme, Cephas and Elton Chimedza, to name but a few.
Circle United was the neigbourhood’s team, Black Aces had a fascination with talent from the area and CAPS United would regularly fish from the same pond.
A MAN FROM MABVUKU
By 1996, I had left Mabvuku, college life was now part of my past and I was already working on this beast, this grand old newspaper, when it happened.
One of Mabvuku’s greatest sons, Joe Mugabe, played a huge role in helping the Green Machine win their first league championship, in the era of Independence.
We didn’t know it back then but even the football gods appear to have foretold this success story.
After all, during the same year someone, who would have eternal connections with Mabvuku, was born on June 22, 1996.
His parents called him Nyasha and, with the passage of time, he would develop into a powerful midfielder whose talent would take him to a place, and level of football, no Mabvuku star had ever played.
Like many of his friends, he also had an additional English name, Marshall, as if his parents knew that, in his chosen game, he would always be the authoritative one.
The dominant one, the power play specialist, the one who takes no prisoners, who imposes his presence on the game, and on his opponents, and who plays like a true Warrior.
I like him, not because he is my countryman but because he plays football with the right spirit and his refusal to be buried by challenges, which one meets along the way, is an example for our kids who dream of one day hitting the jackpot in this game.
Someone even told him he was not good enough to play for Orlando Pirates.
But, rather than let this destroy him, and turn him into a Thomas who doubted his capacity to play the game at a professional level, he took it as a challenge to prove those people wrong.
So, he simply worked harder, trained harder and now he probably earns enough money, in a month, to pay every member of the Pirates team, including the coaches and their backroom staff.
But, he has never been a person inspired by money and riches but he is just a guy who wants to play the game he loves, as well as he possibly can, as tough as the rules allow.
On Wednesday, Munetsi scored his FOURTH goal of the season in French Ligue 1 in the 2-1 home victory over Lille.
It was a goal worth its weight on gold.
After all, it came against the defending French champions, the very team which last season ended Paris Saint Germain’s monopoly of the championship.
It came against a team with a very rich history in French football given that they were the winners of the inaugural championship in the country’s top-flight league.
It also came against the very team which, in recent years, has given the world such stars like Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel, Victor Osimhen, Simon Kjae, Divoc Origi, Salomon Kalou, Lucas Digne, Vincent Enyeama, Joe Cole, Idrissa Gueye, Gervinho and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
From a distance, scoring a FOURTH goal of the season might not appear as anything of significant value.
And, in a country seemingly allergic to the excellence of its football stars, where negativity generates more headlines than positivity, the critics have been asking what the hell is this noise, which is being generated by someone scoring just a fourth goal, in a season?
Well, I have some news for them.
By scoring his fourth goal of the season, Munetsi became the first Zimbabwean footballer, at any level, to be ranked higher than Argentine football god, Lionel Messi, in any classification, in the history of this game.
Now, that is as huge as it can ever come.
Munetsi is not a forward, his strength is mainly in disrupting the opposition from picking holes in his team’s shield, protecting the defence with a wall of defiance.
For him, at any part of his career, to find himself eclipsing Messi in the goal-scoring charts is probably the greatest miracle which Zimbabwean football has ever witnessed.
It’s massive, the stuff that dreams are made of, the material from which legends, for countries like Zimbabwe, are made of.
The statistics even give the proper context, and soundtrack, to what Munetsi has done.
Our boy, from Mabvuku, has featured for Stade Reims in 1569 minutes, scoring FOUR league goals, while Messi, the football god, has featured for PSG in 1702 minutes, for his THREE league goals.
The records show that Messi has been on the field 133 minutes, which is just over two hours, more than Munetsi but the Zimbabwean star has, still, scored more goals than the Argentine superstar.
The injury, which saw him miss the AFCON finals in Cameroon, probably explains why Munetsi has played fewer minutes than Messi.
Amazingly, Munetsi is the second top scorer at Stade Reims, with his four goals, five adrift of leading scorer, teenage Frenchman Hugo Ekitike, who has nine goals.
The highly-rated 19-year-old Frenchman is already being labelled as one of the future stars, not only for his country, but for European football.
It has taken one of the hottest teenage properties in world football today, to provide Stade Reims with someone who has scored more goals than our boy from Mabvuku, in the league this season.
WE HAVE A PROBLEM IN OUR FOOTBALL
Predictably, Munetsi’s landmark goal, in which he pushed the great Messi into the shade, didn’t make headlines in local newspapers or on domestic radio stations.
Only one newspaper gave it prominence, on its back page, while others just tucked it somewhere, where it was hard to see it, or simply ignored it.
It didn’t dominate the debate on the Whatsapp groups, among football fans, and neither did it feature prominently, in debates on Facebook or Twitter.
Instead, it was the usual boring stuff about the politics of our football, which dominated the discussions, because that’s where we thrive, as a country, expressing the dark arts of our eternal connection with negativity.
Somehow, Felton Kamambo, a broken man who, in another country, will probably be barred from applying for the job of manager of Karoi United, because he simply doesn’t appear to have the capacity for such a role, keeps dominating our narrative.
Simply because in our collective madness, in our moment of infamy and in our fascination with madness, we decided to take a man, who will possibly struggle to execute the task of being a kit manager of Chegutu Pirates, and make him the boss of our football.
He fed us the narrative that he once played for Mhangura even though a thorough search of all the archives doesn’t appear to support this with the closest he possibly could have done was playing for a team called GMB Mhangura.
But, even assuming that, indeed, he played for Mhangura, was that good enough for us to invest all our trust in him, as a man who had the capacity to not only lead our football but to add value to it?
If playing for a Premiership club was good enough to win someone the ZIFA presidency, why then did we not elect James Takavada, who has a better profile in the game, as a star, than Kamambo?
Jimmy was Soccer Star of the Year in 1984, at a time when our top-flight league had genuine stars, and one only needs to look at those he sandwiched — Ephert Lungu (1983) and Stanley Ndunduma (1984) to appreciate how good he was.
He starred for the Warriors but, when it came to the elections for the ZIFA presidency in December 2015, Jimmy got just ONE vote.
The previous year, the elections had been held and another former player, Nigel Munyati, had contested for the ZIFA presidency.
Nigel came with a bigger profile because of his Aces Youth Soccer Academy which had given the country its two best players of that era, Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat.
But, all that counted for nothing and Nigel failed to pick even ONE vote, with the people who had nominated him for the post turning against him, and voting for other candidates.
Nigel ended with ZERO votes, if ever there is anything like that, out of the 58 councillors, who cast their votes, in that poll.
Cuthbert Dube retained his seat, which was something of a surprise, given that he had looked to be at his weakest, with his name regularly appearing on the front pages, because of an obscene salary he was receiving at his workplace.
However, a few months down the line, Dube was a man on the ropes, with the very Councillors who had elected him, turning against him, and eventually revoking his mandate to lead them.
It’s very likely that if you ask your friends who are the FA presidents of England, Germany, Argentina, France, Belgium, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, you are unlikely to get anyone giving you the right answer.
But if you ask them who are the top players in those countries, it’s very likely that they will all give you the correct answers.
That is what happens in a normal football environment, far away from the madness of our set-up, where it’s never about the players but about the administrators, including some who can barely pronounce the word ‘million.”
In these countries, they would be celebrating Munetsi’s achievements all week, because these are the people who matter in this game, not those guys who stay in the offices, pretending to be working to improve the game, yet they are just eyeing the FIFA grants.
Somehow, even though these administrators we thrust into our game’s leadership were responsible for our expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, we still find it appropriate to call for their reinstatement, at least, for the sake of our AFCON qualifiers.
A country which endured the punishment of missing the World Cup qualifiers, because the ZIFA bosses could not settle the dues of a coach they hired, suddenly is crying loud, for the reinstatement of another group of ZIFA chiefs, because we don’t want to miss the AFCON qualifiers.
I don’t want the Warriors to miss the AFCON qualifiers, too, for the sake of Munetsi, the midfielder who has scored more goals than Messi.
But, at the same time, how do we deal with the leadership failures which have ensured that, even when Munetsi sparkles, as he did this week, the story remains on the death of the game rather than the life which these players are breathing into our sport?
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 United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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