Neymartambudziko, as Russia 2018 winds down The picture of the little boy in Uruguay sky-blue weeping his heart out cuddled in his mother’s loving arms will be an enduring one for years to come

David Mungoshi Shelling the Nuts
We  derive our proverbs and our wisdom from lived experience, and from knowing that if something has to happen, it will happen.

The six weeks of world football are practically over now and there will be a lull in emotion till we do it all over again in 2022.

Neymar and the other big boys have all been sent packing hence the social media quips and the pun in Neymartambudziko – our condolences to Neymar in particular.

Nguni-speaking peoples say, “Akugeza lingela sici.” In other words, no matter how fine and perfect someone or something is, there is always a fault line somewhere, and all that one has to do is find it.

It is that fault line that the teams still standing at Russia 2018 were able to detect and exploit. They have in each winning case been able to see where to swish in swiftly and score. But more of that later. For now I want to reflect upon some of the images from Russia 2018.

The picture of the little boy in Uruguay sky-blue weeping his heart out cuddled in his mother’s loving arms will be an enduring one for years to come.

It is reminiscent of the North Korean who wept in South Africa 2010 when his country’s national anthem was played.

You can imagine his absolute joy when later the DPRK scored against Brazil.

The poor boy notwithstanding, Uruguay had to go. I have never forgiven Suarez for what he did to Ghana in South Africa. Had this year’s technology been in use then, Ghana would have made it to the semi-finals in 2010.

Perhaps I am being too hard on Suarez, but he does invite it upon himself. What with his antics on the field of play including cheating and biting.

To be fair to him, he is not the only one that deserves scrutiny. The philosophy and behaviour of some teams in Russia 2018 leaves a lot to be desired.

Look at Columbia, how they tried to break down England through sheer physical malice and venom.

Columbia did everything they could to tire and frustrate England and went on to debate nearly every one of the referee’s decisions.

It was ridiculous to see Sanchez deny the crime that gave England a penalty despite replays showing him practically wrapped around Kane and wrestling him to the ground.

There was a five-minute stoppage as the Columbians besieged the referee.

But it was not going to be their day.

In the penalty shoot-out, the English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford chose the big stage to deny them their place in the sun.

For me, Russia 2018 confirmed the fact that soccer players, the world over, have the same inclinations. Touch him with a finger and he will roll on the ground as if he is in excruciating pain, rolling and grimacing and rolling and grimacing while clutching some “injured” part of his anatomy.

As soon as the referee points to the spot, the likes of Suarez immediately leap up to take the spot kick as he did with PSG.

At the end of a match some players hang their heads low, weeping silently as they let the disappointment wash over them. The victorious ones walk with a bounce and even stop to comfort their vanquished foes. They probably tell them that next time will be their turn. This is usually followed by the ritual of exchanging souvenir jerseys.

The ghastly things that each pitch suffers makes me grimace.

You should see those cats spit and how they blow their noses. Whatever issue they expel lands on the pitch on which they roll about frantically to enact a spectacle for the referee.

On a lucky day they get someone red-carded! This is the kind of mentality that North African teams suffer from: theatrics! Although this seems to work for them on the continent, on the grand stage of world football, their pathetic performances get them nowhere.

Over the years, Morocco has not endeared herself when it comes to her relations with the rest of Africa.

She has tended to throw her lot with Europe. King Hassan II presided over a shift towards Europe that has persisted to this day. In 1987, Morocco applied to join the European Communities as a first step to joining the EU. Such actions have created the impression that Morocco wishes to renounce her African identity.

Hassan’s son, Mohammed VI began his reign on July 23 in 1999. Since then, he has not deviated from his father’s foreign policy.

Owing to Morocco’s vacillations and the callous annexation of the Saharawi Arab Republic, it is difficult to weep any tears for Morocco at the World Cup. Most African viewers suffered no pangs of disappointment when she tumbled out. Morocco has to start being more African.

Senegal could so easily have progressed. However, in their last game they chose to be defensive and play for a draw. It didn’t work for them. So much talent and opportunity gone to waste!

The 42-year-old coach needed to have planned things better. In the end it’s all about planning, strategy and tactics.

In the end, one has to accept that Jose Mourinho, the master tactician, is right to say players need to know what to do when they have the ball, and what to do when they do not have the ball. We saw this thinking at play when Russia booted Spain out despite the amazing 1000-plus passes Spain completed.

Writing about Murphy’s Law, Josh Clark makes a number of telling observations. To illustrate what is meant by the law and how it works, Clark provides the following situation:

You’re sitting in eight lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic. You’re more than ready to get home, but you notice, to your great dismay, that all of the other lanes seem to be moving. You change lanes. But once you do, the cars in your new lane come to a dead halt.

At a standstill, you notice every lane on the highway (including the one you just left) is moving – except yours.

According to Clark, the idiom of Murphy’s Law says whatever can go wrong will go wrong.

Clark stresses the point that this isn’t because of some mysterious power that the law possesses. Rather, Murphy’s Law attains relevance because we give it that relevance.

Nobody invokes Murphy’s Law when life is kicking and things are happening like clockwork. But when things go badly, we want to be able to explain the turn of events.

Murphy’s Law is traced back to the year 1949 when the simple and compact statement was first made: anything that can go wrong, will.

The law uses the rules of probability, the mathematical rules relating to the likeliness of certain things happening. It used to be known as the Sod’s Law and continues to be called that in England. Sod’s Law states that any bad thing that can happen to some poor sod will.

So my brethren, if we cast ourselves in the role of the football sods of the world, things will of course, go wrong as they are doing.

We need to plan meticulously ahead and anticipate all things well-ahead of the World Cup.

We need cover for every position and we need to be hungrier for success. Against Argentina, the much bigger Nigerians were being hassled and pushed off the ball by the much smaller Argentinians.

It was as if they were playing for fouls. But the whistle hardly ever blew to reward them. And some of the players moved as if their shooters were made of concrete.

We need to be hungrier and to play our game so that we never again fall at the last hurdle.

Japan almost made it to the quarter finals against the more fancied Belgians, who went on to outplay Brazil.

Japan did not get to where they are now through Lady Luck. Over the years, Japan did what China is doing now and the United States of America did for many years.

Before they retire, good players from around the world are lured to these rich, but formative leagues to help raise football standards there.

One day soon, China will pose a credible challenge and take the football world by storm.

When the final whistle blows on July 15, the election campaigns in Zimbabwe will be entering the home stretch.

Most Zimbabweans will have been keeping an eye on both fronts, the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia and our harmonised election campaigns of some 55 parties.

The country is quiet and peaceful as it should be. Business is going on as it should. Rallies and door-to-door campaigns have become the norm.

Fashionable diners are doing roaring business. Many imbibing soccer fans prefer to watch matches in the company of others. After a popular team wins there is loud celebratory music everywhere.

This camaraderie is what the World Cup has contributed to our elections. Let there be peace and contentment.

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