Pictures and the Zimbabwe football narrative

30 Apr, 2022 - 00:04 0 Views
Pictures and the Zimbabwe football narrative ICONIC PHOTOS . . . This collage of memorable pictures shows (on the left) CAPS United’s midfield magician Stanford “Stix’’ Mutizwa sending Arcadia United’s goalkeeper Mike Mhlanga the wrong way in a BAT Rosebowl final in 1982; (centre) CAPS United’s scoring machine Shacky “Mr Goals’’ Tauro (right) outpacing Dynamos’ right back Eric Aisam during the Africa Day semi-final match at Rufaro in 1987; and (on the right) the great Moses “Bambo’’ Chunga executing an overhead kick in the presence of a mesmerised Peter Ndlovu in an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Malawi at the National Sports Stadium in April 1991.

The Herald

Danai Chitakasha-Special Correspondent

OUR newspapers do not do pictures anymore, the kind of pictures which can tell the story of a football match. 

Often enough, I have seen a football story accompanied by the picture of the coach and nothing about the action on the pitch. The worst one I saw was of CAPS United bus as part of the match report! It left me wondering, do we have a shortage of photo journalists in our country? Or there is simply no desire to use these photos? 

Those of a certain generation will remember the pictures which we used to scramble for, cut and paste into old exercise books as our football memorabilia. These exercise books were our pride and once in a while, boys in the hood would gather to show off their collection.  

The captured images made us know the players well and they became our heroes who were close to our hearts. It is such a shame that most of us never really kept these old exercise books. I can imagine what would have happened if we had, a trove of football history would be available at our fingertips. What a loss!

Pictures are also important as they help to motivate the main protagonists, the players.  A picture of young Bill Antonio flying past a defender can act as a spur to the young man to do more in the next match. 

“I used to buy three or four newspapers to give to our friends when my picture appeared in the back page!” former teenage prodigy Alois Bunjira recently said in an interview. That is the power of football pictures, they uplift the players. 

Pictures can also help to generate interest among the fans. 

I used to work in Chipinge, far away from the Sunday action at Sakubva, Rufaro or Barbourfields stadiums. The newspaper was my link to the Saturday or Sunday action. I always looked forward to the Monday paper which I would only get in the late afternoon when Mukoma Kind, the veteran Siduna Bus Service bus driver, announced his arrival at Chako Township with the blaring horn from the bus. 

All of us knew he had arrived behind the wheel of the bus with legendary boast imprinted on its forehead “Mwachimwase Ndombi yekanyi, yarira yekanyi!”.  

I also knew the newspaper had arrived and I would quickly grab it from Mukoma Kind. 

The back page would be loaded, the reports and yes the pictures! The pictures made me know some players who I had never watched and believe me dear reader, this was the case with many fans who lived far away from our cities. They relied on match reports and without the pictures, they will have no idea what the players look like.

More recently I heard a lot of rave reviews about young striker Jayden Bakare of Hwahwa Football Club.  I searched high and low for his picture but could not find any joy. Finally, a friend managed to send me one but even the one I got does did not give a clear view of how he looks like because he had his face turned away from the camera. I hope soon I will get a clearer one.       

However, some pictures have been shared on social media, pictures of a bygone era. The idea, however, is not to shame but yes I understand, a player’s pride can be pricked when a picture gets circulated when they were at the receiving end of a roasting by an opponent. 

Let me talk about three which when shared often lead to robust discussions. 

1. Arcadia United vs CAPS United: Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa vs Big Mike Mhlanga. My apologies to the late Arcadia United agile goalkeeper, Big Mike Mhlanga, but I could not resist sharing this one. CAPS United, the renowned ‘’Cup Kings’’ faced off talented Arcadia United in a BAT Rosebowl Cup final in 1982.  

CAPS United were awarded a penalty. Up-stepped midfield magician, the evergreen Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa. The Arcadia goalkeeper was ready or was he?  The referee blew the whistle, Stix approached and nonchalantly dispatched the penalty.  Big Mike dived the wrong way. 

It was the kind of moment when some fans will declare that “juju” has been used. How can a goalkeeper dive full stretch in the opposite direction? It has to be daylight witchcraft; the fans will declare!

Maybe it was the confusion generated by Mike Mhlanga’s dive in the opposite direction which also confused the referee. Maybe he did not believe what he was witnessing. If it was an evening match we would say “Arohwa nezveusiku”, but this was a 3pm kick-off. Maybe he just wanted to find out if the midfield magician could do it again.  He ordered a retake of the penalty. Up stepped “Stike’’ for the second time with the same result. Big Mike dived full stretch the wrong way! This time the cameraman was ready, he hit the click button and the moment was captured for eternity. 

CAPS United won the match 2-0 with Stix Mutizwa scoring both goals. For the fans, however, the moment that the goalkeeper dived the wrong way twice was a major talking point. And yes, the morning papers had it all in colour, a moment of football magic from the magical “Stike’’, a moment of great embarrassment for the respected Big Mike. 

I can declare that this was the first time a picture of this nature was taken in our football narrative. I think it was the first time we had actually witnessed a goalkeeper dive full stretch in the opposite direction of the ball. 

Years later I met Mike Mhlanga in Cranborne over some drinks. I was stupid enough to try and remind him of that moment. His words were ominous: “Mupfanha, imwa doro wakanyarara!”. He hated that moment and dear reader, you can understand why. Continue to rest legend, your legacy is secure and this moment of embarrassment should not steal from your years of glory on our football stage. 

2. Dynamos vs CAPS United: Shacky Tauro vs Eric Aisam.  Dynamos fans and players alike do not like to be reminded of the National Foods Africa Day semi-final against arch-rivals CAPS United in 1987. The joke is always on them for conceding seven goals and because of their claimed and famed Seven Million Supporters, “a goal for each million!”, was too good a dig to resist from the “Green Half” of the capital.

The photographer was also ready. He captured Shacky Tauro in a race with emergency rightback Eric Aisam who was clearly struggling to keep up with the pace. Shacky Tauro outpacing an opponent should not have raised eyebrows, he did that all the time. However, this was Eric Aisam, a man also renowned for his pace. So why did he struggle to keep Tauro at bay?

In a recent interview, he had a ready excuse for the humiliation. 

“I had just arrived from South Africa and went to training on Thursday. Coach Sunday (Marimo) Chidzambwa had a depleted squad and he drafted me into the team. I was unfit and was not match ready. I had to cover for the team and yes Shacky took advantage of that. I suffered that afternoon!” he said in an interview with Alois Bunjira. 

That picture is iconic and it captured not only the legend’s most difficult 90 minutes but the humiliation of the “Seven Million Club”. I hope I have not opened old wounds for my DeMbare friends.

3. Zimbabwe vs Malawi: Moses Chunga and Peter Ndlovu, two bad Superstars. It is such a shame that the partnership between Moses Chunga and young prodigy Peter Ndlovu did not last for a long time. At its brief peak, however, it was devastating and The Flames of Malawi can attest to that. A young Peter destroyed them with his pace and skills and the elder statesman Moses Chunga destroyed them with long-range pin-point passes.  It was a scintillating display of attacking football. The 4-0 demolition in an African Cup of Nations qualifier at the National Sports Stadium on April 14, 1991, had everyone excited. 

Unfortunately, a nagging knee injury to Moses Chunga put paid to any hopes the nation had of seeing this partnership bloom. When new coach Reinard Fabisch was appointed, he dispensed with the services of Chunga leaving Peter an orphan in attack.  It was a ruthless decision, which is still debated to date nearly 30 years later. 

In the match against Malawi, an iconic picture was taken of Moses Chunga flying in mid-air performing an overhead kick. Close to him is Peter Ndlovu, mouth half open as if marvelling at the majesty of it all. The caption went: “The Master and the Student “. 

It was a picture which promised great things which unfortunately never came to fruition.  The picture is class and must go in our Hall of Fame as and when we create one. 

Indeed, there are many pictures which capture the high and lows of our football journey and I want to give credit to some of the best photo journalists to emerge from our nation. Remember the white-haired “Dr Feelgood” Lucky Zhakata, who was a permanent feature at most matches by the touchline? He is an unsung hero of our football narrative. There were many more but the good doctor easily comes to mind.   

I also hope that one day we can have a Hall of Fame where we can have pictures of our football legends. This can actually generate a little income for our football because people can visit and pay small amounts to relive the history of the game. I once visited the Arsenal museum in London, what a journey captured in pictures. We can do this!

I hope also that newspapers can make the back page more enticing by having more action pictures not just the head coach or a team bus. 

Allow me to say this is unacceptable and yes, this paper is also guilty as charged. 

I had to say it because that is my role, do they not say “if the lizard of the homestead stops doing the things that it is known for, it will be mistaken for the lizard of the fields”. 

I have dropped a word to the powers that be, my role is done!

Sisonke.

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