YESTERDAY, I marked 27 years of service to this newspaper — just another little statistic in the 128-year history of this media beast which has cast its spell across this country for over a century. This newspaper, born on June 27 1891, when William Ernest Fairbridge launched what was then a weekly handwritten news sheet, with its printed newspaper version coming in October the following year.
Maybe 1891 was always meant to be a defining year for newspapers because Rachel Beer became the first woman to edit a national newspaper in the United Kingdom when she took over as The Observer editor.
Djurgardens IF, the Swedish club which more than a century later would provide a home for Nyasha Mushekwi and Tino Kadewere, were also formed in 1891.
It also proved a defining year for football.
When a goal-bound effort in an English FA quarter-final game was deliberately stopped by a defender’s hand on the goal-line, an indirect free-kick was subsequently awarded.
A penalty, which had been proposed the previous year by William McCrum as punishment for such an incident, had not yet been adopted.
But the ensuing outrage that followed as the public criticised the gravity of that incident, compared to the lenience of the punishment, would change football forever.
On September 14, 1891, the first penalty was awarded in football and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ John Heath had the honour of taking and converting, it.
In a year rich with sporting landmarks, the Springboks played their first international Test match in 1891 against the British Lions and won 4-0.
Today, they take on England in the final of the Rugby World Cup in Yokohama, Japan.
I was just 22 when I walked into the doors of this newspaper, I’m now just a few months short of the Golden Jubilee.
And, along the way, I lost everything — my wife and my daughter, my mother and my father.
But somehow, amid all that, God spared me to live another day, another week, another month and another year and yesterday, I clocked 27 years on this newspaper.
I arrived in the year Black Aces were champions of Zimbabwe football.
Along the way we lost them, the iconic club consumed by the challenges which have been weighing down heavily on community sides, while the coach who guided them to that landmark success story, Peter Nyama, also died.
Many other footballers, including some who became my good friends in their retirement, died along the way.
But, there was one I really cried for, whose picture in a Warriors jersey — the old good ones with a collar which the Dream Team used to wear — still hangs on the wall in the office behind where I sit.
It’s in black-and-white, of course, because he is late.
But the enduring smile, which used to charm many hearts back in the day when a capacity crowd at the National Sports Stadium was a norm, rather than an exception, remains.
The one blessed with boyish facial features which used to fool opponents they would steamroll past him.
The tiger in a pack of Indomitable Warriors, the breakdown specialist, the one who specialised in robbing the opposition, the master in an art that has now made the likes of N’Golo Kante prized assets worth millions of dollars.
Benjamin Nkonjera, the least said, the better.
Otherwise, even the King himself, the only Elephant who mastered the art of Flying and gave his son the name Benji, in memory of his dear old friend and teammate, could start shedding tears at his base in Pretoria as he reads this piece.
TIME FLIES, AFTER ALL, IT’S NOW 30 YEARS SINCE THE KING ANNOUNCED HIS ARRIVAL
Exactly 30 years ago, King Peter and Benji were schoolmates at Mzilikazi High School, and they announced their arrival on the big stage at the 1989 Copa Coca-Cola football tournament.
It was at that tourney where Zimbabwean football was given a glimpse of the magic from the boy wonder, the one who — with the passage of time — would transform himself into the finest Warrior of all time.
His MVP show as a 16-year-old schoolboy providing a grand announcement of the arrival of a genuine superstar on the domestic game’s landscape.
Thirty years later, he remains the GOAT, the one whose service to his country eclipsed everyone, the benchmark on which great Warriors will always be judged.
By the time I arrived here on November 1, 1992, he had already won back-to-back Soccer Star of the Year awards as a teenage prodigy back in the day when this award represented greatness.
He had already left these shores, taken away to England where, just three months before I started this adventure here, he made history as the first African footballer to feature in the English Premiership.
I have always liked Peter, I call him King Peter, because he deserves to be loved, to be respected, to be honoured, to be celebrated.
Because, when one gives what this diminutive fellow has given to his country, in terms of service to football and the Warriors, even the Devil himself can find a reason, for once, to appreciate the power of love.
It’s hard, looking back when I started this journey at this company, 27 years ago, to imagine Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat were just two years old.
And, now, at the age of 29, they are creeping into the final phases of their professional careers. Evans Rusike was just one-year-old, Tendai Darikwa was 11-months-old, Talent Chawapiwa was five-months-old.
Ronald Pfumbidzai, Marshall Munetsi, Divine Lunga, Alec Mudimu, Tino Kadewere, Teenage Hadebe, Marvelous Nakamba, Knox Mutizwa, Lawrence Mhlanga and Kuda Mahachi were not yet born.
Of the boys I was with in Cairo for the 2019 AFCON finals, Musona, Billiat, Chigova, Dzingai, Karuru, Kamusoko, Deco, ZiKeeper and Mushekwi were the ones who had been born by then.
And, the oldest of them was barely five when I started this adventure here.
Yes, this has been home sweet home and there have been some good times, and some very bad ones.
I have always been guided by the principle that it’s not the opportunities we miss, which ultimately define our destiny, but the ones we mess.
After all, Robert H, Schuller told us, “tough times never last, but tough people do,” and Thomas Edison reminded us that “many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Martin Luther King Jnr probably said it all when he told us that, “the ultimate measure of a man is where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
When King Peter arrived in a hostile foreign environment in Coventry as an 18-year-old, he didn’t let the brutal cold winter deflect him from his pursuing his dreams of becoming a professional footballer.
To use this game to change his life, and that of his family, to escape the tough life he grew up in the ghetto in Bulawayo.
He simply soldiered, on and in the process, found a way to clear the hurdles that lay in his path.
Looking back, I still remember the day my father put me on the bus of the football team which had come to play our beloved Falcon Gold, one brutally cold Sunday evening, asking them to drop me off in Kadoma.
Once there, I had to wait another five hours to catch the train to Harare.
I got myself a seat in the economy class and, battered by the brutal weather conditions, could barely sleep along the way.
The next morning, in Harare, I was one of the first to jump off and, still dazed by lack of sleep, started the run across to the other side of the city.
I had to arrive in time for the start of the examinations to be part of the group to be enrolled for the Mass Communications Class of ’90 at the Journalism School.
Sweaty, tired, without having taken a bath or brushed my teeth, without taking anything for breakfast, and still in the same clothes I was wearing the previous day when I started my journey in Chakari, I took my seat among others battling to secure the few places on offer.
And, thank God, when the process was over and done with, I was told I was one of those who had made it.
If, things had turned out differently, I wouldn’t be here today to give a toast to 27 years on this ride with this grand old newspaper.
SOME SONGS, COMING TO THINK OF IT, SOUND LIKE THEY WERE WRITTEN FOR YOU
This month also marks exactly 22 years since the Notorious B.I.G released “Sky Is The Limit,’’ the third and final single from his second album “Life After Death”.
And, I listened to it again yesterday from the opening stanza done by his mother Voletta Wallace, it’s easy to get a connection to the lyrics.
Like it’s my late mother, speaking to me, or your mother also speaking to you:
“Baby, look at me, Mama love you,
And I know you aren’t no little boy no more,
But you’ll always be my baby,
It seems like only yesterday I was holding you in my arms,
Now look at you now big, but I worry about you,
I worry about you all the time, hanging out on the streets,
All times at night with the cruel people,
Baby, that ain’t nothing but trouble,
I always taught you that you could have whatever you dream,
Well, I want you to hold on to that dream, baby,
Hold on to it real tight, ‘cause the sky’s the limit.’’
And, when the Notorious B.I.G takes over in the subsequent stanza, it’s like my early life being retold in song by someone who never saw me, who was gunned down in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997, at the age of 24.
“A n * * *a never been as broke as me, I like that,
When I was young I had two pair of Lees, besides that,
The pin stripes and the gray (uh-huh),
The one I wore on Mondays and Wednesdays,
While n * * *s flirt, I’m sewing tigers on my shirt
“IF THE GAME SHAKES ME, OR BREAKS ME, I HOPE IT MAKES ME A BETTER MAN, TAKE A BETTER STAND, PUT MONEY IN SON’S HAND, GET MY DAUGHTER THIS COLLEGE PLAN, SO SHE DON’T NEED NO MAN.’’
For me, after all that I have taken and absorbed in more than a quarter-of-a-century working on the same desk, for the same newspaper, that’s all that matters.
For all the shaking and breaking that I have taken from this adventure, I just hope it has made me a better journalist, and more importantly, a better man.
Raise a glass and let’s toast to another 27 years at, like Juventus, the Grand Old Lady of Zimbabwean newspapers.
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”.