WHERE does one really start after the intoxication of the sights and roaring sounds of that unforgettable Sunday summer afternoon when domestic football paraded the full spectrum of its enduring beauty — the smiles in the packed bays and the songs that provided a fitting soundtrack to this spectacular carnival? Maybe, I should start with the beautiful and rare sight of legendary footballers in the iconic blue-and-garnet colours, known as the Blaugrana in Catalan which have been the primary identity of the Barcelona jersey for more than a century, showcasing their skills on our turf at the National Sports Stadium.
Or watching Patrick Kluivert who, just two months short of his 19th birthday, scored the priceless goal that powered Ajax Amsterdam to victory in their ’95 UEFA Champions League final battle against Italian powerhouse AC Milan in Vienna, Austria, showing that at 41, he has lost none of his predatory instincts as he twice converted with headers for the Barcelona Legends.
The second headed goal, when he timed his run and leap to perfection, to direct an unstoppable bullet header into the roof of the nets, a replica of the goal he scored for the Dutch late in their ’98 World Cup semi-final showdown against Brazil, which took the game into extra-time and then penalties which the Samba Boys won.
Now, just months before the 20th anniversary of his World Cup goal that almost took the Netherlands into the ’98 World Cup final, the same package was being delivered by this Dutchman, who still has the same baby-face that charmed the globe when he proved the hero of his Ajax Amsterdam side in the ’95 UEFA Champions League final, at the National Sports Stadium.
Or, maybe, I should start with the joy of just seeing World Cup winner Rivaldo, one of the greatest players of his generation, playing football in the stadium we call our home or the ageless Edgar Davids showing us that, even at 44, he remains as nimble-footed, visionary in his range of passes and athletic as he used to be back in the days when he starred for Juventus, Inter Milan, Spurs and Barcelona.
Maybe, the explosive joy of just seeing Peter Ndlovu, the greatest Warrior of all-time, with that armband on his left hand and all the memories that it brings — the slalom goal against Bafana Bafana, the great battles in which he led from the front and the leadership he provided for the Warriors to finally reach the Promised Land of playing at the Nations Cup finals and the goals he scored for you and me, at that big stage.
And there he was, my captain, your captain, whose appeal was national, never regional, who commanded respect all over the country, to whom we always turned to in times of desperation to produce something magical to lift us from the gloom of despair and who, more often than not, in a century of appearances for his beloved nation, always delivered, usually with a touch of style.
As true a Warrior as they will ever come, the one whose distinguished service provides a benchmark for greatness in our national colours, the one whose skills touched the heavens, whose brilliance instilled fear in the opposition and shattered their walls of resistance and the one whose greatness finally powered us to a dance with the aristocrats of football on the continent.
The one anointed by this grand old newspaper, which is still going strong at the grand old age of 126 years, as the King of our football, we derive a lot of pride in referring him to as King Peter, without any need to apologise to anyone.
Because — in today’s toxic world where social media has bundled us into fragmented tribes who appear to be fighting each other using the good name of football — he remains the shining example of a past when his mere presence provided us with that powerful uniting tool for our nation.
And, on Sunday, we gathered as one united family, as it was back in the days of the Dream Team and that Madinda Ndlovu was the most popular player on the field in the 20 minutes he entertained us with his deft touches told a big story of the beauty of that special occasion where our proud identity as Zimbabweans overwhelmed the prophets of doom who want to divide us on the lines of our tribal links.
The weather forecast had not been good, the experts who have knowledge in telling us how tomorrow will possibly look like, had predicted a miserable rainy day on Sunday, but our good Lord blessed us with a beautiful summer day fitting for such a grand occasion when the homecoming of many of our football heroes turned into a beautiful carnival.
It was like a replay of that journey which David Livingstone took in early November 1855, travelling down the mighty Zambezi River — itself a massive feature of who we are as a people — to see for himself the area the locals called the “smoke that thunders.”
As the travelling party approached the magical spot, which is one of the world’s seven natural wonders, in their canoes, they could spray of water and hear the thunderous roar of these majestic falls and, less than half-an-hour later, Livingstone was blessed with the miracle of being the first white man to ever cast his eyes on this spectacle.
“The whole scene was extremely beautiful; the banks and islands dotted over the river are adorned with sylvan vegetation of great variety of colour and form,’’ Livingstone wrote.
“NO ONE CAN IMAGINE THE BEAUTY OF THE VIEW FROM ANYTHING WITNESSED IN ENGLAND. IT HAD NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE BY EUROPEAN EYES, BUT SCENES SO LOVELY MUST HAVE BEEN GAZED UPON BY ANGELS IN THEIR FLIGHT.’’
OUR MZANSI CREW AND
A GENIUS CALLED GIDIZA
Even with the massive commitment of a CAF Confederation Cup final battle against TP Mazembe this weekend, Kaitano Tembo, the SuperSport United assistant coach, chose to fly home to be part of the carnival for the sake of the fans and his country which had come calling for his services.
In an era where Willard Katsande even has the temerity to go on social media and somehow use the word “we” in rallying for Bafana Bafana in their campaign for the World Cup which was always doomed from the very start because of a crippling lack of quality in their ranks and an investment in the services of a coach of limited capacity, Tembo’s arrival home for the exhibition match — just days before the big CAF Confederation Cup final showdown — was a great advertisement of patriotism.
Of course, some will say there was the lure of the $2 000 appearance fee, but for someone like Kaitano — who has not only earned a substantial fortune as a loyal servant for SuperSport United, but has used a lot of it wisely in investments across the country — that money is small change.
Benjani Mwaruwari was struggling with a hamstring strain in the weeks preceding Sunday’s match and when he went to seek advice from his South African doctor if he could play just the first half, the answer he received was a firm “NO.”
But, consumed by fear that he could be seen as having betrayed his teammates, nation and fans, Benjani chose to go against the advice of his doctor and played in the match against the Barca Legends for the sake of being part of the crew that found value in representing their country again.
Speaking to him after the match, Benjani said the match was just, but a part of a huge get-together where, for the first time in this country’s history, the former football stars, especially those based outside the country, came together to share ideas on what they could do for the betterment of the game in this country.
He said it was a landmark event with frank ideas being shared which will be forwarded to those who are running football here and he expects to see some changes, some improvements and a growing bond between these stars and the administrators.
Until this reunion, so much had been said about the bad blood that exists between Benjani and Peter, which is typical of us as Zimbabweans in that these are the stories that really fuel our conversations, but the camaraderie between the two former captains was there for everyone to see and somehow they chose to be close to each other in the training drills.
And when the match exploded into life, every time Peter had the ball, he seemed to be looking for Benjani and vice-versa, as if to prove wrong those prophets of doom who had been preaching that they rarely talk to each other and hate each other with a passion.
William Mugeyi, another former Warriors skipper, also heeded the call to come home for the match and the Golden Fox, wide on that left channel, brought back memories of that time, at the turn of the millennium, when our football’s fortunes turned for the better as he laid the foundation by leading his charges to that COSAFA Cup triumph with Benjani scoring one of the goals.
Those Warriors humiliated Lesotho 3-0 in their backyard in Maseru in the first leg of the 2000 COSAFA Cup final on August 13, 2000, with the Golden Fox scoring straight from a corner-kick and Luke Petros also on target to add to an own goal by the hosts.
The return leg at Barbourfields, two weeks later, provided a similar script, a 3-0 win for the Warriors and a 6-0 aggregate victory with Petros, Robson Chisango and Benjani on target in the City of Kings.
That their reunion last Sunday came just days after the latest crop of Warriors, minus Musona, Billiat, Costa, Mushekwi etc, crashed to a surprise 0-1 defeat at the hands of the same Lesotho side in a friendly international, appears to show the gulf in class that exists between those yesteryear stars and those who are representing us today.
For the avoidance of doubt, take time to again watch Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda’s show last Sunday — the close control, the incredible vision, the pin-point passing with accuracy that ball appeared to be guided by a laser gadget, the playmaking brilliance that we have been crying for in our Warriors today so that Khama and Musona can feed off the service to provide the killer punch.
It’s a pity we don’t make them this good anymore when it comes to ball-playing midfielders whose artistry makes the ball work for them and who, in one movement and pass — including the assists from range — can change the match.
“The whole package was extremely beautiful, the range of passes, the close ball control, the grace in the movement, the vision was all impressive,” I would have reported, back in the days when I covered domestic football matches, plucking a leaf from David Livingstone’s diary.
“NO ONE CAN IMAGINE THE BEAUTY OF THE VIEW FROM ANYTHING WITNESSED IN THE ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP. IT HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE BY THE EUROPEAN AND SOUTH AMERICAN EYES, BUT SCENES SO LOVELY MUST HAVE BEEN GAZED UPON BY ANGELS IN THEIR FLIGHT.”
THE PROPHET AND MY GREATEST MOMENT OF THE MATCH
You have to give the Zimbabweans credit for their sense of humour — all the images they have been creating of Prophet Walter Magaya achipinda pamamonya ipapo after his cameo appearance for the Warriors Legends on Sunday sharply divided opinion among the fans.
Those against his appearance questioned why he was allowed to play in the match, arguing that he was not a former member of the Warriors Brigade, yet forgetting that, in such matches, ZIFA have the freedom to choose a guest or guests, to play in the match.
Maybe, on reflection, the blame should be put on the local media for failing to provide adequate explanation to the fans about such exhibition matches and telling them that it is within the rights of the organisers to invite their guest, or guests, to play in the games.
Why Magaya, some could still ask?
Because he is a ZIFA benefactor, who hosted both the Warriors Legends and the Barca Legends at his complex ahead and after the match, and once the Association opened a window for him to be their guest, first as the liaison officer of the team and then as a player, he accepted both duties.
There is nothing wrong with that, just like there was nothing wrong with a 14-year-old Neymar playing for the Brazilian Legends in a charity match organised by Romario and Robinho in 2006 when the teenager had never played for the Brazilian national teams.
“Neymar Jr. was seen doing step-overs, outfoxing opponents and linking up with midfielders before joining the attack. One such foray forward saw him send in an inch-perfect cross that saw the goalkeeper block the shot on goal,’’ reports sportskeeda.
“But he combined with Romario like they had a telepathic understanding. Receiving the ball in the box on a counter-attack, the Brazilian wonder kid first faked a move to the right to fool both the defender and goalkeeper. With quick feet, he shifted the ball to his left to leave the opponents flat-footed and then proceeded to roll the ball into an empty net.’’
Just like there was nothing wrong in David Beckham substituting himself, for his son Brooklyn, to play for the British and Irish Legends at Old Trafford and just like there was nothing wrong in the Manchester United Legends extending an invitation to Jamaican spring king Usain Bolt to play for them against the Barca Legends.
There are some people who don’t like Magaya with a passion and they have their rights to do so, but one thing he can never be faulted is his boundless love for our football, for the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors and to help make a change to the game.
For that, he will always have my enduring support and whether that creates enemies and critics for me is irrelevant because that is the way the world is and who am I, a mere Manchester United-supporting boy from Chakari, to try and have the whole world agreeing with me when this very same world didn’t universally embrace my Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 11 verse 2-7 tells us that, “when John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask Him, ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
But for me, the finest moment from Sunday’s carnival wasn’t seeing King Peter making those runs again, Gidiza spraying those passes, two midfield kingpins — Desmond Maringwa and Johannes Ngodzo — whose skills we lost before their prime or Prophet Magaya justifying his inclusion with one of the best individual performances by the players on our side.
Instead, it was the sight of David Mandigora, on crutches after his leg was amputated, barking instructions from the touchline and, for me, given what Yogi has gone through in the past few weeks, that was simply priceless, just for him to get the feeling that we have not forgotten him during these trying times.
Even as I write this, I’m struggling to contain my tears from flowing, and thank you Zimbabwe for coming in your thousands and let the critics, like barking dogs which seldom bite, continue with their tainted gospel.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Text Feedback — 0772545199, WhatsApp Messenger — 0772545199. Email — [email protected], Skype — sharuko58
Chat with me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @Chakariboy, interact with me on Viber or read my material in The Southern Times or on www.sportszone.co.zw. You can also interact with me on the informative ZBC weekly television football magazine programme, Game Plan, where I join the legendary Charles “CNN” Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande every Monday night at 21.15pm.