FOOTBALL has a unique way of providing us with all the extremes of what life is all about — the joy, the sorrow, the tears, the fears, the ecstasy, the agony, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the light and the darkness.
Cricket is a good sport, the ultimate game of gentlemen and I like it a lot, but for all the brutality of Chris Gayle’s savage hitting when scoring sixes, itself a unique expression of beauty and the drama of Brian Vitori or Blessing Muzarabani capturing a defining final wicket, it doesn’t come close to football to being a reflection of life itself.
Rugby union is also a very good sport, the one where men are separated from the boys and I like it a lot too, but for all the romance of an island nation of just 4,7 million people, cast away Down Under where time starts, somehow finding the strength to dominate the whole world, it doesn’t come close to football as an expression of life itself.
Basketball is a nice sport, but for all of Michael Jordan’s enduring popularity, a legacy built from a time when he could fly for a spectacular execution of points and an iconic Number 23 Chicago Bulls jersey that carries its appeal and value in gold it has become an item that belongs to the world, the game doesn’t come close to football as a demonstration of life itself.
Golf is a beautiful sport and in Tiger Woods it found a special merchant to spread it around the world to communities who used to frown at it, but for all the mystic of the Masters at Augusta National and the appeal of the British Open, it just doesn’t come close to matching football as an expression of life itself.
American football is brutal, but in its brutality it finds its enduring beauty, but for all the heroics of and genius of Tom Brady, the finest quarterback of all-time and a Super Bowl show that holds this country to a standstill, it simply doesn’t come close to Association football in being a fascinating parade of life itself.
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death, I’m very disappointed with that attitude,” legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, who won three English Premiership titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup with the Reds, famously noted.
“I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”
Today, the domestic Premiership returns after a three-month sabbatical adjusted to the reality that, for the first time in more than half-a-century, a club from outside Harare and Bulawayo could parade the league championship in their trophy cabinet and:
That FC Platinum’s success story last year was not a dream from which the domestic football constituency would wake up, the next day, the next week, the next month or the next year to be confronted by the reality that it had not happened and one of the traditional giants, notably Dynamos who came second, had actually finished first.
That Denver Mukamba’s battle with some personal demons and his spectacular fallout with Lloyd Mutasa, would not be healed by the off-season, but would actually be amplified to such an extent that, when pre-season came along, the damage inflicted by the standoff would be so huge he would be offloaded to their biggest city rivals.
That How Mine would have collapsed, that there would be a new sheriff at Bosso in the form of a club legend who believes his boyhood club he served with distinction had lost its identity and needed a cleansing exercise, that Harare City would sneak in through the back door after the humiliation of relegation last year and Yadah Stars would still be standing.
That a football-loving businessman whose passion and finances have propelled his club from being just a social club for his little empire into the Premiership would make his debut in the country’s top-flight league at the ripe age of 45, playing as a forward who specialises in dead ball situations.
That Hardlife Zvirekwi would be battling a combination of both physical and psychological scars after a car accident that cost him his arm, just a few days before the season starts, relegating him to the sidelines in a campaign his club — thanks to a huge investment in new acquisitions — want to go back to the top of the tree.
But that is the reality of football, just like life itself, never predictable, a powerful sporting expression of the journey that we travel in this garden of the living — the joy, the sorrow, the tears, the fears, the ecstasy, the agony, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the light and the darkness.
SOMETIMES, THE COINCIDENCE OF IT ALL, IS QUITE REMARKABLE
CAPS United have dominated the headlines all week after Zvirekwi somehow escaped with his life, at the cost of a part of his arm, from a horror crash in which his car was reduced into a wreck.
Zvirekwi was driving home just after midnight on Monday after a drink with some fellow football friends, including the FC Platinum pair of Farai Mupasiri and Ali Sadiki at an open-air joint at Motor Action Sports Club in the capital.
With the new domestic football season looming, just a few days away from that Sunday, many have rightly questioned the wisdom of professional athletes choosing to spend long hours having drinks, way into the early hours of the morning, when they are supposed to be focusing on their job.
Especially at this stage of the season when their fitness levels are not yet at the required marks. And, amid all this wave of sympathy that has gone to Zvirekwi, especially the relief that he escaped with his life from what could have been a tragic crash, it hasn’t been lost on some analysts that the footballer was probably at the wrong place at the wrong time and doing the wrong things. Given he is the captain, there are some who argue he should always be leading by example and having late-night drinks at an outdoor venue known for its excessive intake of all forms of alcohol and loud music, in the early hours of a Monday in the week the domestic championship opens, was certainly not the right thing for Hardlife to be doing.
Of course, footballers are not barred from drinking or hanging out in bars or nightclubs and we have just seen Wayne Rooney being barred from driving after he was caught negotiating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, not for the first time and was described by a judge as very irresponsible, putting the lives of other road users at risk.
But there is need for these athletes to have a level of responsibility, because their job demand so much from their bodies for them to keep performing at peak conditions and the demand is even more pronounced when, as in the case of both Hardlife and Rooney, they get older and slip into the other side of 30.
However, right now, the thrust shouldn’t be about an unnecessary witch-hunt to find reason to condemn a man whom we are so lucky just to have, right now, given the nature of that horror crash and we should actually be celebrating the fact that the Lord was there for him when he needed His protection to just remain alive.
We simply have to accept that, at times, fate confronts us in a way that makes it difficult to understand why it happened and an accident can happen anytime, anywhere and in Hardlife’s case, what is important is that he survived to tell the tale and we have to thank the Lord for that because things could have been far worse.
Steve Kwashi, the first coach to guide CAPS United to a league championship after Independence when he led the Green Machine to success in 1996, was not the one driving the car, on a trip back home when the vehicle slipped off the road and slammed into a tree in 2001 and left him badly injured he still carries the scars — physically and psychologically — from that crash.
Blessing Makunike, Gary Mashoko and Shingi Arlon were not driving the car in which they were travelling from a league match in Bulawayo in 2004 when the vehicle, just less than 30km from home, crashed into the rails of the bridge and burst into flames which consumed all of them in a tragedy that shook the entire country.
SO MANY SIMILARITIES YET SO LITTLE IN TERMS OF EXPLANATION
How do we explain the fate of those Chapecoense footballers from Brazil who boarded a plane on November 28, 2016, for a Copa Sudamericana Final match in Colombia only for that chartered passenger jet to go down close to Medellin, killing 71 of the 78 people who were on board?
Nineteen of the 22 players on that plane died in that crash.
How do we explain that Chapecoense coach Luiz Caio Junior said he would now “die happy”, after leading the club to the final of the Copa Sudamericana and a week later he would be one of those who perished in that plane crash?
Four Fox Sports commentators and reporters, including the legendary 66-year-old Mario Sergio Pontes de Paira, a former Brazilian national team player and manager, were among the 21 journalists who lost their lives while only one journalist lived to tell the horror of that tragedy.
How do we explain the striking coincidence that both CAPS United and Chapecoense do not only share a similar initial (C) but they also share green-and-white as the primary colours of their identity and the two teams, were both formed in 1973?
How do we explain the coincidence that CAPS United won the domestic league championship in 1979 and in the same year, Chapecoense won the Taca Santa Catarina and both clubs enjoyed tremendous success in 1996 with the Green Machine winning another league title, their SECOND championship crown, while the Brazilian club also won their SECOND Santa Catarina state championship that year?
How do we explain the fact that the disaster in Medellin came just two days after the CAPS United family started an extended boisterous party, which spilled into last year, following the Green Machine’s success in the Premiership race after 11 years of waiting for the biggest prize in domestic football?
How do we explain that CAPS United’s league championship success, two years ago, was their FIFTH in history, while Chapecoense’s Santa Catarina state championship success, this year, was their FIFTH in history?
How do we explain the coincidence that both clubs two years ago were inspired by a 35-year-old veteran with CAPS United getting their inspiration from striker Leonard Tsipa while Chapecoense were inspired by midfielder Cleber Santana?
How do we explain the coincidence that there were 77 people on board when the doomed plane that came down just outside Medellin that night and, as if by a stroke of cruel irony, CAPS United first played in the domestic league championship in ’77.
How do we explain that Kwashi’s son, Tostao, lived to carry his father’s legacy and is one of the Green Machine’s assistant coaches who played his part when they won the league championship on the 20th anniversary of the success story written by his father in 1996?
How do we explain the fact that Chapecoense coach Luiz’s son — a player for the team — somehow missed the doomed flight to Colombia after forgetting his passport and could possibly live to enhance his father’s legacy?
How do we explain that Zambia’s finest hour in this game, when they lifted the AFCON trophy in 2012, would come in the very same Gabonese city, Libreville, which until then represented tragedy after a plane carrying Chipolopolo players to a 1994 World Cup qualifier came down off its shores in April 1993 and killed everyone on board?
How do we explain that Manchester United’s dramatic Champions League triumph in 1999, when the Red Devils scored twice in the final minutes, would come against the German club, Bayern Munich, which is the international face of the city where a number of the English giants’ players perished in a plane crash in 1958?
Or how Spanish side Sevilla, whose last qualification for the Champions League quarter-finals came in 1958, could choose Manchester United — marking the 60th anniversary of the players they lost in that plane crash in Munich — to be their victims to end their long wait for a place in the tournament’s last eight?
So many similarities and yet so little in terms of explanations, but then this is football, isn’t it, a sport that has a unique way of providing us with all the extremes of what life is all about — the joy, the sorrow, the tears, the fears, the ecstasy, the agony, the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the light and the darkness.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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