SOMEWHERE in the media blitz that accompanied the horror of a plane crash which killed 157 people in Ethiopia this week, I read the touching story of a newly-wed Indian who perished just minutes after texting her husband. Shaika Garg had tied the knot three months earlier to Soumya Battacharya, after a three-year romance that convinced the duo their lives would be best spent in each other’s special company.
“I have boarded the flight and will call you once I land,” Shaika texted.
But, even before the husband could reply, his phone rang and the person at the other end of the line told him about the plane crash.
A Kenyan CAF match commissioner, on his way home after an assignment in Egypt, also perished.
Sunday’s plane crash brought back a flood of images of that B&C bus crash in Nyanga on August 3, 1991, when 83 students between the ages of eight and 15, and four of their teachers at Regina Coeli Mission School, died.
Their football team had lost a final to bitter rivals Marist Nyanga earlier that day, but all that paled into insignificance after the tragic events that followed a few hours later on their trip back to their school.
Had they all lived to this day, the oldest of them would have been 43 today, probably a leading sports journalist in this country, possibly a retired Warrior, maybe a doctor.
I was 21 back then, but 28 years later, the events of that tragic day in Nyanga have remained embedded in the memory — haunted by how, and why cruel fate destroyed the lives of those innocent kids.
Wondering why, of all people, it happened to such symbols of innocence, consumed by the pain they endured and the scars their departure left among their shattered families.
And how the story of their expatriate Dutch teacher, Will Stegman, who also lost her life in that bus crash, mirrored the one of Shaika Garg, the Indian who died in the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy — the two women both having recently been married.
Stegman’s husband had arrived from Holland on the day his school-teaching wife had travelled to that sports festival, but his hopes of a reunion with the love of his life never materialised, he never got to see her as she died on her way back home.
THE FINE BOYS REPRESENTING A NATION OF DOUBTING THOMASES
Times are tough throughout our troubled world, and only yesterday we woke up to the shocking news that 49 people had been slaughtered in a mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch in New Zealand, shot in cold blood while the killer shared the video live on Facebook.
In such a toxic society, football is increasingly providing the vehicle to cheer the spirits of a globe being weighed down by its huge challenges.
Libya’s incredible 2014 CHAN success story sparked grand celebrations in their war-torn country.
Syria, a country with more 500 000 deaths since war broke out there, somehow found a special group of footballers who marched all the way to the final qualifier of a place in the 2018 World Cup, only to fall to Australia.
When the DRC plunge into battle against Liberia in Kinshasa on Sunday, they will play that match under the shadow of a United Nations report revealing that more than 500 people were killed in that country last December in ethnic clashes triggered by a row over where the traditional chief of one tribe should be buried.
Our boys are top of the group, the first time they have occupied such a position ahead of the final round of qualifiers in the Nations Cup, and a draw against Congo-Brazzaville, at home, will see us through to Egypt.
But, despite their handy advantage, all that you get on social media and discussions in the public spaces is a narrative poisoned by negativity, where the underlying tone is that they will fail against Congo.
You ask where all this is coming from, why such fears are being spread, and they tell you it’s just the way it is, because we are Zimbabweans, and it’s part of our DNA to have a constituency of doubting Thomases.
A people who would rather spend weeks on social media, using false identities, telling Khama Billiat he is now finished because he has scored just four goals and provided five assists for Kaizer Chiefs in the 1 819 minutes he has featured for them.
While, at the same time, willing to glorify Bernard Parker as a better player than Billiat when the South African forward has scored just two goals all season and provided one assist in 19 league matches for the Amakhosi this season.
The very people who will not question how Parker, with fewer league goals than defensive midfielder Willard Katsande (3) this same campaign, is able to get his contract extended by a further one year as an obscure reward for his failings upfront?
The same people who will tell you Katsande is finished, doesn’t deserve a place in the Amakhosi team, has become a poor photocopy of the hardman of his prime despite the reality he has covered far more ground for this team and even scored more league goals than Parker this season.
The very people who bombarded Twitter this week, mocking Matthew Rusike as just a lucky fellow, who somehow finds a way to get contracts with European clubs after his latest move to Norway from South Africa.
The same people you will never hear discussing the failings of Tefu Mashamaite and Bongani Khumalo, who are all back in Super Diski, from failed Euro adventures.
The very people who will tell this is the beginning of the end of Knowledge Musona, without appreciating his four goals for the Warriors in these qualifiers, is a tally which only two players — Odion Oghalo of Nigeria and El Fardou Nabouhane — have bettered with their six goals apiece.
That he has scored more goals than all the players in Group H, where you have stars from Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, more goals than all the players in Group F, where you have stars from Ghana, more goals than all the players in Group D, where you have the stars from Algeria, and more goals than all the players in Group A, where you have the stars from Senegal.
They tell you Benjani wasn’t good enough to play for Manchester City, just another lucky guy, yet they never tell you about a Liberian guy called Ali Dia, signed by Southampton in 1996, whose contract was terminated after he played for only five minutes, simply because he wasn’t good enough.
They will tell you Sunday Chidzambwa is old and out of touch, but they will never tell you that Frank De Boer hasn’t won a league game as coach in 28 months — that’s exactly two-and-half years — and still has a job.
In South Africa, a video of a visibly drunk Itumeleng Khune partying with friends, and saying he wants to buy a bar, presumably so he takes full control of the alcohol, goes viral and virtually all our black brothers and sisters down there gang up in support of him.
Here, we derive a lot of pleasure from mocking Tapuwa Kapini for allegedly being a shameless age-cheat who is 44, not 34, our hatred blinding us from another side to his story that, if indeed he is 44 , his longevity and ability to remain a competitive professional athlete at such an age is a beautiful tale.
You have to spare a thought for these Warriors, good guys telling a beautiful story about their motherland, doing their very best to cheer the spirits of their nation, but who are never given the credit they deserve by a people who only see darkness and negativity.
BUT, THANK GOD, THE WORLD ISN’T JUST A PLACE FOR ALL THIS TOXICITY
Well, thank God the world isn’t just a place for all these toxic merchants who prefer just to see evil, speak evil and hear evil about others, including the very team that puts a smile on millions of people in this country.
And, thank God, there are many beautiful stories out there to cheer our spirits even as these people try to bombard us with their toxicity.
Like the one about that little poor American boy who wanted to buy a US$100 bicycle in March 2013 and, given he was someone who went to church every Sunday, decided to write to God asking Him for a helping hand using the address, “God, USA”.
A postal clerk, who received the envelope, not sure where to send it, dumped it in the outgoing mail meant for the United States government where the officials, also unsure where to forward it, pushed it into the folder containing mail meant for President Obama, as the head of the country.
Touched by the poor kid’s plight, President Obama inserted a US$5 bill and sent the mail back to the boy through the Washington protocol system.
The boy, upon receipt of the letter, which didn’t mention it had originated straight from the President, felt disappointed he had not received enough to buy his bicycle as requested.
The boy decided to try again, to get his bike, and sent another letter to God, asking for the remaining US$95 and, this time, he included a very powerful message to the Lord.
“Dear, God, this time please do not send the money from Washington, D.C., because the last time you sent me the US$100 from there, those crooks at the Internal Revenue Service withheld US$95 for income taxes.”
What a story!
In November last year, a seven-year-old English boy sent a birthday card to his late father, “in heaven,’’ and the Royal Mail even sent him a response saying they were trying their best to deliver the letter.
And, this month, a 10-year-old Australian boy, Alex Jacquot, wrote to Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas, the country’s main airline, asking for advice to start his airline called “Oceania Express”.
Incredibly, Joyce has offered to meet the boy and exchange notes even though he said he usually didn’t give advice to competitors and had responded “because I too, was once a young boy who was so curious about flight and all its possibilities.’’
These Warriors are opening up possibilities for us to try and be AFCON champions, to celebrate slaying one African football giant, to unite as one nation for a great cause and they need our support rather than our rejection and ridicule.
Life is too short for us to keep ourselves burdened by hate, hating our own, those who look up to us for support.
After all, life has a brutal way of hitting back at us, reminding us for all our arrogance that we are the special ones, we remain mere mortals, whose flames can be extinguished in an instant — in a plane crash, a car crash, a bus crash, a train crash, you name it.
So, why don’t we just make the best of it while we live, while our Warriors play for us, while they plunge into battles against some obscure Red Devils for our cause?
After all, now we live in a world where a 10-year-old boy dreams of owning an airline while all we do is mock our sports heroes and wish them all the worst.
You can also interact with me on Twitter — @Chakariboy, Facebook, Instagram — sharukor and interact with me every Wednesday night, at 9.45pm, when I join the legendary Charles “CNN’’ Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande on the television magazine programme, Game Plan.