There will always be one Joel Shambo, a genius, the superstar from the heavens

Without Jubilee, as if he never lived among us, as if he never took us to places where angels live, transforming fantasy into reality, dragging us into football’s wonderland, with his flicks, with his tricks, making it look so easy, so beautiful, it was simply irresistible.

There will always be one Joel Shambo, a genius, the superstar from the heavens

IN the end, like an aging prized fighter, he was now merely clinging onto instinct — the creative mind telling him one thing, the battered body struggling to respond.

The soul caught somewhere in between this epic struggle, a personal conflict every athlete eventually has to deal with, an inevitable collision with Father Time.

When mortality makes a date with sublimity, a powerful reminder that, no matter how much we try, it will always come to a point, one day, when our humanity – and all the weaknesses it comes with – is paraded in full.

The point where humans, for all the extraordinary gifts the Lord blesses us with, can only get because, going any further, is a preserve of the One who showers us with those blessings.

But, of course, genius doesn’t just simply fade away, without a fight, without a struggle and, at times, it produces a circus like that June night in 1997, at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, when Mike Tyson ended up sinking his teeth into the ears of Evander Holyfield.

For others, even in this sunset, genius sends glowing little signals of its golden, yet fading, presence.

That’s the beauty of being born different, being born magical, the magic doesn’t just disappear overnight.

Even Roger Milla had to be dragged from retirement and, at the age of 42, finally quit for good, fate ensuring his swansong ballerina dance had to come at the grand stage of a World Cup.

Even at this late stage of his career, there were still those flashes of quality, the amazing ball control, the outrageous flicks, the cross-field passes to pick out a teammate in the distance.

The ball juggling, giving Charles Mabika enough material, and licence, to once again go on another explosion of a golden narrative of his signature commentary, “I just don’t know how he does it.”

Now and again, he would take us on a journey back into a time, and an era, when his mere presence represented a fountain of hope for a football club, a bastion of loyalty to a football community, strangers banded into a family by the power, and magic, of this game.

A people singing the same songs, sharing the same prayers, stalked by the same fears — what if he gets hurt, what if the coach’s plans fail, what if their team loses, what if this happens, what if that happens, what if the opponents prove superior?

Grown up men behaving like their teenage schoolboys, swearing at opponents in fits of rage, hounding referees in fits of hate, finding fun in acts of shame.

The comfort provided by numbers, the normality provided by the abnormality, a world where rebellion stands for royalty, where hate somehow stands for love.

And, when it comes to their heroes, that love transforms into something else — passion, adoration, affection, attachment, devotion.

It lasts forever, conquers the ravages of time, spills beyond the changing seasons and overcomes the challenges that come with mortality like poor form or the inevitability of a bad run of results.

That’s why, even in this dying phase of his career, when delivery was compromised, when the magic was fading, when things just didn’t appear the same, they found a way to love Jubilee and, more importantly, to respect him.

Where, others would have been abused for failure, they chose love for him, where others would have been hammered for mistakes, they chose to ignore his errors, where others would have been slaughtered for their diminished powers, they chose to overlook all that.

Some even pretended they were not seeing the flaws which had crept into his game, his diminished influence on what was unfolding on the pitch because, after all, he was one of them, a distinguished member of their extended family.

Together, in a bygone era, they had found a way to conquer, to laugh, to smile, to celebrate, to win, to love each other, to make memories that will last a lifetime.

The golden age of the ‘80s had come and gone, replaced by the ‘90s, new challenges, fresh challengers, a rising crop of footballers desperate to take over the show and responsibility.

But, until the old warrior was gone, until he retired from the game, he remained their Special One, the face of their beautiful union, the soul of their amazing romance.

LEGENDS NEVER DIE . . . The late CAPS United legendary captain, Joel “Jubilee’’ Shambo receives the Castle Cup from the late former President of Zimbabwe, Canaan Banana, who was also the ZIFA patron, at Rufaro in the ‘80s while former ZIFA boss, the late Nelson “Jumbo Jet’’ Chirwa (left), looks on.

All that couldn’t be just forgotten, simply because times had changed, he had grown older, was now slower, and the golden proceeds from the past overshadowed the mere challenges of the present.

So, they gave him love, just as they had done in the glory days, back when they called him the Jubilee, Headmaster, Mwalimu, everything associated with greatness.

Joel Shambo!

Last month came and went, without anything to remind us that it marked the 20th anniversary of the month, Joel Shambo died and, for exactly two decades, we have been living without the Jubilee.

Without Jubilee, as if he never lived among us, as if he never took us to places where angels live, transforming fantasy into reality, dragging us into football’s wonderland, with his flicks, with his tricks, making it look so easy, so beautiful, it was simply irresistible.

You didn’t need to be a CAPS United fan to appreciate he was simply good, to be charmed by his artistry, to be wooed by his mastery, to be charmed by his brilliance, to be captured by his excellence.

There are things that you don’t need to simply argue against, for the sake of betraying the state of your mental health, to avoid drifting into madness – like questioning the fact if Dynamos are the most successful football club in this country.

Like questioning if Barbourfields, when full to capacity in a game Highlanders are beating DeMbare, provides the best atmosphere, in terms of both sights and sounds, at any football ground in the country.

And, that the Bosso fans, in full cry, on the occasions their reputation is not tainted by some hooligans, provide the perfect template of how to support a football club in Zimbabwe.

Like questioning the fact that, for some strange reason, Shabanie will always have more fans in Zvishavane than champions FC Platinum.

And, if you are a football fan who lived in the ‘70s and ‘80s, there will always be a part of you that will always miss Pisa Pisa, Gweru United, will always miss Chauya Chikwata, Zimbabwe Saints, will always miss Mhangura, and those donkeys grazing inside the stadium, and will always miss Rio Tinto.

How is it possible not to miss Rio?

Robert Godoka, Victor Mapanda, Laban Kandi, Mutyavaviri, Graham Boyle, Gibson “Gezamuchina” Sibanda, Raphael Phiri, Ephert Lungu, Joseph Zulu, Amos Chiseko, Gilbert Sibanda, Richard Manda, Stewart Mugweni, Jubel Phiri, Wonder Phiri, David Chisambe, Byron Manuel, Barnabas Likombola?

Godoka, the slippery winger, the man who was captain when Rio won the BAT Rosebowl in 1977 and retained the Cup again the following year.

The man who was so good they took him to the United States, to share the dressing room with Franz Beckenbauer at New Yrok Cosmos, just a few months after Pele had left the club, took him to Canada and took him to South Africa.

How do we simply erase such rich history, and great memory, from our football vaults, simply because these guys played their football a long time ago, simply because we now have some Mickey Mouse footballers pretending to be the real deal these days?

Is it because the narrative of our game today is being dictated by some people, including football writers, pundits and commentators, whose only recollection of its history starts and ends with the players they either watched, or heard about, from the ‘90s?

If that is the case, is that fair for the legacy of the likes of Godoka, Ebson ‘’Sugar’’ Muguyo, Moses ‘’Madalaboy’’ Moyo, Chita Antonio, Peter Nyama, George ‘’TNT’’ Rolo, David Mandigora, James Takavada, Onias Musana, Jonah Murewa, Lawrence ‘’Lofty’’ Ncube, Dumisani Nyoni, Douglas Mloyi, Rodreck Simwanza, should just be forgotten?

That’s why it’s important for journalists like Charles ‘’CNN’’ Mabika, Collin ‘’Mandela’’ Matiza, Lovemore Ncube, Limukani Ncube, Stanley Katsande, Robson Mhandu and Lovemore Banda have a responsibility to try and ensure that the history of our football is not distorted by an obsession to try and forget those who were genuine stars in days gone by.

People like Joel ‘’Jubilee’’ Shambo, the Headmaster, Mwalimu, as talented a football star as any of the best who have graced our football grounds, should never be forgotten, in the mist of denial by some later-day false preachers who would like the world to believe the game in this country started with our appearance at the 2004 AFCON finals.

The people who are quick to ask you, what did the Dream Team achieve, as if qualifying for an AFCON finals, where 24 teams take part, is a bigger achievement than getting to the final qualifying game for the 1994 World Cup finals, a tournament where only three African teams were allowed to take part.

Lloyd Chitembwe is the most decorated CAPS United footballer of all-time, the only one who has three league championship winners medals at the Green Machine, and he even went further and guided his beloved club to a league title as a coach.

But, if you ask me, Joel Shambo will always be a bigger CAPS United hero than Chitembwe, even though, for the entire decade in the ‘80s, he failed to lead the Green Machine to a league title.


Because, for about an entire decade in the ‘80s, Jubilee went toe-to-toe, with some of the best footballers to grace the domestic Premiership, and led his club, and its fans, on an adventure in which they established themselves as the Cup Kings, winning the Castle Cup four times in a row.

Back then, winning the championship appeared to be a preserve of Dynamos, a team established 10 years before the Green Machine, and which had been in the league about 13 years before Makepekepe came on board.

A very good Highlanders side, a very good Zimbabwe Saints side, a very good Rio Tinto side, you name them, simply were pushed into the shade, when it came to the league championship race, by that DeMbare team of the ‘80s.

And, this does not mean that these powerful sides didn’t have legendary players, because they didn’t win the league, and it’s like saying Rodreck Mutuma was a better player than the Tobias Mudyambanje of the ‘80s, simply because the later didn’t win the league championship then.

If it’s all about winning league championships, does that mean Alois Bunjira, who won the league title after playing about half-a-season at CAPS United in 1996, before injury knocked him over, and didn’t spend three years at the club, is a bigger legend at the Green Machine than Joel Shambo?

The superstar whose loyalty to the Green Machine saw him refuse to follow guys like Stanley Ndunduma and Stix Mtizwa,, who were lured by the good life which Black Rhinos promised them, and decided he would rather be poor than to be away from his beloved CAPS United?

Joel Shambo — they don’t make them this good, this handsome and this loyal, anymore and, 20 years without him, surely feels like a lifetime.

Even in the final days of his career, at the turn of the ‘90s, when he dependent largely on instinct, he would probably have been one of the Soccer Stars of the Year today if not the winner of the big award.

That’s how special he was, and that’s how special he will always be.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno!
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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”.

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