Somehow, I’m still alive, George isn’t
Sharuko on Saturday
IT’S something that has been troubling me these past two weeks — why did I survive and why did Rahman Gumbo have to die?
Why did God give me another chance, and why did George Chigova have to die?
Rahman was older than me, by a good seven years.
But, at 59 and turning 60, Rahman was still relatively young and, being an active sportsperson, had managed to keep himself in decent shape.
George was young.
He was just 32 and, had it not been for scares related to his heart ailment, he would have been playing in the South African Premiership.
A number of his age mates — Kevin De Bruyne, Virgil van Dijk, Antoine Griezman, Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, Xherdan Sahqiri, Thiago Alcantra and Joel Matip — are still active in top leagues.
Rahman and George were victims of heart ailments.
I should also have been a victim, exactly two weeks ago, one Sunday afternoon, when I suddenly felt seriously sick.
I didn’t know the seriousness of my condition when the attack happened — the sudden sweating, difficulties in breathing, intense headaches, dizziness and loss of strength.
I know it now, thanks to the power of modern medicine but, unlike George and Rahman, I somehow lived to tell my tale.
My life, from quite a young age, has been one that has been dogged by a legacy of high blood pressure issues.
The first specialist, who dealt with this, when I was still a kid, said this was a hereditary issue, something passed on through my family’s health fault lines.
My father, before his death, told me it does not help our cause, too, that we are generally big guys in our family tree.
George was also a big boy, seemingly born to be a ‘keeper, something which my late old man was also good at, during his playing days as the first-choice at our hometown club, Chakari United.
George spent his entire adult life in the trenches of daily training regimes, as a professional athlete but, somehow, this did not spare him from being a victim of his cruel condition.
IT DIDN’T SPARE VIVIEN-FOE
And, neither did it spare Marc Vivien-Foe who, at just 28 at the time of his death, was actually four years younger than George.
The Indomitable Lion collapsed on the pitch, on June 26, 2003, while serving his country, Cameroon, in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
He died shortly after arriving at a medical facility in the French city of Lyon.
An autopsy concluded that his death was heart-related as evidence was found of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hereditary condition known to increase the risk of sudden death during physical exercise.
What we didn’t know was that in the year in which the world would mark the 20th anniversary of Vivien-Foe’s sudden death, we would be mourning the death of two of our legends, in virtually similar circumstances.
I’m not sure why I was spared that Sunday.
I derive a lot of hope, strength and inspiration from guys like Robert Marawa, who has twice found himself battling for his life in hospital, after suffering from two cardiac related scares.
He now claims a third serious attack, which sent him into the ICU and, at one stage, left him resembling a corpse, was actually an attempt on his life.
Robert is my good friend and I have no reason to doubt him.
Somehow, Rahman had to die in the season in which we have been marking the 20th anniversary of the end of the Dream Team era.
On October 10, 1993, the Dream Team lost 1-3 to Cameroon in Yaounde, in their final ’94 World Cup qualifier, in what effectively marked the end of Reinhard Fabisch’s project.
Rahman’s death also came on the 15th anniversary of Fabich’s death, in his hometown of Munster in Germany, just a month short of his 58th birthday, on July 12, 2008.
It’s hard to convince the new generation of Warriors fans that Rahman and his Dream Team were a great football project for this nation.
They will ask you to justify why you call them great, and hang on to memories and sentimentality, when these Warriors didn’t even qualify for the AFCON finals?
Well, I always tell them that when you have a team, which unites the nation the way the Dream Team did, and came within just one win of reaching the World Cup finals, this can be considered bigger than playing at the AFCON finals.
CHEGUTU FEELS LIKE HOME
That’s the legacy of Rahman and his Dream Team boys — the way they united the nation around its football team.
And, for a year or so, they gave us reasons to believe we belonged among the top nations on the continent.
He was the unsung hero of the team, which was probably expected, when you had the A-Lister stars like Peter Ndlovu, Bruce Grobbelaar and Agent Sawu.
But, that doesn’t suggest he was just a squad member, he was a very key human component of the Dream Team.
Like Rahman, George served his country well.
He was first-choice ‘keeper, for the better part of a decade, a good athlete, a fine family man and a very good young man blessed with the virtues of respect.
Somehow, in a cruel twist of fate, George died on the very day his team marked their official return to international football after that FIFA suspension.
If fate had not decided to be kind to me, someone, possibly the legendary Charles “CNN” Mabika, would also have been occupying these pages writing about me and my life story. They would have travelled to Chakari last week to give back to the people of my hometown the boy Harare had stolen from them for the past 30 years.
Well, I’m going closer to home today, just 20 kms away from home sweet home, in a town called Chegutu.
I know this old town well.
It still looks the same and, when I step out of the car, there to meet me will be the Pirates fans.
And, when I look down the road, I will see a sea of black-and-white colours.
I will see the red soils of gold and some fresh farm produce, on the roadside markets, which include cherries and, in that moment, I will touch the green grass of home.
I will see that the old stadium, Pfupajena, is still standing, though the paint is now cracked and dry.
And, closer to the main gate, I will see the old oak tree, which we used to climb to watch games for free, back when the Pirates were our major rivals as Chakari United.
Chegutu became a part of me because it was one of the towns, the other one being Kadoma, where mum used to take us for our Christmas shopping sprees.
During such visits, my old man would routinely visit the Chegutu Arms, which was quite a popular drinking place in the town.
Never, in my wildest of dreams, did I ever imagine that one day I would sit in the stands of Pfupajena and witness the Pirates knocking on the door of the domestic Premiership.
But, that’s what life throws at us — the beauty of its gifts like a Pirates Cinderella tale and the pain of its tragedies like Rahman and George’s sudden deaths. Even if the Pirates fail, let’s remember that it’s not the most important thing in the world.
They can try again next year, or the year after. The most important thing is that we are alive. It’s something both George and Rahman could have exchanged for everything.
The Pirates’ Cinderella story is something our football wants after its horror week.
To God Be The Glory
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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