Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense

22 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense Jordan Zemura (left) and Admiral Muskwe

The Herald

Sharuko on Saturday

SO, in a way, this is what depression feels like — the loneliness, the hopelessness, the tiredness, the emptiness.

The sadness, the madness, the uselessness.

The sickness, the lifelessness, the helplessness, the craziness.

Nothing appears to make any sense, everything appears to make no sense at all and you drift into your own fantasy, far away from reality.

It’s what I have been feeling, in the past week, as I cursed fate and, even though I am a thug, I swear that for more than seven days, I have been crying.

I might not show it but my heart is shattered, the pain is just unbearable, the music has stopped playing and I have been struggling with so many questions and very few answers.

I have been crying for my Warriors who, last Friday, became the first team to be eliminated from the 2021 AFCON finals.

A shock 1-2 defeat, at the hands of Malawi, a team we have routinely beaten, sometimes without shifting into another gear, brought our latest Nations Cup campaign to an end.

Ahead of the game, the two Southern African countries had played nine matches, including friendlies, against each other, and the Flames had failed to win any of them.

The Warriors had won five matches with the other four games ending in draws.

The Malawians provided the opposition for Norman Mapeza’s first match, in the trenches of international football coaching, at Barbourfields, on September 9, 2007, in the 2008 Nations Cup qualifiers.

Charles Mhlauri had left his post, with a game to play, in those qualifiers, and the ZIFA leaders turned to Mapeza, to provide the leadership of the team, in that final qualifier, against the Flames.

Kingstone Nkhata, Richard Mteki and Method Mwanjali were on target for the Warriors that day as they found a consolation victory to end a depressing Nations Cup campaign.

Fifteen years later, in the Cameroonian city of Bafoussam,last Friday, Mapeza was again in charge of the Warriors, in a 2021 AFCON finals Group B match, against the Flames.

After impressing a number of neutrals with their hearty performance against Senegal in which they took Sadio Mane and company to the wire before succumbing to a penalty scored in the 97th minute, the expectation was that Mapeza and his troops would be too strong for Malawi.

And, when the impressive Ishmael Wadi, one of the revelations of the tournament, headed us into the lead, in what was a fitting reward for our dominance in that first half, the signs were encouraging.

By then, we should have been two to three goals up, with a number of fine chances coming our way, including two golden opportunities, which we should have buried.

Somehow, as I watched us fluffing the chances, I had this depressing feeling that football, as it usually does, was going to punish us for our lack of killer instinct, and my fears came to pass when the Flames equalised.

Teenage Hadebe didn’t read the flight of the ball well, which was quite disappointing, especially for a player of his height and quality, and Onismor Bhasera was nowhere in sight, to provide cover on the blind side and stop Gabadino Mhango.

In the second half, lightning then struck twice and Hadebe, for the second time that evening, was left in a tsunami of confusion, somehow failing to apply the basic rule that in the penalty area, safety should always be the first consideration.

Instead of simply pushing the ball away to a corner, because of the danger posed by the unknown, given he didn’t know who was lurking behind him, Hadebe shockingly chose the most difficult, and most dangerous route, to try and deal with the situation.

At this level of the game, such schoolboy blunders are usually punished in the worst manner possible.

And, just like all of us, he ended up being reduced to a helpless witness as Mhango poached possession and calmly lifted the ball over Petros Mhari.

It was like a dagger being plunged into our hearts because, just like that, the Flames, who had looked like sheep being driven into the slaughter chamber in the first half, had now seized control of the game.

They had only had two shots on target throughout the match, and now had two goals to their credit, leaving us to do the chasing in a game in which we had been the better team.

For the record, those are the only two shots on target, which the Flames managed, throughout the entire 90 minutes.

They made history that evening as they became the first team, in the 65-year history of this tournament, to score from the only two shots they had on target.

WE ARE NOT THE WORST TEAM IN THE WORLD

 We had 64 percent ball possession, the best we have managed at the AFCON finals since we made our debut in Tunisia in 2004, compared to Malawi’s 36 percent ball possession, but we still lost.

We had 12 shots, the most we have managed at the Nations Cup finals, compared to Malawi’s nine but, somehow, we still lost the most important match we have played at this festival of football.

We had five shots on target, compared to just two from Malawi, we had five corner kicks compared to two for Malawi, we had three big missed chances while our opponents only had one missed big chance.

We had eight shots from outside the box, compared to Malawi’s six, four shots from outside the box, compared to three from Malawi while, for the first time in the history of the tournament, a goalkeeper didn’t have to make a save.

That was Mhari’s story last Friday, he didn’t make a save, given that the only two shots on target from the opponents beat him, while in sharp contrast, the Malawi ’keeper made four good saves.

We had 458 passes, during the game, the most we have put together in the history of our performance at the Nations Cup finals, compared to 265 passes for the Malawians.

Three hundred and fifty five passes, by our boys, representing a 78 percent success ratio, were accurate, which is the best we have put together, at the Nations Cup finals.

The Malawians put together 161 accurate passes, representing a 61 percent success ratio, while only swinging in four crosses into our box, compared to nine from our boys.

They had to make 26 clearances, while we were only forced to make just five clearances, in what was a true reflection of the difference, in terms of pressure, which we exerted that evening.

But, the most important figures are found on the scoreboard and, at the end of the match, it read — MALAWI 2, ZIMBABWE 1 — and it really made me feel sick.

I withdrew from social media, froze my Twitter and Facebook platforms, and went into a world, where I could just nurse my disappointment, far away from the madding crowd.

Where I would lick my wounds, without reading the toxic messages, which those, who hate anything positive coming from this country, would be spreading on these unregulated spaces.

Where I would deal with my sorrow, without being bombarded by a flood of negativity, especially from those who wait for such an occasion to unleash their venom.

Where I would deal with my pain, without being mocked by those, who wait for such moments,to sing their songs of hate, celebrating the fall of the Warriors.

The individuals who, on such occasions, tell anyone who cares to listen to their rhetoric that we have the worst national football team in the world.

The people who hate themselves, hate their identity and even curse God that they were born as Zimbabweans.

To them, the Warriors are a shame.

They are a team that has perfected the art of displaying mediocrity, of seducing its followers to bank on them only for them to falter and leave the emotions of their fans in a spin.

Admittedly, the Warriors have a history of letting down their fans but to suggest that they are one of the worst national football teams, simply because they lost to Malawi, is neither fair nor true.

Yes, they should have done better at the AFCON finals and, at least, played in the knockout stages but that they didn’t do so doesn’t make them one of the world’s worst national football teams.

If failure to qualify for the Round of 16 is such a disaster, what about Bafana Bafana, the former champions of Africa, just 26 years ago, who didn’t even qualify for this AFCON finals?

This is a team that has the backing of the most powerful economy on the continent, the biggest football sponsors in Africa, and the best leaders of the game on this continent.

After all, the CAF president Patrice Motsepe is a South African while the only man to organise a World Cup on this continent, Danny Jordan, is also a South African.

This is a country where most of our best players go in their quest for better pay and better working conditions, and whose lower division clubs provided us with a number of players who were representing us in Cameroon.

Wadi plays for an obscure lower division side in South Africa and so does Gerald Takwara who was, in my little notebook, the best Warrior at the 2021 Nations Cup finals.

For all their money, Bafana Bafana have missed two of the last three AFCON finals.

They will say they have done marginally better, when compared to Chipolopolo of Zambia, who were champions of Africa, just 10 years ago.

Our neighbours to the north, who are our biggest rivals, when it comes to football, have missed the last three AFCON finals, and have never qualified for the showcase, since it started accommodating 24 teams.

This is a country which has players who are doing well at English Premiership sides, Leicester and Brighton and Hove and Scottish giants Rangers, but they still can’t even qualify for a 24-team Nations Cup.

They are in such a desperate situation they even tried to grace the tournament in Cameroon by the back door as they pushed for us to be expelled by FIFA, for them to sneak through.

SOMETIMES IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE

Rather than join the bandwagon of the fierce critics, who have been savaging the Warriors as the perfect example of a tale told by a fool, full of sound and fury but which ultimately signifies nothing, I have chosen the other unpopular path.

I know that I will be mauled by the critics but it comes with the terrain and, in my world, there are some convictions, which are worth dying for.

I would rather be mocked for sticking with what I consider to be a true reflection of what I think, than be praised for choosing a popular path, which would be in conflict with my principles.

That’s why, even amid all the gloom and heartbreak brought about by the Warriors’ performance in Cameroon, I won’t join the bandwagon of those who now feel our boys are the worst possible representatives which a country could get to represent them in football.

Yes, a Round of 16 place was there for the taking for us, but what I find strange is this nonsense that, if we had gone past the group stages, we would have made history.

That such an achievement, just playing in the first round of the knockout stages of the AFCON finals, would have been a representation of the greatest success story, which our Warriors have ever written.

That the Class of the 2021 Nations Cup finals would have written their names in gold, and found their way into immortality, simply by making it into the Round of 16.

What I don’t understand is how playing in the Round of 16 could now represent greatness, and an achievement like no other for our team, when we have played in the Round of 16 before.

How? When we qualified for our first AFCON finals, in Tunisia in 2004, there were just 16 teams in the tournament and every game we played there was a Round of 16 match. That was also the same story at the 2006 Nations Cup finals in Egypt, and the 2017 Nations Cup finals in Gabon.

By qualifying for those tournaments, we made it to the last 16 standing nations on the continent and that’s why I was never excited by this fantasy that reaching the Round of 16 would represent the biggest achievement, by the Warriors, in their history.

We have done that before and numbers don’t lie.

And to suggest that the Warriors were hopeless in Cameroon to such an extent that they became the perfect representation of mediocrity, is not true.

They were not a disgrace, they fought long and hard, needed a penalty, scored in the 97th minute, for them to be beaten by Senegal and were full value for their victory over Guinea.

Our boys were just one of two countries from other parts of the continent, to find a way to beat teams from West Africa, who are dominating this tournament, in conditions that suit them well.

The Comoros are the other team which managed to do that with their 3-2 victory over Ghana.

Our boys were THE ONLY team, who won, at least, one game at the 2021 Nations Cup finals but still didn’t make it out of the group stages of the tournament.

The other seven teams, which didn’t make it – Ghana, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Sudan, Algeria, Sierra Leone and Mauritania – didn’t even win a single game, at the tournament.

Our boys were THE ONLY team, who won a game at the 2021 Nations Cup finals but still ended bottom of their group.

The other five teams, which finished bottom of their groups – Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Algeria and Mauritania – didn’t even win a game in Cameroon.

Our boys were the team, which had THREE points, but still didn’t make the group stages of the tournament.

The other teams, with THREE points – the Comoros and Tunisia – still managed to qualify for the Round of 16, of this tourney.

Remarkably, if Sierra Leone had not missed a last-gasp penalty against Equatorial Guinea, in their last match, they would have qualified for the Round of 16, with three points from three games.

The Warriors, who finished with three points from the same number of games, were knocked out after just two rounds of the group stages.

In terms of number of points won, the Warriors ended up in joint 15th place, with the same number of points as Tunisia, but an inferior goal difference, but still couldn’t make it into the last remaining 16 teams.

The irony is that Sierra Leone,with two points, and Sudan with just one point, ended up being in the running for the four third-placed teams to qualify for the Round of 16, while the Warriors with three points were not in the picture.

Of course, it hurts, but to suggest that we were a disgrace at the tournament is stretching the imagination a bit far.

 To God Be The Glory!

Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys still in the struggle.

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ronaldoooooooooooooooooooooo!

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 You can also interact with me on Twitter (@Chakariboy), Facebook, Instagram (sharukor) and Skype (sharuko58) and GamePlan, the authoritative football magazine show on ZTV, where I interact with the legendary Charles Mabika, is back every Wednesday night at 9.30pm

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