Sharuko on Saturday
IN the beginning it was quite easy — standing in front of just about 700 students, at my high school’s Monday morning assembly sessions — reading my report of how our football team had played in an away game that weekend.
The second term — the traditional school football term back in those days — had just opened and I was a freshman at Baptist High School, a two-and-a-half hour bus ride from Kadoma into the rural heartland of Sanyati in Mashonaland West.
I had come from Chakari, a three-hour bus ride the other direction, the south-eastern side, and had exchanged my goldfields home for a life in the cotton-fields of Sanyati at this boarding school run by some Baptist missionaries.
This was 1988.
I was a Form 5 schoolboy, a late arrival at this Baptist mission school, after my late father, at the very last minute, forced a change of plans gambling on his beliefs, and expectations, a rural setting would provide the ideal environment for me to prosper as a student than the razzmatazz of the urban surroundings.
This month marks exactly 30 years to the first of what would become a regular assembly session, for the next one-and-a-half years of my stay at that Baptist mission, providing my schoolmates with weekly dosages of how our sporting teams had performed on the occasions we had played away from home.
The best part usually came at the end, after I had completed my report, and the whole school would erupt as they clapped hands to show their appreciation, as I made my way back to my place on the assembly line in the back row.
Sometimes, teachers would be bowled over by the reports, especially on the occasions when I was narrating the good stuff following sensational victories for our school, and they would line up to shake my hand while the clapping students provided a fitting soundtrack to the motion picture.
I was 18 then and little did I know that, in exactly 10 years’ time, I would be sitting in the media pavilion of the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan, Cote dÍvoire, taking down notes to come up with a report about the biggest club game ever played by a Zimbabwean football club in history.
The privilege of being the sole witness, in terms of the local newspaper reporters, to the events that afternoon when Dynamos plunged into battle for the right to be called champions of Africa and which started amid the chaos of Memory Mucherahowa being head-butted in the warm-up and having to be sent to hospital before kick-off.
Where my constituency, in the beginning, was just a mere 700 schoolmates, stuck away in our rural paradise, now I was covering the biggest game in the history of this huge football institution of seven million followers, ten thousand times more, in terms of sheer numbers.
I was now covering a massive game whose significance had long spilled beyond just the constituent interests of the so-called Seven Million loyal followers of these Glamour Boys to the national interests of a whole country that would have derived a lot of pride in one of its football clubs being crowned champions of Africa.
The massive weight of this grand assignment, on my shoulders, and the level of responsibility which it demanded from every ounce of my professionalism, in the formative years of my journey in this job given that only six years had passed since I had arrived at this newspaper, was quite an intriguing and tough personal trial on itself.
I knew every word would be scrutinised, every phrase examined, and where I could escape with mediocrity telling my schoolmates how our team had played the previous weekend, at that assembly point, this was a different ball game altogether and the controversy related to the events of that afternoon didn’t make my job any easier.
And matters were not helped by the two-hour time difference between Harare and Abidjan, and the flight arrangement where we had to travel straight from the stadium to the airport to catch our flight back home, which meant that whatever I had to compile, in my report, had to be done within the brutality of that window for my report to make it into the newspaper the next day.
While my weekly Sanyati Baptist School reports had provided the foundation, for me, this assignment was the one that transformed me from a boy into a man, in terms of this job, far better than the Nations Cups, FIFA Confederation Cup and FIFA World Cups which I have subsequently covered in this journey.
REFLECTIONS OF A TOUGH JOURNEY WALKED IN THE
And, on the 30th anniversary of the month when I first stood in front of the Sanyati Baptist School assembly to read my maiden football report, and on the 20th anniversary of the year when that assignment in Abidjan provided my transformation from boy into man, I have been reflecting a lot on this tough journey which has been walked in the glare of the public spotlight.
Along the way I lost both my dear parents, an elder brother who would have been 53 this year, a younger brother who would have been 43 this year, a sister who would have been 46 this year, and a good chunk of my extended family.
Of course, nothing will ever compare to the loss of the greatest love of my life, my sweetheart Mimizeni whose first cry in that maternity ward brightened my world like nothing has ever done before, and is likely to do again, whose flat nose and dark features provided a reminder of my days as a kid and whose company down the years fulfilled me like nothing has ever done.
She was not only my pretty girl, my golden gift from the Lord, the one I never left to walk alone and, for two decades, we walked together, our bond growing stronger and, more than being a daughter, she was something special, a part of me always carried her wherever I went and a part of me always stayed with her wherever she was.
Of course, life goes on, with all its challenges and contrast, with all its joy and sadness, with all its summers and winters, and along the way we find new friends, at times losing old ones and bonds and friendships are tested.
In the past few weeks and months, a number of readers have been asking why I have chosen the path not to use this blog, and all the acres of space it provides me, to respond to all the negative stuff that a colleague of ours, who used to be a workmate and wrote articles for this newspaper, Hope Chizuzu, has been writing about us on his social media pages as part of his relentless battle with the ZIFA leadership.
They have been piling on the pressure saying I should respond, I should hit back, for all the innuendos which our former colleague has been spreading on social media, including some personal attacks on our characters, but somehow, I have found a way to resist their calls.
They have been saying they can’t understand how someone who was a fellow pundit on ZTV’s weekly football magazine programme, “Game Plan With Mabika”, the guy who used to always sit on my right and the fellow who would take over the spraying of the passes to our legendary anchor, Charles Mabika, after I had done my part, has turned very hostile and if I can, at least, address the subject here, they can get a better understanding of it all.
They have been bombarding me with screenshots of some scary negative stuff, which they say he has been posting on a regular basis on his social media handles, in a vicious attack on us, and they have been crying out for a response, but — for all the blows he has thrown — I have resisted the temptation to hit back or respond.
Some have even gone to the extent to suggest my decision to just swallow all the hostile stuff, including some which border on abuse, without hitting back, has been sending a message I have turned into a coward who has lost the fire which used to define me, back in the years.
But, my answer to all of them has been the same that, years of a life walked in the public domain, have hardened me and if there is a golden lesson that it has taught me, then it’s that you probably say it best when you say nothing at all.
That even among those 700-or-so of my schoolmates at Sanyati Baptist, who were the first to hear me read my reports about our school football team on that assembly line 30 years ago, there were some guys who felt that I was just a waste of time, but I had to respect their toxic views about me, even if I didn’t agree with them.
That even among the seven-million-or-so DeMbare fans, for whom I was their only witness to the events unfolding in their club’s biggest football game in Abidjan 20 years ago, there were some who felt I was I was a hopeless witness and, even though I didn’t agree with their negative views about me, I would put my head on the bloc for their views to be heard.
That even among the millions of my fellow Zimbabweans, who have been a part of my adventure in the past quarter-of-a-century on this newspaper, there are some who have even dared to question my nationality and called me an alien from somewhere on the continent and, even though they are wrong, I have had to respect their views.
That the reality is I am not perfect, I am just a human, a mere mortal, and just like everyone else, I also make mistakes and I don’t know it all, because no one does and no one will ever do, and I know that it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.
So, to those who have been calling on me to respond to all the negative stuff that my good old colleague has been posting on his social media handles, in his criticism of our work, I have to say that I’m sorry to disappoint you because I’m not going to hit back.
Rather, I believe it’s his democratic right to pour out his thoughts and, whether he is right or wrong, is neither here nor there and it’s not for me to judge or to engage myself in a battle with him because, as the past 30 years have taught me, that’s a price one pays for a life spent in the public domain.
AFTER ALL, THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN OUR NATIONAL GAME
Yes, as much as others might not agree with the position I have taken, I remain convinced there are more important things in this life and this game than trying to propel ourselves, as journalists, into being the stars of the public narrative when the stars should be the players, like Obadiah Tarumbwa and Clemence Matawu continuing to defy the ravages of age and shining in the domestic Premiership.
And coaches, like Englishman Mark Harrison, who is bringing a new dimension to coaching in our Premiership with his professionalism, like Norman Mapeza, who continues to set the benchmark in this game, like Madinda Ndlovu who is breathing life into Highlanders.
That it’s better to provide a critical analysis of how things didn’t go right for Lloyd Mutasa, a good fellow if ever there was one, this season at DeMbare, and why it always has to be the coaches who pay a heavy price at these Glamour Boys when they are not the authors of the chaos that limits their capacity to deliver, than waste this space on personal wars.
That it’s better to provide analysis to Tonderai Ndiraya’s success story at Ngezi Platinum and that his tale provides us with an indictment, if ever one was needed, of the leadership at the Glamour Boys and the toxic environment that has been created there, which reduces even some of the best coaches into walking shadows whose potential will never be realised in that atmosphere than dedicate thousands of words to personal wars.
That it’s better to celebrate the heroes of DeMbare’s adventure in the 1998 CAF Champions League, on the 20th anniversary of that landmark achievement, which brought them — through their sheer determination to thrive against all odds — within just 90 minutes of being kings of African football which, for a chaotic club like theirs, will always represent greatness.
That it’s better to remember David Mandigora, and appreciate the magic he waved in taking his Glamour Boys to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2008, now that this is the 10th anniversary of that adventure, than spend acres of space trading insults.
And that it’s better to salute the commitment of Edward Sadomba, one of the heroes of that campaign, on the 10th anniversary of that journey, for somehow having the strength to play for his Glamour Boys against ASEC Mimosas at Rufaro that year and scoring two goals that powered his team to an emotional victory, while his dead sister lay in state at home in Mbare waiting for burial.
To celebrate the vision of the FC Platinum leadership, under the visionary George Mawere, and how their quest for professionalism is changing the face of the domestic Premiership, not only through impressive results on the field, including delivering a landmark league championship title last year, but also establishing facilities, like the modern Mandava Stadium, which will benefit our game and Zvishavane for years to come.
To celebrate the vision of the Ngezi Platinum Stars leadership, under the visionary Stanley Segula, and how their quest for professionalism — including the engagement of key backroom technical staff like an analyst, a psychologist and a nutritionist have been a game-changer in our Premiership — and how their investment into Baobab Stadium has provided our game with a modern facility to use for years to come.
To celebrate sponsors like Delta Beverages, NetOne, Zimplants, Mimosa Holdings, Chicken Inn, JR Goddard Constructing Company, DairyHill Investment, Original Technology, First Mutual and Old Mutual who have been pouring money into domestic football.
To celebrate the return of the domestic Premiership on television, with the first match to be screened being the CAPS United versus Ngezi Platinum at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow, than waste time on wars that don’t provide value to the game.
To celebrate the deeds of our referee Norman Matemera, whose rejection of a $10 000 bribe in West Africa to influence a CAF Confederation Cup game was a demonstration of the kind of integrity that can only make football a better game, rather than waste time and space on the toxic politics which some thrive on.
To celebrate the achievements of our Warrior Tinotenda Kadewere, one of the future stars of our football, who crowned a great season in Sweden on Thursday by helping his club, Djurgadens IF, win the 2018 Svenska Cup after a 3-0 thrashing of Malmo before 25 123 fans at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, and qualify for next season’s UEFA Europa League.
Interestingly, Kadewere, who comes from a football-talented family in Highfield, has a motto which guides his life and it features prominently on his social media handles which reads, “Any football can criticise, condemn and complain, and most fools do.’’
And Tino knows, too, just like I do now, that in the beginning it was quite easy — playing in front of just about a couple of people Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield every weekend, but now the script has changed and he has to deliver before 25 000 fans, including a lot of critics, but that’s the way it is.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Chat with me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @Chakariboy, read my material in The Southern Times or on www.sportszone.co.zw. You can also interact with me on the informative ZBC weekly television football magazine programme, Game Plan, where I join the legendary Charles “CNN” Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande every Wednesday night at 21.30pm.