WE’RE NOT A MICKEY MOUSE FOOTBALL NATION

Sharuko On Saturday

IN August 2015, the BBC published results of a survey they had carried out about the best supported English Premiership clubs in Africa.

The results showed Arsenal were the best supported EPL club in Nigeria, part of the legacy which Nwanko Kanu’s exploits at the Gunners left in his home country.

Predictably, Chelsea were the best EPL supported team in Cote D’Ivoire, largely because of the Didier Drogba impact.

Chelsea were the most supported EPL club in Ghana, mainly because of the Michael Essien effect.

In Southern Africa, the survey showed Manchester United were the most supported club and ruled the roost in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

IN MALAWI, ARSENAL WERE THE KINGS

Of course, if the survey was carried out today, it would present a markedly different set of results for all the four countries.

Liverpool, who were struggling at the time the survey was carried out, would today make a bigger impact.

I’m a Manchester United fan, a romance which started in May 1979 when, as a Grade Three kid, I read a newspaper report of a five-goal FA Cup thriller.

The Red Devils stormed back from two goals down to tie the match 2-2, only for Alan Sunderland to score a last-gasp winner for the Gunners before 100 000 fans at Wembley.

Somehow, I chose the losers, bowled over by their incredible fighting spirit even though it had ended in defeat.

That United had been relegated at the end of the ’74 season helped to boost their profile to me and, the rest, as they say, is now history.

Liverpool represents the ultimate enemy, the worst possible football club my emotions could have a romantic attachment with.

To say that I hate Liverpool would be an understatement.

But, there have been times, as I have grown older, when I have questioned whether I am right to support Manchester United or I should be supporting Liverpool.

I have been asking myself why the majority of Zimbabweans, according to that BBC survey, are supporters of Manchester United and not Liverpool?

I probably understand why the majority of South Africans were supporters of Manchester United because this could have been something from the Quinton Fortune legacy.

If the Ivorians’ EPL tastes were influenced by Drogba’s impact at Chelsea, the Nigerians’ tastes were influenced by Kanu’s impact at Arsenal and the Ghanaians’ tastes were influenced by Essien’s impact at Chelsea, why are we different?

After all, Liverpool are the club where one of us, Bruce Grobbelaar, won six league titles and became a champion of Europe.

This is the same club which is giving a path to greatness to Nyoni.

The Reds are also providing a path to greatness to another Zimbabwean boy Isaac Mabaya.

We have an intimate connection with them because, after all, they provided the arena where Peter Ndlovu’s legacy, in the English Premiership, was sealed with that hat-trick at Anfield on March 14, 1995.

Today, King Peter is a Liverpool fan.

WE SHOULD ALL BE SUPPORTING LIVERPOOL

Well, the answer to that question probably illustrates the complexity, or is it the foolishness, that comes with being a Zimbabwean football fan.

We are probably the only football fans in the world who would run a social media campaign trying to give an impression that Trey Nyoni is not a Zimbabwean.

The only football fans in the world who would go on a social media campaign to try and mock any link whatsoever between Trey and Zimbabwe.

The only football fans in the world who will have a sizable constituency celebrating in the event that Trey decides to commit himself to playing for England instead of Zimbabwe.

The only football fans in the world with a sizable constituency which was disappointed that Andy Rinomhota decided to commit his international future to the Warriors.

In Nigeria, they mob Bukayo Saka when he visits, and embrace him as one of them, even though he was born in England and chose to play for the Three Lions instead of the Super Eagles.

For them, all that matters is that Saka is a Yoruba boy, the son of Yomi and Adenike Saka, who left Nigeria to settle in England hoping to improve their economic status.

The Arsenal star is just one of them, a Nigerian boy starring for England, and on the occasions he comes home, they show him real love.

What I don’t understand is that Bruce Grobbelaar was born in Durban but he transformed himself into a footballer who is widely accepted, in this country, as one of our greatest stars of all-time.

He deserves that legendary status because he was a pillar of strength for the Dream Team and came close to dragging the Warriors to the ’94 World Cup finals.

But, all that doesn’t take away the fact that Bruce was born in Durban.

Now, some of the fans who accept that Bruce is one of the greatest football heroes we have, somehow, appear to have doubts when others embrace Trey Nyoni as a Zimbabwean simply because he was born in England.

Where one is born is just a location and, of course, it can give you the right to carry the passport and assume the citizenship of that country.

What can’t be changed is that you remain who you are – the boy or girl from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia or wherever.

If you doubt that, I challenge you to call Ben Johnson, the first man to smash the 9.9s barrier in the 100m dash.

He was a Canadian sprinter, a national hero in the North African country as he powered his way to numerous records in an adventure which saw him take on Carl Lewis in one of the greatest individual duels in athletics history.

But, once they caught him that he was a shameless drug cheat, after the ’98 Olympics in Seoul, where he had won the 100m sprint, his identity wasn’t about the sensational Canadian sprinter.

Instead, he was now the Jamaican sprinter, who decided to represent Canada, with all the shame of his drugs chaos now being transferred to Jamaica.

That’s the reality of the world we live in today.

 TREY IS A ZIMBO, NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS

Trey Nyoni could end up playing for England but that will not wash away the reality that he is a Zimbabwean boy who was born in the King’s country.

Where he was born is just a matter of geography and who he is, in terms of being a Zimbabwean, is a matter of reality.

How  do you describe someone born on a plane in terms of nationality?

His father is called Mjubeki and you can spend the next 20 years scavenging the English records and you will never come across another man, who calls himself British, who has a similar name.

He was a teacher by profession and a decent footballer too, who played for Gwanda Ramblers in the country’s lower leagues.

His teammates included a certain Jerry Sibanda, who would one day play for Highlanders.

The same Jerry Sibanda who today is the chairman of Bulawayo City FC.

Mjubeki left the country at the dawn of the new millennium and, just like Saka’s, flew to England in search of better economic prospects for his family.

It was there where Trey was born and today, 16 years later, the young man has forced himself into the global football story by making his debut for Liverpool.

He must be really special, this boy, because it’s not every day that a 16-year-old boy ends up being thrown into the fray to represent the Reds.

I would like to see Trey play for the Warriors one day but I can tell you I won’t lose any sleep if he decides he wants to try his luck with England first.

That’s his choice and we will have to respect it just the way we respected Bruce’s decision to try his luck with England in the ‘80s only for him to come home and play for the Warriors.

My concern isn’t about where Trey finally plays, when it comes to international football, but what matters to me is that he is a Zimbabwean boy, shaking the global football world.

For me, that’s what is important because it provides more ammunition to my argument that we are not a Mickey Mouse football nation but we are a very special one.

Our only challenge is that we have not been blessed with the right ZIFA leaders to convert that talent into a formidable unit which would transform the Warriors into the powerful team that they should be.

For me it’s not a coincidence that:

  • When there were no non-Portuguese speaking African footballers in Portugal in the ‘60s, we already had one of us there, Freddie Mkwesha, playing in the top-flight league.
  • When the English Premiership needed its first African player to grace it, the football gods made sure that the special footballer, King Peter, could only come from Zimbabwe.
  • When Africa needed its first footballer to score a hat-trick at Anfield, it needed a Zimbabwean to do it when King Peter scored those three goals against Liverpool in 1995. It’s something which had not been done in 92 years, since Alex Bell of South Africa became the first African to feature in the English top-flight division. It’s something which has not been done again, in 29 years, since Peter scored those three goals.
  • When Africa needed its youngest player to feature in the FA Cup final, it needed a Zimbabwean for that when Brendan Galloway, at the age of 15 years seven months and 26 days, featured for Everton on November 12, 2011.
  • When Africa needed its youngest player to feature in the FA Cup it needed a Zimbabwean for that when Trey helped Liverpool eliminate Southampton at Anfield this week.
  • When Liverpool needed its youngest player to feature in the FA Cup, it needed a Zimbabwean for that with Trey becoming that footballer in 1 032 years during that match against the Saints.
  • Everywhere one looks in the English Premiership, there are some Zimbabwean teenage boys waiting for their chance to make a breakthrough, including Shumaira Mheuka for whom Chelsea have been asked to play something which will be close to US$5 million after signing him from Brighton.

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 Chegutu Pirates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Zaireeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Text Feedback: 0772545199, WhatsApp: 0772545199, Email – robsharuko@gmail,com – [email protected]

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