Sharuko on Saturday
WE call him the Smiling Assassin and Knowledge Musona, the ultimate sniper whose infectious smile usually cheers the spirits of our national game and whose goals always script success stories for our Warriors, scored twice in the Belgian Cup on Wednesday night.
The Warriors skipper’s second half brace ultimately proved the difference, for his Belgian side, as they powered to a 3-1 victory over a battling Union Saint-Gilloise.
I expected a flurry of activity, on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, from Wednesday night right into Thursday and yesterday, with Zimbabweans feasting on their skipper’s double strike in a proper football game, and a proper football competition.
That his match-winning show came just a few days after some dreaming South African football writer had knit another web of speculation, claiming Musona was set for a return to the retirement zone of Super Diski had fuelled my expectations the Smiling Assassin would be trending.
That this was KV Oostende’s first win this season, in the 14 games they have played in a dreadful run, including four pre-season friendlies, with nine of those games being losses, had triggered a wave of expectations that the social media platforms would be exploding with both excitement and relief from delirious Zimbabweans.
A people happy that their national football team captain, the one whom we have always turned to for salvation since King Peter retired, had played a leading role in helping his Belgian side finally stop the rot.
A united and proud domestic football family basking in the glory of their skipper’s exploits, for his European club, and happy that — after weeks in which his team has resembled a punching bag — our Smiling Assassin would finally enjoy a peaceful sleep.
Sadly, I was wrong, very, very wrong.
Instead, it was the raging army of haters — and there are many of them out there prowling the Internet these days, who bombarded me with messages saying there was nothing special about Musona’s brace.
They said, after all, his two goals had come against a second-tier opponent, Union Saint-Gilloise, who play in the league just below the Belgian top-flight, and are sitting on fifth place on the table in that championship.
Of course, what they conveniently chose to ignore is that KV Oostende have been having a nightmarish campaign this season — bottom of the 16-team Belgian top-flight league, without a win in seven league matches, where they have lost six of those games.
This means, right now, KV Oostende are not in any way better than the top sides in the Belgian second-tier league, where Union Saint-Gilloise are one of the leading sides, and the contest on Wednesday was in no way a Goliath versus David affair.
In sharp contrast, our colleagues across the Zambezi were having a party on the interactive forum, which brings together African football journalists and administrators, celebrating the exploits of Charly Musonda in his first start for Chelsea on Wednesday night.
The 20-year-old midfielder, who is the son of Zambian legend Charles Musonda, impressed for the English champions in the League Cup, capping his fine performance with a goal at Stamford Bridge, as they ran out comfortable 5-1 winners over Nottingham Forest.
That Charly was born in Brussels and has already chosen to represent Belgium, his country of birth, in his international career, and not Zambia, his fatherland, didn’t seem to dilute the wave of happiness among the Zambians who still regard the youngster as one of their own and another example of the football gems that come out of their productive nurseries.
To those Zambians, it’s all about Mother Zambia and although Charly Musonda can choose whichever country he wants to play for, it will never take away the reality that he is a Zambian boy, born in Belgium, and his Zambian roots is something he can never shake off.
You got to love these Zambians, if not for their raw patriotism, then for the way they find value in the positive, something which casts the name of their country in good light, and how they feast on anything that paints them in good stead and spend hours blowing their trumpets, stroking their egos and beating their pumped-up chests.
When some people were accusing them of fielding a number of over-aged players in the COSAFA Under-17 Championships, which they won in Mauritius this year, they didn’t even let that taint their hour of triumph and, instead, they kept hitting back at their critics as bad losers who are a disgrace to what this game stands for.
Imagine, for a moment, if it was us — and our hatred for who we are, our reluctance to embrace the reality that we are a very special people, our obsession with the negativity that doesn’t add value to our nationhood and our fascination with things that paint us in bad light — and you would have seen people from this country scrambling to say that, ohhhhh, yesss, we cheated because, as far as they are concerned, we aren’t good enough to write any success stories.
The same people who said there was no honour in winning the COSAFA Senior Challenge Cup because, in their world, it’s a development tournament yet, when our Young Warriors did badly at the COSAFA Under-17 tourney in Mauritius, which is itself the proper developmental stage, they went ballistic saying such failure was unacceptable.
WE ARE JUST A PEOPLE WHOSE FASCINATION WITH NEGATIVITY SIMPLY KNOWS NO BOUNDS
Last week, my social media platforms exploded, with fury coming from all over the world — from New England in the United States to New Zealand Down Under and all the other places in between — as our extended football family, which includes a huge constituency in the Diaspora, rightly revolted against that sickening decision to try and rescind the red card shown to Christian Epoupa Ntouba.
It was a pathetic decision by our football leaders and the game’s community had every right to cry foul, to fight for the rejection of such a move, to combine forces in refusing to have a game which means a lot to them being dragged through this sticky mud and taking a united stance, where their forces of rebellion became their weapon, in fighting this farce.
Some chose to be sensible, others chose to be diplomatic, some chose to be ruthless in their condemnation of all that, while others — as usually happens in our polarised country — found a window of opportunity to bring in the politics which, sadly, divide us and try and use what had happened to champion their cause.
I understood the anger among the countless Zimbabweans who used my social media platforms, and other avenues I have opened for us to communicate, to register their displeasure at that decision by the ZIFA leadership to try and annul the red card and, in the process, fuel suggestions they were fighting in the Dynamos corner.
What I can’t understand, however, is why we don’t seem to derive similar energy, as a people, to also celebrate the achievements of our sporting ambassadors, as and when they do well in their chosen fields, where their deeds will be helping our nation to be spoken of in good light?
Why do we seemingly appear to be a people who are just obsessed with negativity, a people whose instincts are ignited by negative stuff, and on the occasions that some positive stuff comes along, we conveniently withdraw into a shell and behave as if we didn’t see it happening or pretend as if it never happened?
If the Zambians can go ballistic in celebrating the performance of a footballer, who was never born in that country for goodness sake, and has even chosen to play his international football for Belgium, embracing him as one of their own, clogging the internet with messages pregnant with pride that he did well in a League Cup match for Chelsea, why do we get all this deafening silence when it comes to us, when our Warriors captain also does well, as was the case with Musona on Wednesday night?
When reports emerged in Belgium exactly a year ago, that Musona was one of a number of players who had been caught up in a betting saga, it was the kind of negative stuff that brings the best out of us and, with our instincts having been revved up to the maximum, we feasted on the poor fellow and turned the internet into an arena where we ran amok in our destruction of his character.
We turned ourselves into the complainants, the prosecutors, the judge and the jury and we laid the charges, prosecuted him and found him guilty, choosing — of course — to ignore his club’s backing of him and the player’s pleas that, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing to fear because he had not done anything that would destroy him.
One local online media organisation even went as far as telling its readers that Musona was as guilty as charged and went to the extent of saying his possible sanctions would include, ‘’a fine, suspension or even criminal charges.’’
Of course, as both Musona and his club had argued, the case crumbled but, of course, those who had rushed to lampoon him as a man whose career was on the brink, who was facing a bleak future, simply chose to act as if they had never preached such Armageddon gospel and a year later, they have simply moved on.
On the night that Charly Musonda scored at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, our boy Tendai Darikwa scored the only goal for former two-time European champions Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge but, just like Musona’s double strike in Belgium on the same day, Darikwa’s goal wasn’t trending among Zimbabweans celebrating what he had done.
It’s not every day that Southern African footballers get a chance to score at Stamford Bridge but, on the day our boy scored against the English champions, we tried to behave as if nothing had happened because we are a people allergic to such success stories and only want to feast on the negativity.
On Thursday, our Mighty Warrior Rutendo Makore scored her ninth goal, in four matches, at the COSAFA Women Championships at Barbourfields, but somehow her name wasn’t trending as much as the negativity that we throw at each other.
As if she had done nothing and even my colleagues at Soccer Africa, who last week made a feast of that comical decision to try and nullify Ntouba’s red card, didn’t say even a word about the magnificent sights and sounds that have been coming from the City of Kings in the past two weeks on their show on Thursday night.
Talk about being gender insensitive, it doesn’t get worse than this, or, maybe, it’s only news from Zimbabwe if it’s the negative stuff and not something positive like a Zimbabwean footballer scoring nine goals in four matches to take her country into the final of a regional tournament?
But, maybe, we can’t blame them when we, ourselves, don’t seem to see any value in anything positive coming out of our backyard and chances are that there are more Zimbabweans today who know who Ntouba is, not because he is the top scorer in the domestic Premiership or plays for the country’s biggest football club, but because of that red card fiasco while half of them don’t even know who Rutendo Makore is?
AND, THEN, IT DAWNED ON ME, WE SEEM TO HAVE ALREADY
FORGOTTEN JAIROS JIRI
And then it dawned on me this week, as I searched my soul as to why we seem to have this fascination with negativity, that this year marks exactly 35 years after probably the greatest philanthropist to come out of our country, Jairos Jiri, whose work as a hero for the disabled and disadvantaged of our community was out of this world, died on November 12, 1982.
But, true to our colours as Zimbabweans — a people always drawn by the lure of negativity — we haven’t seen anything in this country this year to celebrate 35 years since the death of this hero who was honoured internationally for his outstanding contribution to his nation, granted the Freedom of the Cities of Bulawayo and Los Angeles and an audience with the Pope where he received a blessing for his great world and a papal medal.
Somehow, as we usually do, we seem in a rush to forget Jairos Jiri, of all people, and if we can do that, what chances do the likes of Musona and Darikwa have of getting due recognition, for what they are doing, from their fellow countrymen?
Are we awaiting them to fall, or fail, so that we feast on their troubles?
They are not alone because this year marked the Silver Jubilee of the day King Peter Ndlovu became the first African to play in the English Premiership in August, 1992, but here it passed as if it was a non-event while it’s also the 35th anniversary of the year Bruce Grobbelaar became the first African footballer to be crowned champion of English football, but for the nine months that have passed, no one has seen the value of celebrating that milestone.
We have ignored it as if it didn’t happen and that it did happen back in the days when Liverpool were the best team in the world, by a distance, and one of us — a Bulawayo boy who used to play for Highlanders and whose father used to work for our railways — was part of those special players is an insult to our proud football history and the greatness that this country represents.
Just, for the record, it’s 35 years since Bruce won the first of his three League Cups, 25 years since he won the last of his three FA Cups, 35 years since he won the first of his five FA Charity Shields and 33 years since his heroics in Rome turned him into a European Cup winner.
I have always argued we are a very special breed of people because l have asked you tell me a landlocked African country of just 15 million people that can produce the number one ranked batsman in the world, Andy Flower, the number one ranked golfer in the world, Nick Price, a world diving champion, Evan Stewart, and Olympic hockey champions in their first appearance at the global showcase, our Golden Girls in Moscow in 1980, and I will give you my house.
Two coaches who can guide England to success in the Ashes showdown against Australia.
Show me another African country of 15 million people that has produced the world’s best doubles tennis players, Byron, Wayne and Cara Black, one that beat Australia in their backyard in the Davis Cup and one that went toe-to-toe and with an American team of Andre Agassi and company here in Africa and l will give you my house.
Show me another African country of just 15 million people that has produced winners at Wimbledon, French Open, the Australia Open in tennis, the British Open and the US PGA Championships in golf and I will give you my house.
Show me another African country of just 15 million people that gave the world its first African player to win the English championship, the first African player to win the European Cup, the first and only African player to win six English league titles, the first African player to feature in the English Premiership and the first African player to score on debut for Manchester City in the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford and I can give up my job.
Show me another country that has given the Springboks these legends — Adrian Garvey, Andy MacDonald, Ben-Piet van Zyl, Bobby Skinstad, Brian Mujati, Chris Rogers, David Smith, Des van Jaarsveldt, Gary Teichmann, Ian Robertson, Ray Mordt, Ronnie Hill, Ryk van Schoor and Tendai “Beast’’ Mtawarira — and I will give up my job.
Or another African country of just 15 million people that has given Emirates its A380 super jumbo captain, an Oxford robotics genius who went on to work for NASA and a telecommunications mogul like Strive Masiiwa and I will rest my case.
We must be the only country in the world which brings Twitter and Facebook down celebrating that our FA or country is being criticised on Soccer Africa, but we don’t raise issues when the same programme, a week later, totally ignores the Mighty Warriors qualification for the final of the COSAFA Women Championships.
What a shame!
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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