Sharuko On Saturday
MAYBE, in a way, they were just made for each other.
That’s why, maybe, the club won a league championship, in the very year he was born, as if to welcome him into this crazy world.
That was in the Summer of ‘65.
Maybe, that’s why another league championship was won, in the year he played his first game for them, as if to celebrate the arrival of the king they had been waiting for.
That was in the Summer of ’83.
There was also another league championship won, in the year he turned five in 1970.
And, yet another league championship was also won, in the year he turned 15, when this country returned from international football isolation.
When he turned 20, another league championship was won and, by now, he had become a huge part of their family.
That was in the Summer of ‘85.
As much a rebel as he is royalty, when it comes to football on the domestic front, as much a pioneer as he is a pensioner, when it comes to defining greatness in the trenches of the local game.
The spiky hair, the gapped teeth, the raw facial appearance, just like any boy next door, the confidence, the arrogance, the brilliance you name it, a full package.
Of course, there were many shortcomings, both as a person and a footballer, both as a man and an idol, “hesi Moze,” some star-struck fan is said to have called out to him, as he left Rufaro, “hesi supporter,” came the reply, they say.
But, that’s what iconic football commentator Peter Drury told us, that genius ultimately needs a flaw for the narrative to be completed.
Otherwise, how do we explain the circus related to Ronaldinho, of all people, known around the world, if not for his football genius then for his beaming smile that seemingly covers his whole face, arriving in Paraguay on a false passport?
How do we explain how George Best, the first rock-star international footballer, was virtually done and dusted, as a top professional, at the age of 28, just four years after inspiring Manchester United to become champions of Europe?
Or, how do we explain the baggage of negativity which stalked every step Archieford Chimutanda took, unplayable with the ball at his feet, uncontrollable once he was in his own zone, the indiscipline, the troubles, the waywardness?
How come Paul Gascoigne, the rising superstar whose Tears in Turin in ‘90 captured the imagination of his nation, ended up choosing a guy nicknamed Five Bellies, of all people, for a friend?
Someone who could drink so much alcohol at one go, it would take the average of five hopeless alcoholics, to consume what he usually took in a single night?
And, with Gazza besides him, they didn’t only drink once but probably drank just about every day.
Michael Jordan, a virtual god on the basketball court, and a hopeless gambling addict off it, Mike Tyson, a destructive fighting machine who won the world heavyweight boxing title at the age of 20, and a convicted rapist off the boxing ring.
Tiger Woods, the charming boy who changed the history of golf, transforming the game from being something for the whites into a real global sport, by winning the Masters at the age of 21, somehow being exposed as a cheating specialist off the course, who had, at least, 12 mistresses at a go.
For some, Chunga has his monumental flaws, too many of them, there is still that cockiness he carries around and, like Muhammad Ali before him, he even calls himself “The Greatest.’’
My choice here is widely known, it doesn’t mean I’m right, and I respect the choice of those who think otherwise because that’s the beauty of both opinion and democracy.
My little book still has the Flying Elephant up there, on his secluded island, as the best of the local lot, but that doesn’t mean my choice is the perfect one and everyone should be forced to sing that Peter is, indeed, the King.
Somehow, their parents had to give them names with so much meaning in Christianity.
Moses, the one who led the Israelites from about 400 years of slavery in Israel, Peter, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, recognised in the early Christian church as the leader of those disciples and by the Roman Catholic Church as the first of its unbroken succession of Popes.
From Razorman To Bambo, Different Nicknames, Same Superstar
In the Summer of ’95, Moses Chunga was 30 years old and, just as what had happened in the Summer of ’65 when he was born, Dynamos were crowned champions.
The year ’95 also happened to be the season Chunga played his final game for his beloved Glamour Boys, as if to provide a fitting farewell to their marriage.
By now, injuries had taken their toll on him and he wasn’t the dashing free-spirited football star whose brilliance, in the ‘80s, had taken the DeMbare fans on a merry ride into both fantasy and reality, providing them with a football god who scripted memories that will last a lifetime.
Given this is a club, and a people, familiar with genuine football stars – from George Shaya to Freddie Mkwesha, from Ernest Kamba to Sunday Chidzambwa, from David Mandigora to Jimmy Finch — the way they embraced Chunga, and acknowledged he was different, and special, tells its own story.
Left foot, right foot, it didn’t matter at all, distance wasn’t a factor either, they still talk about some of his goals, Duncan Ellison in goals, Duncan Ellison beaten, Nat Bismack in goals, Nat Bismack beaten, Brenna Msiska in goals, you probably know the story.
Then, there were the dazzling moves, packaged with both style and substance, always making a difference, especially when it mattered the most, the bigger the occasion, the better he seemed to respond and deliver.
A CAF Champions Cup quarter-final, second leg battle against Canon Yaounde of Cameroon in 1987, quickly comes to mind.
The Glamour Boys had gone down 1-2 in Yaounde, in the first leg, and all they now needed, at least, was a 1-0 win at home and Chunga takes responsibility, fires home from a free-kick and, once again, they can dream.
But, the West Africans found the goal they needed and the match ended 1-1, taking them into semi-finals, such fine margins, where it could have been so different had DeMbare avoided conceding that goal.
Today’s army of desktop critics will tell you there’s nothing special about Chunga being the first in-field Zimbabwean footballer, after Independence, and only the second, after Mkwesha in the ‘60s, to move to a European club.
After all, they will tell you, his Belgian outfit, Eendracht Aalst were in the second-tier league of football in that country.
What they won’t tell you is that Roger Milla was playing for St Etienne, back in the second-tier of French football, around that time and then moved to Montpellier, when they were in the second-tier of the game in that country.
Does that suggest Roger Milla wasn’t good or doesn’t that confirm the doors into the best leagues, and best clubs, of European football, for African players, weren’t as wide open, back then, as they are now?
For goodness sake, Roger Milla ended up playing for St Pierroise, on the Reunion islands, on the Indian Ocean islands in 1989, just before his explosion at the World Cup in Italy in 1990.
The same Reunion islands whose club, US St Andreenne was thrashed 1-5 on aggregate by Blackpool in the ’95 CAF Cup of Cup Winners, and whose other club, SS St Louisienne, was hammered 7-2 by Dynamos in a Champions League match in ’99.
When Chunga left for Belgium, as DeMbare struggled, rival fans started mocking the club, changing its nickname from “Haina Ngozi,’’ to ‘Haina Mozi.’’
Some people, for one reason or another, are just shameless merchants of criticism, it’s in their DNA, they will never accept one of them was good, when they see Chunga, they see a guy from Faison in Mufakose, and they can’t reconcile with the fact that area can provide a football genius.
They see him as a Dynamos star and, to them, that is a problem, because the Glamour Boys should never be associated with something great and, to justify their flawed narrative, they look at the negatives, rather than the positives, to argue Chunga was ordinary.
They will tell ask you, what did he really do with the Warriors, without any shame at all because, they are the same people who will tell you Eric Cantona was one of the greatest, yet they can’t point anything he did, of substance, with the French national team.
They deliberately choose to forget that, for some time, the relationship between Chunga and the Warriors was strained, when he declared he would not play for peanuts, starting a revolution — for which he receives no credit at all today, when even national team players get US$30 000 for crashing out of the AFCON group stages.
They also forget that, on the occasion he really put his mind to serving his country, he was virtually unplayable in those ’92 AFCON qualifiers, providing the heartbeat for that destruction of Malawi at the giant stadium, and only being let down in that battle against Congo-Brazzaville by John Sibanda’s howler.
TWENTY YEARS AGO, IT ENDED, IN A WAY ONLY A GENIUS COULD HAVE SCRIPTED
By, all accounts, Chunga’s career was effectively over when he left Aalst in 1992, injuries ensuring the adventure was all over at the age of 27.
Maybe, that’s the way it is, such greatness is never meant to last very long and, usually, the story always come to an end when they get to the age of 27.
Robert Johnson, the American blues singer, was 27 when he died, poisoned by a lover’s jealous boyfriend; Brian Jones, a founding member of the Rolling Stones, was dead at 27, found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool in 1969.
Jimi Hendrix, one of the greatest guitarists in history, died at the age of 27.
And, so did Alan “Blind Owl’’ Wilson, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, the founder of Nirvana, Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, Ron “Pigpen’’ McKernan, and Amy Winehouse, the acclaimed English singer/songwriter.
Chunga didn’t die at 27 but, at that age, his career was effectively over.
Of course, there would be one final performance, fittingly coming at the National Sports Stadium, fittingly coming 30 years after his arrival in this world and, fittingly, in the colours of his Glamour Boys.
Two weeks earlier, he scored the only goal in Kampala, which gave his team a 1-0 first leg victory and, by all accounts, one foot in the semi-finals of the CAF Champions Cup, for the first time in the club’s history.
However, maybe that confidence turned into complacency, and he was put on the bench, for the second leg and, by the interval, Express of Uganda had scored twice and now led 2-1 on aggregate.
The Glamour Boys, as they had done now and again in the ‘80s, once again turned to Chunga, after the break and his first touch produced a product of both beauty and precision, a reminder of his genius, and a throwback to a time when — before injuries became a part of the vocabulary of his story — he was the real deal.
The ball found comfort on his chest, the connection gave it a motion to briefly loop forward and then start its inevitable drop downwards.
It didn’t need to touch the ground, the wizardry of this genius, even at this late stage of his career, had already created a calculation for the ball to be smashed on the volley, right foot, towards a target, everything programmed to perfection because, to guys like him, such things came naturally.
The connection was sweet and, boom, like a guided missile, the ball started flying and, just below the 90 degree angle where the rising goalpost kisses the crossbar, it was smuggled beyond the despairing dive of the goalkeeper, and into the net.
DeMbare lost that game 2-1, and crashed out on away goals and, for the Razorman, now known, as Bambo, there would be no fairy-tale ending to a love affair with a club he will always be associated with for life.
But, of course, there will always be that fairy-tale moment.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
You can also interact with me on Twitter — @Chakariboy, Facebook, Instagram — sharukor and every Wednesday night, at 9.45pm, when I join the legendary Charles “CNN’’ Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande on the ZBC television magazine programme, “Game Plan”.