Sharuko On Saturday
SOMEHOW, fate had to call time on this beautiful romance, this extraordinary alliance, which went the full distance, when the clock struck 12 years.
In our collective silence, we read his farewell message, digested every word he wrote, each of them a brutal reminder of what we were losing, after a dozen years of a tag-team, in which we were the body and he was the soul.
There was no video conference, there was no teleconference, but just a simple correspondence on Twitter, to signal the end of this romance and alliance, which the football gods had made, in the paradise of their heavenly kingdom.
This was our Prince saying goodbye, the boy from Norton, the one we saw transform himself into a man, a superhero of our national game, the leader of our pack of Warriors.
The one who inherited King Peter’s throne, as both captain and the inspirational figure behind our national team, and refused to shy away from both responsibility and leadership.
The guy with the X-Factor who, once he slipped into that gold-and-green kit, transformed himself into a football superman.
The one who was seemingly allergic to a bad mood, whom the gods chose to smile, with a separation of his lips, and a curve of his cheeks, which illuminated a dark room.
The Smiling Assassin, The Special One, The Golden Boy, all these phrases a fitting description and tribute to a footballer who, in the service of his fatherland, evolved into something close to a genius.
He was just a teenager, 19 years, nine months to be exact, when he made his debut for the Warriors, on March 3, 2017, in a friendly international against the Flames of Malawi.
He is now 31 years, 11 months, a month short of his 32nd birthday, 12 of which have been spent in the trenches of international football, in the service of his motherland.
A DOZEN years!
Somehow, it had to be that magical number.
The one which used to appear on the jersey which King Peter used to wear, when the time came for him to swap his club short for a bigger cause, for the ultimate mission — serving his beloved country.
The number with a very special place in the Bible which, in biblical terms, means perfection or authority and, more often than good, represents a very good thing.
The one which, of course, represents the number of disciples which our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, chose.
Even when Judas Iscariot lost it, after betraying Jesus and committing suicide, the disciples still replaced him with Matthias, to keep the number at 12.
And, there is more:
- When Jesus first spoke in the temple, with religious leaders, he was 12 and when He performed the miracle, feeding 5 000 people, the disciples gathered 12 baskets full of leftovers.
- The Bible tells us about the 12 tribes of Israel, who descended from the sons and grandsons of Jacob – Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh.
- During the exodus from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites sent 12 spies to go and scout the Promised Land.
- The Battle of Midianites drew 12 000 men, with a thousand coming from each tribe, while in Joshua 8, we are told that 12 000 people fell when Ai was destroyed.
- Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, whose interpretation revealed he would act as a wild beast for a while and its fulfilment came 12 months later.
- In Revelation we are told that a tree of life will also be in the new world God will bring at the end of time, with 12 fruits, one for each month of the year.
For us, the Warriors, number 12 has always been special — just like number seven at Manchester United — because it is Peter’s number.
The one our Flying Elephant had at the back of his shirt when he led us to the Promised Land of the AFCON finals, after two decades of heartbreak, in which we had become the nearly men of African football.
The one our Nsukuzonke had at the back of his jersey, every time he was flying past defenders, in a cause for his country, for his nation and for his people, 15 million of them, sandwiched in the land between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers.
The number of years of national service, which Knowledge Musona gave to our cause, on the football fields of Africa, in an adventure in which his commitment, and contribution, kissed the edges of greatness.
On Thursday, he called time on his international football adventure, which went the full course.
HE CAME, HE SAW, HE CONQUERED
Yesterday, the Sports Editor of this newspaper, Collin Matiza, asked me if I could write a tribute for Knowledge Musona, in today’s paper. He knew that I would dedicate this blog to our Captain Fantastic, once the player had confirmed his retirement from international football, on Thursday.
But, Matiza wanted something different, for the space on the other spaces of the newspaper, and I duly delivered one, which is entirely a celebration of what the Smiling Assassin did in the colours of our Warriors.
In this blog, I decided to take a different path, in honouring him.
And, this means not concentrating entirely on only what he did for us, which the other piece contains, but extending the focus to look at how Musona’s emergence, and influence, had such a huge bearing in our football, in the past half-a-dozen years.
To view him differently, appreciate that he was a once-in-a-generation talent, especially when it comes to the Warriors, the gift which the football gods gave us, to help us deal with the hangover which followed Peter’s decision to finally retire.
To provide a philosophical view, a deeper understanding of it all, without using the usual barometers, which we use to analyse football and its stars.
Well, for me, Musona was more than just a football player, more than just a Warrior, more than just a leader.
I have a kid at home who, for years, has been telling me, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be like Musona.”
That’s impact and the Smiling Assassin was something else, some sort of football prophet, an exemplary public servant, who will always remain special.
For us, he was the full package, a deadly combination of shock and awe, of thunder and lightning, the one whose story was written in the stars.
For years, we will talk about that stunning hat-trick against Liberia at the National Sports Stadium on June 11, 2017, in a 2019 AFCON qualifier. It was such a special individual performance, at the end of the contest, as the home crowd rose in unison to honour their superhero, there was so much noise, coming out of the giant stadium, it could have even woken up the dead.
Only the football gods, if this isn’t a story which was crafted in heaven, will provide an explanation to tell us why Musona’s finest individual performance, in terms of goals scored, had to come against the Lone Star of Liberia?
Why is it that his finest performance, for his country, in terms of goals scored in one game, had to come in the very month in which he was born?
Why his greatest performance, for his nation, in terms of goals return in one match, had to come against the very opponents, against which he had made his AFCON debut, in Monrovia, on September 5, 2010?
On that afternoon, in the sweltering heat of West Africa, Musona scored for the Warriors, in a 1-1 draw, the first of 24 goals, in 51 games, for his country.
If fate had not decided otherwise, either because of his retirement on Thursday, or the uncertainty related to whether the Warriors will play in the 2023 AFCON finals, his next game would have been against Liberia, next month.
The fixture is pencilled for June 9, next month and the football gods, in one way or the other, had provided the perfect setting, and timing, for the celebration of the fifth anniversary, of his hat-trick heroics, that day in 2017.
The only difference would have been just TWO days – his hat-trick against Liberia came on June 11, 2017, the next Warriors match, should they play against the Liberians, would be on June 9, this year.
Musona remains the only Warriors skipper to score a hat-trick in an AFCON match — Vitalis Takawira and Agent Sawu, the other two players to do that, were not captains on the occasions they scored against Cameroon and Eritrea.
Musona’s hat-trick against Liberia came in his first match, as skipper, for the Warriors, after the changes which saw Willard Katsande step down, after the 2017 Nations Cup finals.
He delivered on all fronts, leading the scoring charts for his team in the qualifiers, dragging them to the AFCON finals in every campaign he captained them and, with two goals at the finals, only King Peter has scored more — the three he scored in Tunisia in 2004.
To appreciate Musona’s great contribution, for his country, we have to bring in a superstar like Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang into the discussion.
They were both born in June, Auba is a year older, they both captained their countries and were always expected to provide the goals and they both announced their retirement from international football this week.
Auba scored 30 goals in 72 appearances for Gabon, at an average of 0,41 goals per game, Musona scored 24 in 51 games, at a better average of 0,47 goals, per game.
That’s class, absolute class and, sadly, there are some of us who didn’t appreciate it, simply because he was one of us and, like a true prophet, he struggled to find honour among his people.
But, now that he is gone, we will probably realise that we had something really special on our hands, a gift from the heavens, when it comes to our football.
THE STATS ARE JUST STAGGERING
- It took Musona just half-an-hour to score his first goal, in his first AFCON assignment, in that match against Liberia in Monrovia, on September 5, 2010.
- By the end of the 2012 AFCON qualifiers, Musona had scored four goals and completed his maiden Nations Cup campaign, just two goals behind top-scorer, Tunisia’s Issam Jemma, even though injury had forced him to miss the home game against Liberia.
- For FOUR years, between September 5, 2010 and May 2014, Musona was the ONLY Warrior to score in an away World Cup/Nations Cup qualifier.
- Musona’s four goals on the road was the best performance, by a Warrior, in matches away from home — during that decade between July 2002 and May 2014 — with Peter second on two goals while Benjani, Malajila, Nengomasha and Nyandoro had one goal each.
- He topped the scoring for us, as we qualified for the 2017 AFCON finals, and again topped the scoring for us, as we qualified for the 2019 Nations Cup finals.
- As the sun began to set on the past decade, Musona could even proudly lay claim to the title of being the finest hitman in the AFCON qualifiers with his goal-scoring spree even eclipsing superstars like Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
- Mane made his international debut on May 25, 2012, at 20 years, one month and 15 days and, at the close of the past decade, he had made 18 appearances in AFCON qualifiers, exactly the same number as Musona, scored just five goals, nine less than the Smiling Assassin, in his 1465 minutes for the Lions of Teranga.
- Salah made his international debut on September 3, 2011, when he was 19 years, two months and 19 days and, at the close of the decade, had featured in 19 AFCON qualifiers, scored 14 goals, provided six assists in 1 685 minutes, with a further two goals in six Nations Cup finals matches.
- While Salah had scored the same number of goals as Musona, in the AFCON qualifiers, the Liverpool star had played one more match than the Warriors skipper and also played 62 minutes more than the Smiling Assassin.
- During the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, Musona scored five goals, Salah was on target four times while Mane did not find the target.
- When Musona made his debut against Malawi in that friendly international on March 3, 2010, his teammates were goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda, Gilbert Mapemba, Method Mwanjali, George Karimupfumbi, Daniel Veremu, Ashley Rambanapasi, Thabani Kamusoko, Farai Vimisayi, Nyasha Mushekwi and Tafadzwa Rusike.
- By the time he stood in the Warriors line-up against Congo-Brazzaville, at the close of the last decade, he was the only man standing, from those 11 players fielded that day.
What more does a little football country, like ours, demand from a footballer?
Incredibly, there will still be some who will still ask if he was good enough, a people who have mastered the art of questioning others and even insulting them.
But, as you enjoy your deserved retirement from international football, gallant Warrior, don’t worry about these keyboard wizards.
As I have told you, especially in that call from Yaounde when you prepared me for your retirement, just take comfort in reading Matthew 13:54.
It talks about our Lord Jesus Christ and that prophets have no honour in their home countries
“Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue and they were amazed: ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked.
‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?
“Isn’t His mother’s name Mary and aren’t His brothers James, Simon and Judas? Aren’t his sisters with us? When did this Man get all these things?’ And they took offence at Him.
“And, then Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and his own home.’ And He didn’t do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.’’
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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