ZIMBABWE and Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar may have spent most of his life overseas but the former goalkeeper cannot hide his long cherished dream of coming back to Zimbabwe and leading the Warriors to the World Cup soccer finals.
Writing in his recently published explosive autobiography, “Life in a Jungle”, on which he collaborated with author, journalist and broadcaster Ragnhill Lund Ansnes, Grobbelaar speaks of his glowing career and the ambition to coach the Zimbabwe national team.
Grobbelaar was a member of the popular “Dream Team” which roused a lot of passion among the Zimbabwean population during the mid-1990s under the late German coach Reinhard Fabisch. The ex-goalkeeper revealed that England also tried to lure him to play for the Three Lions back then but that could not happen since he had already featured for Zimbabwe (in a World Cup qualifier against Cameroon in the early 1980s).
“Looking back, thinking about the dreams I was carrying as a kid, I am happy with what I have conquered in life. I wanted to play for Liverpool and made that dream come true. I wanted to play for my country; I have played for the Dream Team.
“I wanted to manage my country; I’ve managed my country five times. But I still dream of taking Zimbabwe to a World Cup before I get too old -I would love a last dance with the Dream Team,” he wrote.
Grobbelaar had hoped to reach the World Cup finals during his playing career but the Warriors back then were always haunted by the demons of failure when it mattered most.
Grobbelaar, who spent a decade in self-imposed exile, is hoping to come back home and settle in Zimbabwe after he was charmed by the new political dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The former goalkeper visited the country early this year and could not hide his joy and love for Zimbabwe.
“As much as playing in a World Cup had been a big dream of mine – even though I was shut out of Zimbabwe and lost my passport; even though I was not able to play for my country during my peak years – Zimbabwe is my home and will always be. Representing Zimbabwe made me proud,” he wrote.
Grobbelaar also talked about the last time he coached the Warriors and how he lost the job.
“In 1998 I became caretaker player-coach of the Zimbabwe national team for five games, winning twice and drawing once. The experience exposed me to the sort of corruption that happens in African football. And when I tried to challenge what was happening, I soon found myself out of a job,” he wrote.
He added: “Leo Mugabe is the nephew of (former president) Robert Mugabe and he had emerged as the chairman of ZIFA. When I challenged him about the whereabouts of monies owed to certain players, he did not take kindly to questions. For a short period it resulted in my passport being taken away again, though the authorities would give it back when I started working in South Africa.”
Grobbelaar further revealed his disappointment at the number of caps he has for his country.
“I wonder how many games I would have played if my passport wasn’t taken away from me between 1985 and 1992. Wikipedia says I played 32 games but there were also a lot of unofficial matches, which takes me to a figure of close to 50.
“Zimbabwe lost me at my peak. Maybe they could have reached the World Cup if they had allowed me to play. In the end they only invited me back in 1992, largely because of fears I would represent South Africa after the end of apartheid and end up playing against Zimbabwe. It also helped that Reinhard Fabisch had been appointed as the new head coach and wanted the best goalkeeper in the team.
“Little did ZIFA know that FIFA’s ruling was final; I could not play for any other country than the one I had already represented in an official FIFA game,” he wrote.
Grobbelaar also talked about how he first lost his Zimbabwean passport in 1985 and England’s attempt to lure him into playing for them only for FIFA to thwart their request because he had already represented Zimbabwe.
“I had been disowned by Zimbabwe. My first autobiography (“More than Somewhat”) had been released a few months before. The Zimbabwean Government under Robert Mugabe (the previous president) read it and they were unimpressed. I did not know this until I tried to renew my passport in London.
“It might sound outrageous but greeting me on that day was Comrade Mudede. My stick had captured him in the Honde Valley during the Bush war in 1976.
“Nearly 10 years later, Mudede was working as the Zimbabwean attaché in London. He called me inside his private office and said: ‘Bruce, you’re wanting your passport. But you have upset us.’ ‘What do you mean?’ From his desk, he pulled out a copy of my book, ‘More Than Somewhat’. Throughout the book I had referred to the rebels (freedom fighters) as terrorists . . . If you had changed all these words to freedom fighters and comrades, then we would have renewed your passport. So unfortunately you are not going to get your passport back,” he wrote.