Sharuko on Saturday
IT’S refreshing that a shameless attempt to discredit the Independence Cup, and everything special that this tournament stands for, through extreme bullying tactics borrowed from Stone Age boarding schools, were this week rejected by some courageous men.
Kenny Mubaiwa has his faults, just like every human being, but when they write the history of domestic football, his name will feature prominently for transforming his club into the dominant force in the country, with four straight league titles.
Those history books will, probably, also note that he was the chairman who led the biggest rebellion, by a local club, against the totalitarian, and times ruthless and misguided authority of ZIFA, in the history of Zimbabwe football.
Mubaiwa knows there could be consequences, for daring to take on the domestic football leaders, but it’s a terrain, full of landmines, which he stepped onto, fully aware the risk was worth taking for the sake of fighting for what he believes is right.
Jonathan Mashingaidze, the ZIFA chief executive, has already made a public announcement that there will be severe consequences for those who defied the association’s orders to play in replay of the 2015 Independence Cup final.
I am not Mubaiwa’s scriptwriter, the man who helps him prepare his speeches, but as I watched the drama of his battle with ZIFA unfold, culminating in the events we saw on Wednesday, I imagined what I would have put into words, if I was his advisor.
Of course, I would have borrowed from Nelson Mandela’s defence, during the Rivonia Trial of ’64, because I can detect a similarity, in both cases, of what is clearly a fight between good, on one side, and evil, on the other.
“The time comes in the life of any leader when there remain only two choices — submit or fight,” I would have written, as part of Mubaiwa’s defence.
“That time has now come for Dynamos. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our club, our players, our sponsors, our fans, our future, and our freedom.
“During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of these Glamour Boys. I have fought against CAPS United domination, and I have fought against Highlanders domination.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free football landscape in which all clubs, officials and fans live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.
“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die for.”
Exactly 30 years after his Rivonia trial, via the nightmare of a 27-year stay in prison, including a stint at Robben Island, Mandela became the first black president of South Africa as good triumphed, as it usually does, over evil, and the pillars of the evil system of apartheid were finally brought down.
It was Edmund Burke who told us that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph, and thrive, was for good men to do nothing, frozen by their fear, in our case, to confront the monster devouring the soul of our game and leaving fate to judge us as shameless cowards, who stood and watched, as a national sporting discipline was ripped apart, and turned into a shell, which had even had some personalised number plates, for good measure.
The 2015 Independence Cup final farce is another symptom of the chronic cancer, which is destroying our beloved national sport, while men who care so much for this game, and everything it represents for the people of this nation, can only watch helplessly from a distance.
That a football tournament, which is supposed to be the celebration of our ultimate triumph, as a united and brave people, against the forces of evil that the racist colonialists represented, should be treated with such contempt, by the very people given a national mandate to preserve its value, while we do nothing about it, just goes to show why we have lost the plot.
That a knock-out tournament, which represents our freedom, which unlocked the doors for us to be re-admitted back into the community of nations like FIFA, and our footballers to be given another chance to showcase their talents on the international scene, should be treated with such disdain, by the very people we asked to protect its value, and all we do is just watch from a distance, shows just how we have lost the plot.
That they even threaten those who are brave enough, like Mubaiwa, to remind them that they won’t be part of the circus to reduce such an important national tournament into a Mickey Mouse competition, the kind of which we see being played by boozers teams in Harare every weekend, just goes on to show why —because of the silence of all the good men — evil has triumphed.
WHEN FC PLATINUM WERE DRESSED IN BORROWED ROBES
One of the defining images, of the joy that this game brings to ordinary people, was captured by our photographers last year when Lloyd and Wisdom Mutasa, in a rare father-and-son combination, celebrating a success story they had both scripted, after FC Platinum’s dramatic victory in the Independence Cup final.
A game that, for the better part of the contest appeared lost, was won when the Zvishavane miners converted a last-gasp penalty for the equaliser to force the match into a penalty shoot-out lottery where they held their nerves, in hostile territory, to win the trophy.
The sudden shift of emotions, from the deflation of the possibility of a loss to the elation of a stunning win, all delivered within a few minutes, and the drama that the lottery of the penalty shootout provided, combined to make the Mutasa clan so happy, on that unforgettable day, they defined the true meaning of success.
Now compare that to the farce of this year, when the Independence Cup was presented to those FC Platinum officials, winners by decree and not by beating the opponent on the field, and you can see that — even though they were the defending champions — this triumph, if we can call it that, lacked substance they would be right to ask ZIFA , like Shakespeare’s Macbeth before them, “why dress us in such borrowed robes.”
The life that you see in Mutasa’s eyes, the explosion of joy that comes with knowing that he has truly won this tournament, through sweat and tears, as should always be the case in a football contest, is absent on the faces of those FC Platinum officials, who received the trophy on Wednesday, because it all feels empty, a donation whose value is so compromised celebrating it would be shear madness.
Of course, we can’t blame FC Platinum, they were not responsible for the power outage at the National Sports Stadium on Independence Day, they still had 25 minutes or so to fight for not only an equaliser but even a winner in that original contest and, given the drama from the previous season, noone can say they lost that match.
You can’t blame them, too, for coming back to Harare, when they were ordered to do so, because their corporate connections make it difficult for their officials to plunge into controversy, without the risk of dragging the good name of the company that built this team, into the mud.
The blame should be pointed on those people who ordered them to come to Harare when they knew pretty well that the Independence Cup final replay would not be played — something that was confirmed by the fact that the ground hadn’t been booked for the game, there were no referees at Rufaro to give Dynamos the 30-minute window to show up or forfeit the game and the police were not there to provide security.
The ambulance services, a must for any game of this magnitude, had not been notified that they had to provide their crew to Rufaro, the cashiers, who open the gates from around 10am, given that ZIFA were insisting that fans should pay, were not there and even the vendors, who take advantage of such gatherings to sell their products, stayed away from this farce.
Now, if you are the organisers, and you haven’t booked the stadium where you say the game is supposed to be played, the gates haven’t been opened, as is always the case, by around 10 am for the fans to come into the ground, the cashiers haven’t been assigned to run the gates, the police aren’t them to provide security and, even the referees, aren’t there, how then can you seriously claim that a football game had been organised?
How is it possible, against that background, that the organisers can then say another team boycotted that farce because, with all due respect, this is just a ghost game, and that some people, who should provide leadership in this sphere, even tried to dress it with the robes of the Independence Cup is, in itself, a shame of major proportions it deserves an investigation where those responsible, and not those who didn’t show up, should end up being sanctioned?
Questions have to be asked, for the sake of not setting a very bad precedent, as to what was the official technical explanation that was given to declare FC Platinum winners of that ghost game — was it a walkover, and if so, who were the referees who made that decision, after giving Dynamos a 30-minute window period, after the scheduled kick-off time, to arrive at the ground?
Was the result of the match a declaration made by ZIFA officials and, if so, do they have the authority to make such a declaration, from the comfort of their offices, something like FIFA just saying England won this game, without a score, without an explanation, and without the technical backing to support how such a decision was reached?
Who has the authority to make a pronouncement, on the outcome of a match when there are such disputes, the ZIFA officials sitting in their offices, or their disciplinary arms — as and when they hear the case and roll out the sanctions, if any are to be handed, giving us an idea of the scoreline that the team, deemed to have won the game, powered to victory in the boardroom?
Did FC Platinum win the 2015 Independence Cup on a 3-0 scoreline, as is usually the case in abandoned games, but how then can you describe this game as abandoned when the referees, the ultimate authorities whose reports are the bible on which such decisions are made, were not even at Rufaro on Wednesday?
How different, really, is this with that mess we had when a former ZIFA chairman rose from his seat in the VIP Enclosure at Rufaro and walked onto the field, in the ‘90s, to order another replay of a Cup game that was already being replayed, simply because he felt he was authoritative enough to make such an unprecedented decision?
That FC Platinum ended up playing the Warriors, in a friendly match that afternoon, appears to suggest that this was something that ZIFA officials had organised, well in advance, knowing that it will end with the national team just getting a sparring partner and the name of the Independence Cup was just dragged into this equation.
Surely, that’s as bad as it gets.
AND, THEN, THE PROPHET COMES ALONG
Against this depressing background, it’s refreshing to note that we have people like Prophet Walter Magaya who are providing a silver lining, to the dark cloud that has been hovering over our national game, and oiling the crippled machine to just keep it moving.
Last year, when he said he feels hurt to see the Warriors not playing at major tournaments, there were some people who didn’t believe that this was coming from deep down his heart, that this was an emotional wound that he has been nursing, like you and me, for the past nine years and he meant every word he said.
Now, he has gone a bit further to back his words with a financial injection into the Mighty Warriors and the Warriors, overnight in just one month, becoming the biggest single financier of our national football this year, and the national teams’ best friend.
The winners of this year’s COSAFA Cup will get R500 000 but, on Wednesday, Prophet Magaya poured R560 000 into the Warriors’ campaign to try and win the tournament and promised the 30 members of the squad a further $1 500 each (about R450 000 in total) should they bring the trophy home.
When you have a man who is pouring R1 million into a national adventure, where the team will get R500 000 if it wins, without asking for anything in return, then you know that this is as good a football friend as our national game will ever have.
Add to that the fact that he is running an ambitious Division One club, Gunners, and hoping to turn them into the champions of Zimbabwe again, and he also sponsored the Yadah TV Knock-out tournament for that league last year and, reports say, he might sponsor the entire league this year.
Crucially, his injection into the game isn’t a raft of loans, as we have seen in a number of cases, but just donations, sharing with his fellow Zimbabweans, because he believes his country should do better on the football field.
And, crucially, it’s not the publicity that he is looking for and, like Roman Abramovich, he really loves the game, he is there at his team’s training sessions, battling with his players every day, and he is there at their games, trying to rally them to victory.
I have seen some good guys in this game, over the lengthy period of time that I have been involved with it, and this fellow, just blows me away with his passion for our football.
Please, can someone pray for Prophet Magaya, for a change, so that he retains his passion for our football.
To God Be The Glory!
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