Sharuko on Saturday
I AM working on Moses Chunga’s autobiography, “Rebel With A Cause” and, hopefully, it will generate a lot of interest among readers here and in the Belgian city of Aalst.
And, hopefully, it will also stimulate massive interest in Malawi, that little country with a huge inland lake, which has given us an incredible number of football wizards, including Chunga himself, over the years.
Somehow, for one reason or another, it looks like the finest of Malawi’s football bloodline, from a nation that saw millions of its sons trek south to work in Zimbabwe and South Africa, ended up settling here.
And, in the process, they gave us football gems like Moses Chunga, Kembo Chunga, Benjamin Nkonjera, Friday Phiri, Shackman Tauro and Callisto Pasuwa just to name but a few, who scaled the heights of success in this game.
Well, that’s a subject for another day, another week and possibly another month as to why, it appears, the most gifted of Malawi’s football sons ended up representing the Warriors and not the Flames.
For many, in this game, Moses Chunga was the best of that lot and I have always argued, if the doors to the English, Spanish, Italian and German football were as open back then, as they are now for African players, this genius would certainly have gone places.
It’s a testament of his talent that when Nottingham Forest, back in the day when they were a powerhouse and winning the European Cup, now known as the Champions League, twice in succession in ’79 and ’80, even decided to give him a trial period at the City Ground.
That the legendary manager Brian Clough could even agree to have a closer look at him, when the only player from Africa in the entire English top-flight league was Bruce Grobbelaar, tells a story on its own.
That no black African player was featuring for any of the English top-flight sides by the time Chunga arrived at Nottingham Forest in December ’86, is also another big story on its own.
And, that no outfield African player was considered good enough to play for any of the English top-flight sides when Chunga had his trials at Forest, also speaks volumes about the man himself and the incredible talent he had.
He was just 21 back then and, according to Arnold Raphael, the then Zimpapers London correspondent, Chunga impressed Clough with his close ball control and sharp shooting in practice, but like his colleagues, incurred Clough’s wrath.
After a great victory over Tottenham Hotspur, Clough took his title-chasing squad for a light training session.
And Chunga, after choosing to chip over the goalkeeper instead of passing to a colleague, saw his joy at seeing a superb goal, from distance, disappear as it was greeted by a monumental roar of disapproval from the legendary manager.
“Son”, stormed Clough, “don’t try to run before you can walk. When I say ‘PASS’, I mean just that — PASS.”
And, with that, Chunga’s chances of playing in England were over.
But, just to attract the attention of Clough, to convince the legendary manager he had a talent to be considered for a spot in that Forest team was a huge statement in itself.
We will get to read it in the book, probably, and whether it’s true that when he first arrived in Belgium he was met by an army of journalists, and after the interviews had been done, one of them — concerned Chunga would struggle in the bitterly cold winter of Europe — asked him about the weather in Zimbabwe?
And, whether it’s also true his reply was, “eehh, eehh, scattered clouds in the morning, cool later and with chances of rain in the evening,’’ like how those guys who present the weather forecast on national television tell us in their predictions about the conditions tomorrow.
CHUNGA BLUNTLY SAID HE WOULD NOT PLAY FOR PEANUTS
I have picked Chunga because he isn’t the most fluent of English speakers, which some critics have feasted upon, as if it’s a must that he is supposed to be the best when expressing his thoughts in the Queen’s language.
The same people who don’t have any issues with Zinedine Zidane telling the world that his English is horrible, he can’t even construct a meaningful sentence, suddenly have issues with Chunga struggling and, in my case, doing quite well to express himself in the same language.
I have also picked Chunga because his principles, to always say things as they are, was what cost him his job as Charles Mhlauri’s assistant some 15 years ago because he dared expose, live on national television, the shortcomings of the then ZIFA leaders.
And, I have also picked Chunga because, back at the turn of the ’90s, he was the first Warriors’ captain to tell ZIFA he wasn’t the kind of professional footballer to “play for peanuts,’’ and, from there, everything changed.
It’s hard to imagine in this day and era that there were times, throughout the 80s, when the Warriors did not have the blockbuster spectator appeal that they have now and their matches — at home — would attract only a handful of fans.
A time when they were what Bafana Bafana have become now, without the massive outpouring of love from their fans, which we see today, and Dynamos would regularly attract more supporters to their matches than the national team.
After a quiet decade in which the highlight for the Warriors was their success in the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, when a 2-0 win over Kenya at Rufaro secured the trophy before the rare sight of one of the capacity crowds to witness their triumph back then, things came to a head at the turn of the ’90s.
And, Chunga, of course, was the architect of that movement when he decided to challenge the domestic football leaders to pay the Warriors bonuses which fitted their status as proud representatives of their country and, also, as professional footballers who were risking a lot in these missions.
But it’s a debate that has always split opinion — should professional footballers be paid for representing their country?
French superstar Kylian Mbappe grew up in a poor Paris neighbourhood, but has from the word go, refused to take the wages and bonuses he receives for playing for his country because he argues the honour of simply doing that is priceless and should not be measured in dollars and cents.
He has been donating the £17 000 (about US$20 693) wages he receives for every international match he plays for France, to the Premiers de Cordee Association, a charity which sets up sport activities for children with disabilities.
Then, he has also been giving every appearance fee he gets for each France game to different charities.
After the World Cup in Russia last year, where he helped his country win the tournament, he donated about US$486 000 in bonuses — the entire financial package he received — to charities.
England players also reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia and, after the tournament, donated all their earnings to charities.
Since they set up the England Footballers’ Foundation in 1987, they have now donated more than US$6 million from funds handed to the national team players every time they wear the Three Lions shirt, to UNICEF, Cancer Research UK, Help for Heroes and The Honeypot Children’s Charity.
But, we can argue that there is a huge difference between the French and English players, who are already multi-millionaires from their club earnings, to the Warriors, many of whom are still looking for every possible revenue stream to help boost their bank accounts.
Fair and fine, but how then do we justify that the French Football Federation, for all its massive financial status and scores of sponsors, can settle for an appearance fee of US$20 693 for their players at a World Cup for that instance, and our Warriors have to be paid US$5 000 in appearance fees for a match at the Nations Cup finals for that instance?
Especially, against a grim background that ZIFA, who are supposed to foot that bill, do not have such financial power and, even if they had, should all their funds be diverted into a single tournament, played by many professionals with good contracts at their clubs at the expense of the teenage boys in the townships crying out for a helping hand to realise their talents?
If Methembe Ndlovu, as an individual, has shown us that in just about a dozen years, it’s possible to start a grassroots football development programme that can produce professionals who find their way into the English, Turkish and American top-flight leagues, why can’t an organisation like ZIFA run its own school of excellence?
And, why shouldn’t most of the money that is coming into their coffers from FIFA, clearly meant for the development of the game, not be poured into such a national project that can guarantee that we have a steady stream of competent footballers who will always come to the fore?
Why should funds that come from FIFA, earmarked for development, because the world football governing body cares a lot about the future of the game and acknowledges that, without the emergence of another Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, spectator interest in the sport will die, be then channelled towards paying professional footballers representing their nation?
Yes, Chunga might have challenged the authorities at the turn of the 90s, but that was during a depressing period for football, where earnings by the professional footballers were not as huge as they are now, and even those who represented England back then did not channel their earnings to charity, but took them home.
Football didn’t pay a lot back then, and the national teams were used by players as vehicles for supplementing their incomes, but things have changed because of the huge money that is now in the game and questions are now being asked as to the morality of national team players being paid a fortune for representing their countries.
It’s a delicate debate, but one that Zimbabwe probably now needs to confront with a sober mind because the negativity that continues to stalk national teams at every major tournament over unpaid dues cannot be allowed to continue.
THE WARRIORS HAVE BEEN DISBANDED, OKAY, WHAT DOES THAT REALLY MEAN?
This week, ZIFA announced they had disbanded the Warriors technical team, and we understood what that meant, that Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa are no longer in charge of the side.
What I couldn’t understand was the announcement that the Warriors had been disbanded, not that it’s the first time I have heard this from our football leaders, given it’s something that was first said during the days of the Dream Team, when the then ZIFA leaders had a fall out with members of that side.
A national team, unlike the national technical team, isn’t something that exists all the time because its composition is only driven from those who would have been summoned to come and represent their country.
Willard Katsande, for instance, was the captain of the national team at the 2017 AFCON finals, but he didn’t make the 2019 Nations Cup squad because the coaches felt they could do without him.
At the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt, we had a national team, the 23 players that were selected for duty and, during that tournament, ZIFA can decide to disband the side — if they so wish — and that makes sense.
However, without any players having been called into camp, without any technical team having been confirmed as the ones who will call the players they want into camp, there is no way we can say we have disbanded our national team because it isn’t there at all.
It only becomes an entity when the players have been called into camp and there is no guarantee that the incoming coach will decide on this and that player, he can decide to chart a new way forward, and ignore everyone who was at the AFCON finals and go with completely new faces.
Dynamos can disband their team today simply because it consists of the players they registered for this season, but the national team is different because its composition is a mystery until the coach in charge makes his decision that this and that player should come for national duty.
Maybe, ZIFA wanted to say we have blacklisted some players from being called into the Warriors and that makes sense if they believe such characters are toxic figures, but they shouldn’t have suggested they had disbanded the national team because, in proper English, that doesn’t mean anything.
English is a unique language because the word “LEFT’’ can either mean remaining or departing like — “If the players have withdrawn from the field, how many fans have been LEFT there?’’ and alternatively, “the players have LEFT the field and what is only LEFT are the fans.’’
Like when you SEED the lawn, you are actually adding SEEDS, but when you SEED a tomato you are actually removing the SEEDS, and WEATHER can mean that you came through the storm, but the same word can also mean something very different when you say “the roach appeared WEATHERED,’’ because, now, it talks about being worn off.
If you turn OFF something, you have deactivated it, but the same word, used in an alarm that went OFF, means that it activated a warning. Maybe I’m not making sense, but that’s the way it is, hopefully someone won’t say I’m a “Rebel Without A Cause.’’
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole Ole!
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