Home » Sports » I Had a Whole Army of Critics, This Week, Who Were Bursting With Anger

ON Tuesday, a symbolic international match was played between the British army and their German counterparts in Aldershot, an English town, to mark the 100th anniversary of an iconic friendly football tie that defied the brutality of war.

Through that game, on Christmas Day in 1914, football demonstrated its unique character, enmeshed in its beauty and its popularity, as it brought a Great War to a temporary halt and helped showcase the ultimate triumph of man’s spirit over aersity.

A western front in Belgium, which had known nothing but the horrors of war as World War One raged and consumed those who fought on the opposite ends, briefly turned itself into paradise, as the big guns fell silent and a Christmas Truce between the British and the Germans was observed.

There are many stories that have been told of that special day, when opposing soldiers emerged from their trenches to meet in no-man’s territory, exchange cigarettes, sing songs that would have charmed the spirit of the devil and jointly bury those soldiers who had fallen in the service of their nations.

One event that day captured the incredible power of man’s ability to evoke the very spirit that makes us such a special group of animals, as the opposing armies remembered that, amid all this senseless carnage, those in the opposite trenches were also human beings.

That football game, between the two warring armies on the fields of no-man’s land that day, under the hostility of the conditions of a European winter, has come to represent the ultimate triumph of man’s indomitable spirit over the forces of darkness.

Christmas and football had combined to give a world at war the special, if not enduring, gift of love, knocking down the pillars of enmity which divided these men, fighting this vicious battle on this unforgiving front, and helping them, for that temporary period, to remember the value of humanity and the power of friendship.

And, just how appropriate, the warring soldiers played their football match of the Christmas Truce in Belgium and the unifying force of this game pushed the barbarity of war into the shade, albeit for a short period.

In the countdown to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Associated Press noted that Belgium was a country in the throes of separatism and its national football team, featuring a mixture of white players and a generation of its black immigrant offshoots, was providing a surreal glue that was holding the unity of this nation together.

The New York Times noted that while Thomas Vermaelen, the Belgian defender, would address a select group of his country’s journalists in Flemish, his teammate Axel Witsel would be addressing another group in French.

Vermaelen, the newspaper noted, didn’t speak French and Witsel didn’t speak Flemish, something that was representative of the politics dividing their country, although the newspaper noted that “the team’s potential, not to mention its recent success, is providing a rare example of national unity.”

That has been helped, too, by the team’s leader, Vincent Kompany, who while being the son of a Congolese immigrant, is not the average footballer, given he speaks five languages — including Flemish and French — fluently, has a university degree and is currently studying for a masters’ in business administration. “I’m not half-Belgian and not half-Congolese,” The New York Times quoted Kompany as saying. “I’m 100 percent Belgian and 100 percent Congolese.”

On Thursday, the world will mark 100 years after the Christmas Truce match that, for a priceless moment, pushed the brutality of war into the background and brought the beauty of a game which Pele would, years later, dub the most beautiful game on the globe, to the fore.

When Pele and his All-Star Santos teammates went on a three-day humanitarian tour of Nigeria in 1969, it resulted in a three-day ceasefire in the country’s civil war, an ethnic and political conflict, which played out over three years, and claimed an estimated one million people.

In England on Tuesday, two teams picked from British and German soldiers, battled in a friendly game to mark the 100th anniversary of that friendly football tie played against the background of the biggest war that the world had ever seen and, for a refreshing change on a soccer field, there was a triumph for the British.

CHRISTMAS, FOOTBALL AND THE GAME’S UNIFYING POWER

Season’s greetings Zimbabwe and, given this is the last edition of this blog before Christmas, I have to say Merry Christmas to you all — from the faithful readers, who week in and week out have to deal with the stuff, which some critics refer to as considerable nonsense, to the casual ones.

It’s been quite a long and trying journey, 15 years of running a blog in a national newspaper is no easy task.

A child born when this blog first appeared in this newspaper is either waiting for his O-Level results or enjoying his last holiday before he plunges into the challenges that come with a year that eventually ends with writing that O-Level examination.

I have had some severe critics and, in this age of Facebook and Twitter, the reaction is instant, including some who say that this is a waste of space by a national newspaper but, somehow, are the first to comment on issues raised on this blog week in and week out, suggesting, of course, that for all their reservations, they are devoted readers.

I have also made some all-weather good buddies, like John Mokwetsi, Lazzie Hacha, Nodumo Nyathi and Gondai Mazhuwa, and together we have weathered many a storm, and all the time I have been driven by the motto that “If you don’t want criticism, just quit public work and if you want to be loved then be a music star.”

I had an army of critics, this week, who were angered that I plunged into the debate, post the 2014 Soccer Stars of the Year crowning night, and put up a defence for something that they considered either downright stupid or simply just not right to be defended.

They were angry that I dared question the decision made by the men and women, who sat down to select the Soccer Stars of the Year, as if these guys had suddenly become some sort of latter-day apostles, whose work was the closest thing to the Bible scriptures, and I could hear them say, “You (Red Devil) of little faith.”

At least, and this was quite refreshing, others saw things otherwise.

“I don’t always agree with Robson Sharuko’s positions. It’s natural. But I admire the way he backs up his arguments,” Makomborero Mutimukulu, The Sunday Mail Acting Sports Editor, said on his hyperactive Facebook page.

“Our football needs such debates . . . sadly we have a few individuals who back up their positions with facts or g points. We are quick to label one a Dynamos or CAPS fan without hearing the argument.”

Yesterday, as I sat down to write this blog, it dawned on me that we must be one of the most deeply divided communities in world football, always at each other’s throats, finding refuge and comfort in our small battles, always looking at the small picture when the whole world is now looking at the bigger picture.

I said to myself, if this game was so powerful as to bring two warring armies from their trenches to the football field for a ceremonial match on Christmas Day in 1914, and then back into their trenches to continue the war after the game was over, why is it that it deeply divides us so much?

Why do we find it so romantic, if not satisfying, to say that ASEC Mimosas were the champions of African football, in 1998, and find it so annoying when someone, including those guys privileged to have been in the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan that afternoon, presents the argument that their crowning moment was aided by some dubious means, which crippled Dynamos’ quest for glory in that game?

Why do we find the head-butting of the influential Glamour Boys’ skipper, Memory Mucherahowa, in the pre-match warm-up that afternoon, which ruled him out of his club’s biggest game in history, so acceptable, when it should represent a deplorable act, plucked from the Dark Ages, we should all unite in not only condemning but rejecting it?

Why do we derive a lot of excitement on the occasions news filtered through that CAPS United, one of the iconic brands of our football, have plunged into a financial crisis, and we find joy in mocking their owner, zvanzi vana Twine havana kana mari vaye, and we mock their players, zvanzi life has become hard for Hardlife, and we wish the crisis could even deepen and this institution would just collapse right in front of us?

Why do we find it enjoyable to read that Highlanders are being inundated by a flood of labour-related disputes, with the club’s weak financial position leaving it at the mercy of the players it failed to pay their dues, rather than try to address, as a football community, the issues that keep such an iconic brand of our football poorer than a church mouse and what should be done to ensure that, in the next 10 years or so, Bosso can use its commercial potential to become as rich as Orlando Pirates?

When How Mine returns from a CAF Confederation Cup assignment in Nigeria, crying out that they were robbed, we ignore them, but we find a lot of energy to debate a game between TP Mazembe and Orlando Pirates, finding a lot of sympathy for the Soweto giants, and agreeing that the referees tried to rob them in Lubambashi by giving them those two dubious penalties.

But when Callisto Pasuwa returns from the same DRC, questioning the penalty that helped AS Vita beat his men 1-0, and with that goal get their ticket into the next round and all the way to the final of the CAF Champions League, we are quick to dismiss him as a cry-baby, and cartoon him so much on Facebook, his children will keep away from this social medium for weeks?

Jeff Katala, the Congolese football pundit on SuperSport’s Soccer Africa, this week said that his enduring moment in football this year was AS Vita’s 2014 Champions League final, second leg tie, against Algerian side, ES Setif, “even though we lost that match.”

Katala is not an AS Vita fan but, in that big game, the Kinshasa team was representing his country and it was also representing him.

As I listened to him put his nation’s golden hour in football this year even ahead of iconic moments from the 2014 World Cup finals, and see him identifying himself with AS Vita by using the word “we”, I wondered what the reaction back home would be, for instance, if I had gone on that programme and picked the 1998 Champions League final, as my enduring moment in this game in the past 20 years.

And, just like him, used the words “even though we lost that match.”

It’s those small, but significant, things that make other nations ger, as football nations, and keep us eternally poor, isolated in our little world where all that matters is seeing the small things that divide us rather than embrace the big things that unite under our Zimbabwean flag.

Of course, Katala’s DRC are going to the 2015 Nations Cup finals next month. And, yes, we are not going there.

WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO EVEN DEBATE KEY ISSUES IN OUR GAME

Collin Matiza, my colleague whom I have been working with for the last 22 years, believes Saul Chaminuka did enough to be crowned the 2014 Coach of the Year.

That’s Kodza’s position, and I respect it, the same way he also respects, but doesn’t agree, with my position, that rewarding chokers, at the expense of those who ultimately deliver the ultimate prize, sets a very bad precedent.

It happened last year, with Bigboy Mawiwi being crowned Coach of the Year, even though he didn’t deliver the title and. Just six months after his crowning moment, he had been fired from his job.

Tenant Chilumba won the Coach of the Year award in 2011, at the expense of a coach who overhauled a 12-point gap between his team and the leaders, to somehow inspire his team to the league championship.

Chilumba’s Hwange finished in fifth place in 2011, when the Zambian gaffer was crowned the best coach, eight points behind champions and, the following season, the coalminers finished in 11th place, just two points better than relegated Gunners in 13th place, and 33 points behind the same champions DeMbare.

At the beginning of last year Chilumba moved to FC Platinum and, six months down the line, he had left, to return to his native Zambian.

“Tennant Chilumba was close to being fired by FC Platinum before he jumped ship to join Power Dynamos of Zambia, NewsDay Sport can reveal,” writes Wellington Toni.

“The Platinum hierarchy, after their massive investment in players in the off-season, was allegedly not happy that the team had gone for five matches without a win.”

When Hebert Rusawo of Black Rhinos was named the 2013 Goalkeeper of the Year, when he was not even one of the Soccer Stars of the Year, because the rules said he had the best ratio of goals conceded for every ‘keeper who played a minimum of 15 league matches, we understood.

But if the same rules show that Tendai Hove of ZPC Kariba, who played 24 league games, had a ratio of 0,666 goals per game and Artwell Mukandi, after 24 league goals, had a ratio of 0.5 goals per game, the best in the league, we aren’t supposed to ask questions.

And, even if we add the three goals that Mukandi conceded in the 25th match that he played against Harare City, his ratio remains 0,60 goals per game, and that is still better than 0,66 goals per game for Hove, in the race for the Goalkeeper of the Year, according to the PSL rules.

Mukandi was only beaten more than once, in just one game in 25 league games, when he conceded those three goals against Harare City, and his rival is beaten more than once three times in 24 league games — conceding three goals against Chapungu, three against How Mine and two against the same miners.

Hove concedes 16 goals, in his 24 games, and Mukandi concedes 12 in the same number of games.

Hove doesn’t return from injury, Mukandi returns for one more match and concedes three against City, but still has the best ratio.

Hove has the best player in the league, Dennis Dauda, protecting his goal, and he concedes 16 goals in 24 games but still wins the second best player award while the other ‘keeper, not protected by the best player in the league, concedes 15 goals in 25 games, is not rewarded even though the rules, which gave Rusawo the Goalkeeper of the Year award last year, shows that he deserved it.

And we aren’t supposed to question that, or even debate that, because doing so means that you are part of the Dynamos brigade.

It’s not about us guys but about those players who are being robbed and rules that are being bent to suit certain interests.

No wonder we can’t even count properly the goals in the race for the Golden Boot and we have two winners instead of one, Charles Sibanda, who scored 13.

To God Be The Glory!

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Di Mariaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

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Source : The Herald

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