Home » Sports » No One Cares Anymore, and the Tragedy About All This, Cde Minister, Is That It Has Become Very Acceptable [column]

If we are to take a leaf from the Germans, Cde Minister, and build our football house from the bottom, we will need far much more than you going to the Maracana, watching Loew and his men triumph, and returning home with a template of how we can move forward.

THE 2014 World Cup, widely celebrated as the finest global football festival ever staged, is over, but the game hasn’t closed shop and, just in case you had forgotten, the first second round of the preliminaries for the 2015 Nations Cup get underway this weekend.

The curtain came down at the Maracana and, just like in 1950 when Brazil had last hosted the World Cup, there was no fairy-tale ending for the hosts who collapsed, at the very end, and leaked 10 goals in their final two matches, turning what had started as a promising campaign into a national disaster.

Lionel Messi came short in his search for immortality, which could have been delivered by a successful World Cup in Brazil, and not even the stupidity, which bordered on criminality, to comfort him with a Player of the Tournament award he didn’t deserve, could disguise the fact that he didn’t scale the heights touched by Diego Maradona in Mexico in 1986.

James Rodriguez played just five games but won the Golden Boot with six goals, the fresh-faced Colombian playmaker headlining a cast of young, and talented, players whose magic illuminated a World Cup whose decisive moment, in the final, came from the boot of a 22-year-old German forward, Mario Gotze.

Ahmed Musa, a 21-year-old Nigerian forward, scored twice against an Argentine side that had the meanest defence at the World Cup, in one of the stand-out individual performances by African players in Brazil, in a game the Super Eagles lost 2-3.

The Germans had the best team, at this World Cup, and fittingly reaped huge rewards for the investment they have pumped into their football, over a period of more than a decade, to create a national team that will represent this proud nation with the honour expected of such a sporting ambassadorial role.

Sports Minister, Andrew Langa, who watched the final of the World Cup, came back home preaching the gospel that we have a lot that we can learn from the manual used by the Germans to not only create a team that would conquer the world but thriving structures back home rolling out the next generation of football stars.

It’s easier said than done.

The German rise back to the top of the world, which started with a national policy shift after the disaster of Euro 2000 when they crashed out in the group stages, was bankrolled to the tune of more than US$1 billion, which was sunk into the youth programmes, academies run by professional teams and training centres supervised by the national Football Federation.

Of course, we don’t have US$1 billion to pump into football but, again, our requirements are not at the same scale as the Germans and it’s very clear that a country like ours, with just 13-or-so million people, will need far less in terms of the financial outlay that is needed to revive our junior structures.

But do we have the national will to do that when the Copa Coca-Cola Cup, the flagship tournament of our schools’ football calendar, is still treated as a second-rate tourney that can only get space in the newspapers when we have run out of negative stuff, which we love so much, to fill the newspaper spaces?

Do we have the national will to do that when the coaches who have been toiling all year, to assemble their teams for this flagship tourney, are ignored by a media that believes it can only be news if it’s something that comes from zifa officials, even though the bulk of the stuff will be public relations material fit for an aertisement?

Do we have the national will to do that when the thousands of boys who have been preparing for this big tournament have largely been ignored by a media that remains fascinated by the politicians at 53 Livingstone Avenue that even on the occasions that they board a plane our journalists feel it’s something that has immense news value and has to be published?

Do we have the national will to do that when, even in the week leading to this big tournament, the voices that are being given prominence, in our sports pages, are those of supporters, including hired guns who are there to serve a certain agenda, be they the so-called Friends of the Warriors or the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association?

Do we have the national will to do that when, in the countdown to this big tournament for the best of our teenage football talents, we haven’t had any voices from zifa, throwing their weight behind this tourney, behind these boys, behind these sponsors who are doing all these wonders, in a tough operating environment, just to keep our football alive?

Visit the South African Rugby Union website today and you will read lots of stories, and see lots of images, from the Coca-Cola Under-18 Craven Week, providing confirmation, in case you needed it, that the rugby mother body is fully behind this tournament which has been the breeding hub for those who later turned into iconic Springboks.

And this bond is not only visible online, you see it on the fields where this tournament is being played and we saw Springbok stand-in skipper, Victor Matfield, gracing the tourney this week and even presenting a Springbok jersey to Zimbabwe Under-18 skipper Stephen Bhasera.

And, to imagine that this is the same Copa Coca-Cola tournament that gave us our greatest football hero, Peter Ndlovu, the platform to start a career that would take him to the grand heights of the English Premiership and also take us to two Nations Cup finals, you get a good idea of how much we have veered away from the values that helped us create a side as competitive as the Dream Team 20 years ago.

No one cares anymore, and the tragedy about it is that it has become very acceptable, you will even have people coming out with all guns blazing that it’s normal that no one cares anymore, it’s normal that we not providing the leadership anymore, no one should be asking questions anymore.

If you ask questions, then you are an enemy of football, the whole public relations machinery, including those who now write under pseudonyms, probably clearly embarrassed by what they are trying to defend, will be activated and unleashed upon you simply because you have chosen to use the word why which, in our new football regime, has seemingly been outlawed.

The same guys who yesterday were criticising people, for not asking questions during a period between 2007 and 2010 they say represents the Dark Ages of our football, suddenly now don’t want anyone to ask questions and simply doing so will be an insult, or an attack, to their Masters, the big men who pick up the bills in a secretive trade for either their silence or their blind loyalty. Whoever, among the Shona philosophers, who came up with the phrase, dindingwe rinonaka richakweva rimwe, kana iro rokwehwa roti mavara angu azara ivhu, was a true genius.

WE NEED A MINDSET SHIFT CDE MINISTER

If we are to take a leaf from the Germans, Cde Minister, and build our football house from the bottom, we will need far much more than you going to the Maracana, watching Loew and his men triumph, and returning home with a template of how we can move forward.

It will require an acknowledgement that what we have been doing, in the last four years, is wrong and by coming out of our denial mode we can embrace our shortcomings and, crucially, we can use those mistakes as a reference point, as we move forward, to ensure that we don’t get it wrong again.

It will require a restoration of our football, as a sport for the masses, owned by the masses, run by a few on behalf of the masses whose interests, all the time, should supersede the narrow interests of those in leadership positions, which would represent a huge shift from the current scenario, where this national game appears to have been privatised, serving only the interests of a few people in privileged positions.

It will require a massive climbdown, from our football leaders, for them to start conceding that the project they are leading is for the people, and should always serve the interests of those masses, not just a group of people who call themselves their Friends and, as and when the set goals are not achieved, the people should be free to ask questions and get answers.

It will require Cuthbert Dube to be freed from bondage, by those who have taken aantage of their positions to erect a wall around him and keep him away from his true constituency that needs his leadership, with most of them there to feed him a daily dosage of conspiracy theories there is a shadowy force out there that wants his head.

It will require the conversion of Cuthbert Dube, from being a president accessible to just a few people who tell him, most of the time, that everyone else is plotting his downfall, into a president for the people, who meets his constituency, hears their concerns and provides the answers as and when he can do that.

It will require the zifa board to start functioning as people who were elected to serve football, and not people who were elected to serve certain interests, and one would have expected that by now, four months after they came into office, we would have started seeing something different from what was happening before March 29.

You see, Cde Minister, there is no point for our football leaders to remain trapped in the past, seeing these people as enemies and these people as friends, always prioritising fights that have taken us nowhere, dividing instead of uniting the fans and, finally, behaving like national leaders and not leaders of a faction.

What happened to the motto that united we are ger while divided we are weaker as a unit? If you want us to take a leaf from the Germans it has to start by what we prioritise and if we were a country that had the national will, the starting point for our new football leadership would have been to look for money to pump into our dormant junior football structures and not to request US$500 000 from Fifa to buy a house in Alex Park, which will be converted into their new offices.

Yes, they need a decent place from where to operate but is that our priority right now, as a nation, that we have a good-looking office for our football association, thanks to Fifa’s investment, when our junior football structures are dying because no one is putting money there and no one, it appears, cares about what is happening there?

What use would be a state-of-the-art zifa office, complete with air conditioners, maybe a sauna room and a swimming pool, when our junior football structures are collapsing, and no one is doing anything about it, no one cares about it and, if you happen to make the mistake of asking questions, you will be branded anti-football?

And, Cde Minister, why should we invest millions of dollars into hosting the Region V Youth Games when our national football association is badly under-funded, when no one appears ready to come on board to help the financially-troubled Zimbabwe Rugby Union help their Sables qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when we can’t put a dollar into our junior structures?

We have a long way to go, Cde Minister, if we want to do it like the Germans because we will need massive Government investment into the game, to revive the junior structures, we need a united effort, with the football family pulling in one direction, we need to look ahead and all the challenges that the future presents rather than sticking with the past and all the demons that it has.

We need to feel pain, when Tanzania go onto the field this weekend to play Mozambique, because it provides a painful reminder of what we are missing, the opportunity we messed up, rather than pretend as if it didn’t matter that we lost and it doesn’t matter that we will not be in Morocco next year.

DERBY SHOWS THAT THERE IS LIFE, AFTER ALL

Amid the gloom that has stalked domestic football, of late, it was refreshing, wasn’t it, to see a Harare Derby that finally delivered a game full of life, which provided some justification for all the hype that preceded it, a lively contest between two sets of players who, at long last, appeared to understand that this was no ordinary encounter.

There was a feisty edge to this showdown, just like was the case in the good old times when the Derby used to deliver a package that would bring thousands of people to the stadium, there was drama in this contest, there was fighting spirit, from CAPS United who refused to throw in the towel, and there were some good goals.

Of course, negatives remain and one wonders how Pervington Zimunya missed that chance, with an open goal in front of him, as his glanced header somehow missed the target from close range while Rodreck Mutuma, for a player of his experience, that last-gasp free header should have, at least, hit the target rather than fly high and wide.

It would never have been a Derby without incidents and referee Darlington Shonhiwa, thrust into the spotlight in his first high-profile match, found himself in the eye of a storm as Dynamos questioned some of his big calls and Murape Murape accused him of abusing him with foul language.

Dynamos, to their credit, have found the wisdom, after a week of heated emotions, to close this chapter, withdraw the police case filed by their players and apologise to Shonhiwa.

There are two Derbies, set to be played tomorrow and next Sunday, and the last thing that domestic football needs is focus to be on the referees and not the players and the quality that will be on display in the next 180 minutes, whether it matches the excitement of the first game or, better still, we can even see better matches.

Bothwell Mahlengwe, our columnist whose article comes out every Friday, yesterday questioned Murape’s decision to rush and report his alleged abuse to the police and, crucially, he said such incidents, of referees losing their cool and abandoning the language of diplomacy that should always guide them, were common in high-profile matches.

Where I differ with Bothwell is that referees, who are quick to send off players when the footballers use foul language, at times not even directed to the referee but either to teammates or their opponents, shouldn’t be reprimanded when they also use such foul language.

To suggest, as Bothwell did, that it’s difficult for Murape to prove that the referee, indeed, abused him, using foul language, and therefore it’s pointless to pursue this case is unfair because, really, has any referee ever proved that he was abused, through the use of foul language, when he sent off a player?

Referees are part of the game and, more than the players, they are expected to lead by example because they are the ones who are in control, the ones who interpret the rules and the ones who make a decision that one has erred and, therefore, must be punished.

More than the players, the referees carry a bigger moral responsibility to always behave in an exemplary manner and, when they lower themselves to the indignity of using foul language, assuming that was the case with Shonhiwa in that Derby, there is reason for them to face the music and a number of brave people, including journalists, should fight for that.

Of course, Bothwell, Murape might not be a saint but that doesn’t mean he has no right to raise the red flag, as and when he feels someone might have erred.

If our football accepts that the Rhinos Queens players can be arrested by the police, for kicking a referee in what was a shameful and barbaric attack, then we should also be prepared to accept that an insult, whether physical or verbal on the pitch, can also be handled by the police.

If we accepted that Rowan Nenzou had to be arrested for kicking a ball boy then we should also be prepared that some issues, which go beyond what is normally expected on a football field, should also be handled by the police.

But then, of course, dindingwe rinonaka richakweva rimwe, kana iro rokwehwa roti mavara angu azara ivhu.

To God Be The Glory!

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

Chicharitoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

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Source : The Herald

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