Home » Sports » When Ego Rides Over Patriotism

In June 2001, Benjani Mwaruwari and Gilbert Mushangazhike chose to forego a glittering awards ceremony in Johannesburg where they were due to receive prestigious accolades.

Then with Jomo Cosmos, Benjani was to be crowned South Africa’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season while Manning Rangers’ Mushangazhike was up for the Golden Boot gong. And they were awarded in absentia.

Most striking was that the duo chose not to attend the banquet but spent the Sunday afternoon of June 17 in the searing heat of Kinshasa where the Warriors were tussling against DRC in a decisive Afcon qualifier.

Benjani and Mushangazhike saw their presence more valuable at the Stade des Martyrs where Zimbabwe was just a point away from qualifying for Mali 2002 although they lost 2-1 in another agonising near-miss.

They preferred to get bruises from that Battle of Kinshasa and ignored the glitz and glamour at their moment of honour. It was a show of unquestionable patriotism by the two.

A similar situation has emerged 13 years later.

This evening, Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Willard Katsande is up for the South Africa Player of the Season awards and Players’ Player of the Season. Katsande would be elegantly dressed while dining and wining with South Africa’s football royale at the magnificent Sandton Convention Center.

That would be a few hours after some Warriors players would have played Tanzania in a first leg match of the Afcon qualifier first round in Dar es Salaam. By the time Katsande would be crowned – that is if he shrugs off stiff challenge from Sibusiso Vilakazi and Alje Schut – his Warriors teammates would be nursing grass-burns and reeling from fatigue.

Last week, Katsande told Warriors manager Shariff Mussa that he was on the road on his way from Johannesburg to Harare for national team camp. He later performed a mid-air somersault and gave Mussa an impression that he was bed-ridden in Johannesburg with a stomach bug or some fever.

It was a show of unquestionable disloyalty to the national flag. Maybe Katsande thought that this is just a small game against Tanzania which after all, Africa would not be watching.

He might have looked at his ever-growing iconic status and thought of himself as big to participate in only blockbuster matches. Peter Ndlovu used to play two games in three days.

One game would be a League One match for Sheffield United on a Friday and the other would be a Cosafa game for Zimbabwe on a Sunday. A Cosafa game for the Flying Elephant, imagine!

On Friday, Cuthbert Malajila was supposed to attend a parade of the Absa trophy that Mamelodi Sundowns won and was also supposed to be at tonight’s banquet but he opted for the Warriors.

The World’s best player Cristiano Ronaldo would never snub Portugal if they are lined up to play European football whipping boys Andorra, Azerbaijan of Lithuania for a dead rubber Euro qualifier.

Cristiano puts Portugal’s flag at his heart and knows such a game is his opportunity to break European scoring records.

Lionel Messi would never turn his back on Argentina when they play South American minnows Panama or Guyana because it is a chance for him to rewrite history books.

Then one wonders how Katsande would conduct himself towards national duty if he manages to go and play in Europe.

Zimbabwe is trying to find its soul in African football and Katsande’s unpatriotic behaviour is a clear sign that he cannot be part of that project.

l For views and comments email mmadyira@standard.co.zw or sms 0772 773 496. You can also find me on Twitter: @migamad55 or on Facebook.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard