By Albert Chekayi.
I write this letter to you my beloved. Your relationship with me has always been stormy. Probably likened to that of Prophet Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer. I have loved you since I was six. Now I am an adult. From my youth till now, betrayal from you has been my yearly bread. On my side, I have remained faithful. I know, like in any relationship, you might not really understand me. I have also tried to understand you.The gold, green and white jersey has been almost my religion for the thirty plus years. Since you were an infant. Yes, from those times when you humbled Zambia 2-1 at Rufaro Stadium to mark our independence. Do I hear Jonah Moyo singing â€œNyika nebhora zuva rimwe here mudiwa?â€ in a remix of Gremma Wepamwoyo?
On that day David Mandigora and Shacky Tauro (may his soul rest in peace) got the goals and Mighty Zambia fell. The great Peter Kaumba was so livid after losing and his famous rant â€œEven a pilot in a jumbo jet could have seen that Tauro was offsideâ€ has become a historical quotation. You had just beaten a team who had nearly become African Champions only six years before (1974).
Was that flattering to deceive? For that potential was never realised. I considered that as betrayal. For worshipping the ground which Japhet Mparutsa stepped on. For thinking Moses Chunga was half human and half-deity. For believing Peter Ndlovu did possess a soccer DNA. Betrayal is all I got. Betrayal! I know the commitment shown by Bruce Grobbelaar. I appreciate Vitalis Takawiraâ€™s efforts. I will never forget your patriotism John Phiri in your seventeen years doing duty. But what do I boast about to my noisy neighbour South of the Limpopo? What do Ii tell my respectable neighbour north of the Zambezi? I donâ€™t know. I am humiliated. For I am now sandwiched by success stories. South Africa in 1996 and Zambia 2012.
I have endured pain. Do you recall what you did to me in 1991? When I was so full of expectation that a win over Congo followed by another against Malawi will be enough to take us to Senegal? Then you betrayed me. I donâ€™t want to remember how John Sibanda spilled a harmless header to concede an equaliser, deep into injury time. Armando Ferreira and Ben Kouffie were sacrificed. Maybe they were wrong, may be they were not, but what have you done to vindicate yourself?
For two years later you did that again. With ten minutes to go to full time leading Zambia 1-nil. Yes, ten minutes to go to Tunisia, you again decided to disappoint me. You allowed Kalusha Bwalya a free header in the box. And he gladly seized the chance and beat the Jungleman. At 1-1, we failed to go to Tunisia. Chipolopolo went and almost conquered Africa, had it not been for the brilliance of Emmanuel Amunike who cancelled Elijah Litanaâ€™s opener. That was a strong Super Eagles, lest you forget, with the likes of Rashid Yekini, Daniel Amokachi and Sunday Oliseh. But who remembered Zimbabwe who had even held the great Zambian squad which later perished off the coast of Gabon in a plane crush?
Remember, you went there Warrior into the Lionâ€™s den and held that team to a nil-all draw in Lusaka. That same team went on to thrash Mauritius and a few days later, disaster struck. But who remembers you were the last opponent to frustrate that side? Yes, history forgets light successes. History is cruel, but you help the bad side of history O, warrior.
What did you do after? You never learn indeed, hey. Came the campaign for AFCON 1996 which was to be hosted by South Africa. And you started very well by pumping five past Lesotho with no reply. You beat Cameroon 4-1 and followed that up with a 2-1 victory over the then Zaire. Then came the ebola virus in Zaire. You refused to go to Kinshasa, even against CAF advice. The whole first team boycotted. This sad part of our history is almost forgotten. But I always remember it. For I have not recovered from its effects. For we sent a makeshift side which had not even trained. And they were convincingly beaten 5-nil.
Of course Lesotho also refused to travel and were subsequently expelled. So we not only forfeited the six points and seven goals, but suddenly the five goals scored against us in Kinshasa came back to haunt us. And we never went to South Africa. Cameroon went. A team that had lost 2-nil to Lesotho. My heart bled then, and it still bleeds.
Have you leant anything my beloved? I donâ€™t believe so. Let me help you by drawing you away from this region. To a land in West Africa. Do you know a country called Cameroon?
In January this year one of the greatest footballer this continent has ever seen, Cameroonâ€™s Rigobert Song, started a new job as the Indomitable Lionsâ€™ Team Manager. Quietly, the â€˜Big Chiefâ€™ as Song was affectionately known by multitudes of Turkish supporters during his days at Galatasaray, began a new chapter in his football career.
He had been united with his Indomitable Lions which he has loved so much. The team he played for 137 times. The side he captained for 10 years. The country he led to two Nations Cup glory in 2000 and 2002. The nation he represented at four World Cups and eight Nations Cup tournaments. In jubilation after wins and tears of losing especially at the 2008 finals, Song remained a dedicated Lion. He was there on the field of play when Mac Vivian Foe collapsed and died due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare hereditary condition, during a FIFA Confederations Cup match against Colombia. Born on July 1 in 1976, the Big Chief who started his professional playing career in 1993 at Tonnerre YaoundÃ© in his homeland Cameroon made his World Cup debut in the US in 1994.
I remember the Cameroon side of 1993 not in admiration but with frustration. For many including me and you, under Reinhard Fabisch, deserved to go to the World Cup. I donâ€™t care whether that may be a case of sour grapes, but you were better. Who will forget that clear day in 1993? How Vitalis Takawira digitalised the Cameroonian defence on the left wing before sending in a delicious cross which Agent Sawu connected with a well placed header to send the National Sports Stadium into delirium.
Were you there Judas Iscariot? Do you remember the return leg in YaoundÃ© when home team decisions helped Jean Claude Pagal, Francois Oman Biyik and company to win 3-1 and earn a ticket to the US?
But away from the anger of being second best and being deprived to watch you at the World Cup, this is a story about Rigobert Song. A real life blockbuster movie. At 17, he became the youngest player to be sent off at a World Cup in a game against Brazil. Of course, his countryman Rodger Milla saved Song with a better record after he scored a goal against Russia at 42 years to become the oldest player to score at a World Cup. The 24 years and 42 days age gap between Milla (42 years and 35 days) and 17 year old future captain (17 years and 358 days) became the largest between two team mates in World Cup history. That record has not been broken to date.
But the Big Chief was not done yet. Four years later, in France, Song was again sent off in a game against Chile. This set a new record of two dismissals at the World Cup. Again, Song was saved four years later as Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the final against Italy to add to his sending off in 1998, thus sharing the record with the Cameroonian Lion. But who would lose sleep over sharing a bad record with a legend such as Zizou? As for you Judas, have ever been at a World Cup?
But what have you got to do with Cameroon and Rigobert Song? Listen, like Cameroon, Zimbabwean football is on a downward trend. Like Cameroon who have now reached their lowest ranking (66), you got their lowest ever rankings (131) over the past few years and as I write you are number 106. I am ashamed. And it is not looking good for you. For you are deep in the mire dogged by match-fixing scandals.
Since 1982, Cameroon had qualified for successive AFCON finals except in 1994 (Yes that squad which went to the World Cup was not good enough for the Nations Cup!). But in 2012, they missed out. This was a real crisis. A friendly match against Algeria in 2011 had to be called off at short notice after a strike by players. This led to Captain Samuel Eto’o being banned for eight months.
Enter Rigobert Song on January 6, 2012. Song began his job as Cameroon’s team manager by introducing a creed for both players and officials. In his first outing in Guinea-Bissau, he convinced Coach Denis Lavagne and his squad to adhere to an 11-point plan.
1.Â Â Â The Cameroon national team is sacred, serving it is my only goal.
2.Â Â Â The green-red-yellow is sacred, I shall wear it in every stadium, honour and defend it.
3.Â Â Â Playing for my country is an honour, with loyalty, fidelity and courage I shall represent it.
4.Â Â Â Each match and each selection is goodness shared with my people, my public and mates.
5.Â Â Â With my team-mates I shall be strong, with friendship and solidarity my watchword.
6.Â Â Â Respect for elders is a principle, from them I inherit this jersey, illustrious they handed it to me and glorious I will pass it on.
7.Â Â Â I shall communicate with my coaches, comrades and officials, dialogue shall remain my strength.
8.Â Â Â No matter the time and place, player or substitute I shall serve with enthusiasm and professionalism.
9.Â Â Â I shall give my best in the field, I shall be humble and hold my head high.
10.Â Â Â From North to South, East to West, I shall be a model for the youths of Cameroon and Africa.
11.Â Â Â Indomitable I am, indomitable I shall remain!
Song adds “This sermon is a call and bond to the values that have moulded multiple generations of Indomitable Lions, who prompted the hoisting of the national flag and made the country a big football nation.”
He notes, it is also “a reminder of how lucky [players] are to wear the Lions jersey and a responsibility to sustain the legend of the Indomitable Lions.”
All players and officials signed the document on Wednesday the 29th of February in Guinea-Bissau. Cameroon went on to win the match 1-nil thanks to a late strike from Eric Choupo-Moting.
But what has all this got to do with you? O, God, canâ€™t you see Judas Iscariot? How long and how often shall I be with you? Teaching you and MAKING YOU SEE THESE THINGS?
The reason why you are in the doldrums is because you have never understood the importance of that gold-green and white jersey. That is the reason Henrietta Rushwaya and company never bat an eyelid (God help them if they are innocent) in fixing-matches.
That is why Monomotapa had the audacity to masquerade as Warriors in that gold and green jersey in Malaysia only to throw away matches and plunge Zimbabwe deeper in the FIFA rankings. It is this lack of pride in the motherland and the insatiable appetite for money at whatever cost that drove a WHOLE newspaper sports editor to devote an entire Saturday column defending Monomotapaâ€™s fraud in 2009, as unparalleled patriotism. My foot!
If only officials and those who masquerade as supportersâ€™ leaders had known about Rigobert Songâ€™s creed. If only you had known, maybe, the spirit of Judas Iscariot might not have caught up with you. Maybe, we could have qualified to the 2012 Nations Cup.
Definitely we were never going to lose to Burundi. Maybe, we could have been like Zambia…the African Champions. Dreaming? Not at all! The African Champions are the same team we beat 2-nil at Rufaro Stadium in November 2011.
But there is ONE big difference between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is not talent. It is not resources. It is not passion. It is the love for oneâ€™s country. Chipolopolo will rather die on the field of play. The Warriors will sell their soul at every given opportunity.
I am ashamed! Have you ever read â€œA tale of two cities?â€ We are only separated by a river but our fortunes indeed fit into the classical tale of two cities. It was the best of times (Zambia), it was the worst of times (Zimbabwe); it was the age of wisdom (Zambia), it was the age of foolishness (Zimbabwe); it was the season of light (Zambia), it was the season for darkness ( Zimbabwe); it was the spring of hopeÂ (Zambia), it was the winter of despair (Zimbabwe); we had everything before us ( Zambia), we had nothing before us (Zimbabwe); we were all going to heaven (Zambia) and we were all going directly to hell (Zimbabwe).
â€œRespect for elders is a principle, from them I inherit this jersey, illustrious they handed it to me and glorious I will pass it on.â€
Really Rigobert? Yes, for you. You inherited Rodger Millaâ€™s legacy! Antonio Bell, Emmanuel Kunde, Cyril Makanacky, Francois Oman Biyick, Jean Claude Pagal and others. After you, came Samuel Etoo. He has won two AFCON medals, an Olympic gold medal in 2000, three UEFA Champions League with two different clubs, the FIFA World Club Cup and is the Worldâ€™s highest paid player. O, my God! After him, will be Essau Ekotto. The Tottenham Hotspur defender, or your cousin Alexander Song, the Indomitable Lion at Arsenal.
But listen, you Judas Iscariot. What did Mapeza do with the baton he took from Francis Shonhayi? Who inherited Ephraim Chawandaâ€™s legacy? Was it Method Mwanjali? But Chawanda was honest. Who took over from Agent Sawu, Adam Ndlovu, Vitilis Takawira and Peter Ndlovu? Was that Nyasha Mushekwi and company?
Illustrious, the jerseys were handed to them, BUT IN SHAME, they were chucked out of the team, having destroyed a legacy of a generation.
Will Joel Shambo, Stanley Ndunduma, Oliver Kateya and Shacky Tauro not turn in their graves? Does Moses Chunga need to turn back the clock and be nineteen again?
Wherever you are you Judas Iscariots? By the way, are they still allegations? You have not been convicted in any court of law. But I know the truth. I have always known it. Shame to the master minders of the Asiagate scam. Shame unto you! Woe to your Godfather protector who has transformed himself to be Zimbabweâ€™s sport media Mafioso.
But if you are listening. Or if you care to listen. If you have that God-given spirit called conscience (I doubt it though). Then remember a great man called Rigobert Song. Who loved his country and represented it with distinction. Listen you traitors! Take heed you brood of vipers!
To the Gospel according to Rigobert. Above all listen to his sermon on Mt Guinea Bissau. Then you will not perish. Only then can we look at you as real warriors. You have betrayed the motherland. Zimbabweâ€™s glory is slain on Mount Nyanga. The blood flows down the Limpopo. Polluting those in Mzansi. Who have also caught up with your iniquity Judas?Â I am harsh with you because you betrayed my love. I cannot promise that I will forgive. Yes to forgive is divine. I wish I can do so. I am only human. Bless you Knowledge Musona and those innocent ones tainted by associating with the traitors.
If you hate Cameroon, then just look across the Zambezi. Are you not ashamed of yourself? Warrior I am, Warrior I shall be! Does that make any sense to you? If not, ask the Big Chief, Rigobert Song.
I am almost apologetic; I still have strong feelings for you. Maybe I never learn. But I have no other country. For all the pain you have caused me and my fellow countrymen, may the Lord forgive you. Then promise me, Judas Iscariot, that you will start afresh.
Those I love I rebuke (ndinotuka nekuraira).
The opinions expressed in this article are the authorâ€™s and do not necessarily represent those of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.