albert.jpgReaching the Promised Land just a pipe dream for Zimbabwean soccer.

     By Albert Mirirayi Chekayi

 

I followed the first ever World Cup on African soil in a paradoxical manner.
It was joy and pain. The joy that the tournament had come closer home, just across the river. But almost every team I decided to back would painfully bow out.

 I started with the Elephants of Cote D’lvoire. Then Didier Drogba and company conspired to produce a lifeless performance against Brazil and I switched to the Black Stars and the Samba Boys.

 Again the end was agony as Brazil disappointed before Ghana went out in maybe the most unfortunate way. Then I decided to back Germany in the semis but again, it was to be tears as La Furia Roja stormed into the finals.

 

Then with no option, I backed the Netherlands and the rest is history. I ended up believing that maybe my support was actually giving a curse to the teams I loved.

In all this pain, something dawned on me. If our own Warriors had been at the World Cup, was I going to go through this hop-skip and jump hell from one team to the other?

Then I realised I was like an orphan. No, an illegitimate child who does not even know his roots.

African, South American, European, goodness me! I was angry. Angry at myself for loving a team called Zimbabwe. Angry at that bunch of pretenders who call themselves Warriors when all they have is fear associated with the prey not the hunter.

Angry at that band of hunters and gatherers occupying 53 Livingstone Avenue who specialise in looting the little resources generated by football in a typical robber style of smash and grab. How they dabble with the country’s emotions by destroying the game that every Zimbabwean loves.

Angry at a bunch of illiterate crooks manning the PSL offices who think managing local soccer is all about exporting brilliant players to that amateur league in South Africa and in the process ship-wrecking players’ careers.

So cross with the so called club owners who have turned our premiership into an academy for laughable leagues such as the Botswana Mascom Premiership, Mozambique, DRC, South Africa and Sudan.   

Back to the World Cup. I followed it with jealous and envy. That South Africa had managed to put up a show to remember. In almost all spheres except the field of play. That wedding ceremony without a bride! But everything else was brilliant.

Despite the hypocrisy of an African World Cup, the truth sank into me. This was South Africa’s World Cup! Not Zimbabwe’s. Not Mozambique’s. Not the continent’s World Cup, o stupid me.

I should have seen this coming. Why did the continent just swallow the bait hook-line and sinker believing the continent was going to benefit? The truth hurts. Zimbabwe rejoiced when South Africa won the bid. Zimbabwe played the foolish friend. Support all the way even hiding the truth of alarming crime rates in South Africa.

The media exercised a sense of self-censorship, all in the name of supporting a neighbour.

When Emzansi built the stadia and some of the facilities, skilled labour was required and professionals were recruited from neighboring countries. But once everything had been finished, talk of xenophobia emerged.

Maybe Thomas Hardy aptly describes that attitude in his book Mayor of Casterbridge, “Blood built it. And wealth lives in it”.

Anger, anger, anger and more anger directed at the neighbours south of the Limpopo. But then, I realised that it was mis-directed anger. What wrong had the South Africans done? They ploughed alone. They planted in tears, alone.

They cultivated alone and when time to reap came, we wanted to reap with them. Is it not true that “vanodyara vachichema, vachakohwa vachifara?” (those who plant in tears will reap in joy?).

Then whom should we be angry with? One needs not look further than home. Afterall muroyi ndewehama.(the one who bewitches you is usually your relative).

Zimbabweans are to blame. Why have we become so used to be losers?

Why have Zimbabweans made the habit of supporting other African teams at major tournaments as if we are from another planet?

For God’s sake Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are just African like us. The Asamoah Gyans and Samuel Etoos of this world do not have some super blood. Neither do they have unique body temperatures besides the 36.6 that we all have.

Zimbabwe has brilliant academics, scientists, writers, and by the way the country now has the highest literacy rate in Africa.

In sport we have played rugby at the highest level, the World Cup, so as cricket, tennis (remember the day the Davies Cup team humbled Australia in Meldrum in 1998) and swimming (oh, yes remember Kirsty Coventry-by the way South Africa left the Beijing Olympics with one medal while Zimbabwe reaped four).

The truth is, Zimbabweans are not just good academics but are good sportspersons as well. So what is wrong with our soccer?

Why have we not progressed?

 I can clearly hear South African gospel artist Derrick Ndzimande in his deep bass voice singing,”The people murmured and they complained, we’ve been here for a long time…We have been here six thousand years. Waiting for the Promised Land. Don’t give up hope the day tomorrow, victory is at hand. Why tarry here let’s cross over, it’s better on the other side.”    

     
Yes, brother Derrick, Zimbabwean soccer has been at the same place for a long-long time. We are now weary. The Promised Land is still very far. Canaan is nowhere in sight.

We look yonder and our eyes are filled with tears. We need success. But we have vultures in control of our soccer.

We have a Chief Executive Officer who does not know what a square pass is. We have a PSL Chairman whose only qualification in soccer administration is buying a big club and transforming it into an academy for the South African League.

We have football authorities who make major decisions like changing the premiership season when in the comfort of their concubines’ bedrooms.

God have mercy on Zimbabwe. Has anyone ever thought that we can bid to host the World Cup Under 17 tournament? Or the African Youth Championships?

By the way how can we do that when we have no Under 17 national team, even an Under 20 or an Under 23? Or even a coach for the senior side?

Who has heeded President Robert Mugabe’s call to learn from sister associations whose teams took part in the World Cup?  Inga kugova nhaka huona dzevamwe. Do these fellows want an angel of God to come and blow the trumpet?

Did anyone at 53 Livingstone Avenue learn any lesson from Ghana? As I write, the Black Stars are now pegged at number 23 in the world while the Warriors are at 110. Isn’t it the same team we beat in the 2006 Afcon Finals in Egypt?

 In my anger I might have courted enemies. Oh, yes, daggers will be out for me. It is true we have a football mafia in Zimbabwe.  But we are tired of being the bridesmaids for ever.

Taneta kurima minda yevamwe (we are tired of ploughing other people’s fields).

Having qualified for the 2004 and 2006 Africa Nations Cup, we had believed time to cross the river Jordan had come.

But alas, just when we thought the Promised Land was near, the sad reality came crushing, we are nowhere near Canaan!