francis.jpgBy Francis Nyamutsamba

 

Growing up in a football crazy family naturally saw me being exposed to a lot football, especially with me being the child of a former Black Aces Goalkeeper that would later go into coaching before ending up as a football administrator.

 

Among the most memorable encounters I was privelaged to watch live at the stadium was the Dream Teams’ 1-nil victory over Cameroon in a World Cup qualifier at the giant National Sports Stadium in 1993, in an encounter which saw Agent Sawu heading home 10 minutes from time.

While several other exciting duels were to follow, 9 July 2000 will remain the saddest moment. It was a day in which a stampede would see 13 soccer fans perish at the National Sports Stadium in a World Cup Qualifier which saw Zimbabwe locking horns with South Africa.

2003 rates as another significant year which saw Sunday Mhofu Chidzambwa taking the Warriors to historic qualification for the 2004 African Cup of Nations.

2 June 2010 marked an important moment on the Zimbabwean football landscape. This time around it was not through my father’s assistance that I found myself in a packed 60 000-seater stadium, but it was rather through my newly-found profession as a journalist. It was not only a day that I got to watch my personal heroes in action, but rather a historical moment in Zimbabwean football.

It is a day which saw the country’s most supported team – “The Warriors” – rubbing shoulders with Brazil, a team renowned to have perfected the art of a game created by the British. Despite eventually losing 3-nil in an encounter where the scoreline did not rightfully resemble the attacking football displayed by an emerging crop of Warriors comprising the likes of Knowledge Musona, Quincy Antipas, Ovidy Karuru, and Justice Majabvi among others, 2 June 2010 will forever remain a moment to cherish.

It is not Zimbabwe’s football experience that will be the main thrust, but rather a more recent experience at the ceremonial home of Zimbabwean football. After watching in amazement as Ovidy Karuru, Khama Billiart and Knowledge Musona’s natural skill guide the Warriors to a 1-nil lead going to half time a feeling of excitement entrenched Rufaro Stadium.

Unhappiness that had been sparked by the Warriors failure to win in any of their 3 encounters of the Afcon 2012 campaign, suddenly turned into joy and expectation with 45 minutes of the game still to play. It was however a lapse in concentration in the 51st minute that allowed El Hadji Mahamane to draw Mali level.

I was all of a sudden gripped with an emotion of anger, not directed towards the teams’ performance, but rather towards some multitude of people masquerading as fans. It all of a sudden appeared to me that local fans had learnt nothing from past experience. An amazing talent I had supported not on the football field, but rather on the basketball court during my days at Churchill High School suddenly became subject to abuse from his very own countrymen.

Whistles coupled with unsual mumbling seemed to affect Mushekwi’s performance, with an unholy club alliance vividly spilling onto a national cause. For Dynamos fans every unsuccessful touch by Mushekwi served as a platform to lobby for the introduction of one their former sons.

Despite his important role in attracting at least 2 defenders each time he was in possession of the ball coupled with his aerial abilities, the Mamelodi Sundowns forward was subjected to abuse from the sea of supporters at Rufaro Stadium.

It came as no surprise when Norman Mapeza moments later substituted the gigantic forward for Sudanese based striker Edward Duduza Sadomba. Despite every attack failing to yield a killer goal, fortune finally favoured the brave when Knowledge Musona slotted in a winner from the penalty spot with two minutes remaining.

Filled with an ambivalent feeling of joy towards victory and anger towards the role of the fans, it became apparent local fans still had 1 or 2 lesson’s to learn on their role in supporting their favourite football team.