9 May 2012

Zimbabwe: Urgently Stamp Out Violence in Football

Photo: Confederation of African Football
The Zimbabwean Dynamos and Esperance Sportive de Tunis Match.


Dynamos are the biggest and most successful football club this country has ever known -- a giant that dwarfs all others on the domestic scene and supported by millions of Zimbabweans. At its best, it is a football institution that we are all proud of -- capable of competing and beating the best teams on the continent and raising our national flag high. To some Zimbabweans, Dynamos is more than a football club -- it is a way of life -- and loyalty to this mega sporting brand is passed on from one generation to another.

We are all proud of Dynamos because its excellence on the football fields has promoted the good name of our country and in 1998, when they reached the final of the Champions League, they made us all proud.

Some of the greatest football players to emerge in this country have come through the DeMbare fold -- George Shaya, Sunday and Misheck Chidzambwa, Oliver Kateya, Shepherd Murape, Edward Katsvere, David Mandigora, Kenneth Jere, Memory Mucherahowa and Tauya Murewa, to name but a few.

We have enjoyed some of these great characters' finest moments on the football fields that have left lasting images on the conscience of successive generations of football fans.

But we believe Dynamos' privileged position in our football, as a giant supported by millions, comes with a lot of responsibility.

And, sadly, on Sunday, people associated with DeMbare overstepped the line and turned this club from being one that represents greatness, when it comes to football, into one that is an ambassador for lawlessness.

We don't care really about what Dynamos will tell us, but we hold them, especially the leadership of Kenny Mubaiwa and his colleagues, accountable for the violence that erupted in the tunnels of Rufaro Stadium.

When you have a visiting coach being assaulted savagely, the way Hwange gaffer Nation Dube was beaten, ending up in hospital for treatment, then you know there is something that has gone terribly wrong with our football.

And when that attack is spearheaded by bouncers, heavily-muscled individuals who have turned into DeMbare's close security for players, technical staff and officials, we believe it's time that our football takes a big stand against such primitive behaviour.

Predictably, there will be a lot of flimsy excuses from the Dynamos camp, but whatever Nation Dube did that afternoon didn't deserve the beating that he received at the hands of the bouncers.

Coaches are team leaders and when you beat them up, you strike fear into the hearts of the players and it was clear on Sunday that Hwange's team had been intimidated into a shell as they took long to settle down, obviously tormented by what they had endured.

It's sad that Zifa, as the mother body, have been rather quiet on this issue when the life of a coach was endangered at Rufaro and we haven't heard anything from their chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze.

When an association fails to stamp its authority on issues like what happened at Rufaro on Sunday, those who have been questioning whether the current Zifa board has an interest in the future of our football will certainly be vindicated.

The usual fallback position is to say that we haven't heard anything from the PSL management committee, but the fact that this incident received widespread coverage in all media organisations, and that Zifa match commissioner Wilfred Mukuna was there and made a report, should have jolted the guys at 53 Livingstone Avenue into action.

On Sunday it was Nation Dube on the receiving end and, if we say that it's business as usual, tomorrow it will be the players from the visiting team, then the visiting officials, then the journalists, then the Dynamos players on the days they don't play well and, before long, the club's officials.

When you nurture a culture of violence, and resolve every dispute with violence the way the Dynamos marshals acted on Sunday, you breed serious problems because that same punishment will be meted out on a whole lot of other people because it has become an acceptable way of doing business.

In this era, it's unacceptable that the head coach of a visiting team can be assaulted, in such savage fashion, and we ask for swift action from the PSL and Zifa on those who crossed the line and, sadly, Dynamos have to pay a big price for this.

In other countries you lose points for such primitive behaviour, so that a big message is sent across the board, and the football association also effects its punishment by banning the culprits from football stadiums.

The police should also treat this as a serious case because once the culprits are apprehended and given the right punishment, as prescribed by the laws of this country, it will deter others from taking a similar route when confronted with what happened at Rufaro on Sunday.

Nation Dube is a young coach and the way he has been developing, there is nothing that can stop him from one day turning into the coach of the senior national team.

Why then should a man of such immense potential, who has served the game very well since his time as a player when he represented his country, be abused in his own country by a group of people who never kicked a ball in their life?

Dynamos officials should be reminded that everyone is closely following this drama and watching how they will react and they have a responsibility to take real action so that everyone feels safe, once more, to come to Rufaro because, after all, this is just a game.

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