The Herald (Harare)

6 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Soccer's Unsung Heroes

It is a typical Sunday afternoon in Harare and all roads lead to the popular Rufaro Stadium in Mbare where the country's biggest derby is taking place. The stadium is already filled to the brims yet divided between a green and white pack and a blue and white half.

It is one of the Dynamos and CAPS United blockbuster clashes and the atmosphere is electric.

Vuvuzelas are braying from either side of the stadium to incite sentiment as old skirmishes are set to be rekindled. Pride is at stake for both teams.

Amid the mawkish jeers from the seething rival terraces, there is a band of seemingly; clownish individuals who are seen tearing about the lower rim of the stadium.

They are wearing colours that show their allegiance to one of the clubs in action. Welcome to the world of cheer leaders.

They run, sing and dance throughout the match and appear unmoved by results and developments on the pitch.

Theirs is the job of cranking and igniting the stands with the most needful morale that in turn encourages players to keep the fight.

These are the people who seem to have lost parts of their lives to the whims of the game and at face value appear to have also parted with morality.

They are, sometimes, regarded as clowns and drunkards who are always see-sawing the base of the stadium like untamed wild animals.

Truth forbid!

They are not clowns at all, not even drunkards but these are indispensable individuals whose absence means a lot for both clubs in action.

Coaches, players and even club owners have come and gone but cheerleaders have tarried with their clubs, faithfully as the needle is to the north and are the teams' fortitudes even in the most tempestuous moments.

They have wiped tears while their clubs tumbled at crucial competitions, they have come from a long and winding way, in sooth, they deserve to be called heroes par excellence.

These heroes remain in the trenches and have never experienced a single ray of glory that comes with lifting up trophies.

Their skin has never experienced the soothing feel of champagne sprinkles because at such celebrating moments, focus is on coaches and players.

"I agree there is need to recognise and acknowledge the important role played by cheerleaders and one way would be to include a category for supporters in the annual awards of sports clubs.

"I am sure sponsors would also be interested in associating themselves with awards like cheerleader of the month culminating in cheerleader of the year", said Robert Mutsauki, former Zimbabwe Olympic Committee president.

Mutsauki, who is now based in Abuja, Nigeria where he is working as the Techinical Director at Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, also said: "I believe that cheerleaders add entertainment value to a sports event and they also motivate the team by providing the much needed moral support even if things are not going according to plan.

"Indeed, when play on the field is balanced strong support on the terraces can sway things and ensure success or at least keeping the team in the game. Cheerleaders have over the years become an integral part of the game as they have helped to popularise and promote sport in their own unique way."

The Herald spoke to Supa "Zisupa" Mushonga, who is an unquestionable CAPS United cheerleader, and learnt that he actually venerates his job.

"We are not clowns as people may want to think but voluntary professionals who do it because of passion and nothing else. Some of us go to self-sponsored trips to as far as South Africa to rally our team.

"But the tragedy is that even club owners don't realise our importance and sometimes we doubt whether they have the club at heart or are simply there to make money. We sing, dance and motivate the team to victories but when they celebrate they do so in our absence. We may view this as unfair but we don't care because we are there for the love of the game not to make money.

"If I was doing this for money then I would have switched to other clubs because only this season I was approached by one of the richest clubs in the country and they offered me a hefty salary and a house. I would have signed a five-year contract but I turned down the offer because I am with my club," he said.

This is a chronicle of heroes and heroines whose lives and contributions have not seen the door of the hall of fame; it's a tale of the unsung gallants.

Heroes and heroines are not made the day red carpets are rolled for them to walk towards the podium and deliver their most charming and heart-warming speeches amid standing ovations. They are made the very moment they dare the unusual and make steps into the fighting trenches when almost everyone shudders.

In football, heroes are perceived to be players who defy odds and win when all hope is shattered, those who score crucial goals when it matters most or defend goals to the last drop of their sweat and bag victory.

To be crowned champions is such an important occasion that can be equalled to walking on the red carpet to the podium for that heroic speech and in the case of a football team on the ramp.

Praises cascade on outstanding players throughout the campaign but amid the delirium there is group of heroes that are kept outside the radar.

Cheerleaders usually watch the coronation of their teams from the bays just like any other person who has not been close to the battle.

Despite their sacrifices, cheerleaders will never walk on the red carpet but their contribution and love for clubs will remain immortal for eternity.

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