8 February 2014

Zimbabwe: One of the People Who Called Me Expressing Reservations About Bothwell Mahlengwe's Criticism of the Warriors Was Gorowa Himself

In the three weeks that we spent in South Africa, Ian Gorowa helped us to rediscover ourselves, to reach out to a soul that we had long lost along the way, to take a trip back to a past where this emphasis on defence almost took us to the World Cup 20 years ago, with the Dream Team giving away very little to the opposition, and then gave us our maiden ticket to the Nations Cup 10 years ago with Sunday Chidzambwa and his Warriors playing with an impregnable fortress at the back.

IN the early hours of Monday morning, just two days after the gallant Warriors' quest for a medal at the CHAN finals ended in defeat in Cape Town, the biggest show on the American sporting calendar, the Super Bowl, exploded in New Jersey.

Super Bowl XLVIII was a football showdown but a very different game from the football that had captured our imagination at CHAN, and lifted our spirits, but all the same carrying the same famous name and, interestingly, also featuring 11 players on either team.

The clash between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII drew a record 111.5 million television viewers in the United States, dwarfing Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, in which the New York Giants defeated New England Patriots, which lured 111.3 million television viewers in America.

It's not surprising, really, when you consider that American football is the biggest sporting discipline in the United States and, also pays its stars handsomely, with the Green Bay Packers last year giving quarterback Aaron Rodgers a five-year deal worth US$110 million, exactly US$22 million a year, roughly US$550 000 a week.

You don't need to be a fan of American football to watch the Super Bowl, there is more to it than just the game, and if you are one of those fellows like me, who find a lot attraction in just seeing people put up a spectacular show, it's easy to be tempted to remain awake, at those odd hours, waiting for the show to explode.

On Monday morning, still nursing the pain inflicted by watching my Warriors' heroic defensive display, against a Super Eagles side that enjoyed a one-man advantage for long periods, shattered by a sucker punch in the battle for a bronze medal at CHAN, I became one of the millions of off-shore television viewers of Super Bowl XLVIII.

Having been spoilt by a month-long sporting menu of DEFENCE, DEFENCE AND MORE DEFENCE by the Warriors at CHAN, it was inevitable that my support would go to the team whose best weapon was its DEFENCE, the best in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks, and that they were the underdogs, chasing their first Super Bowl Lombardi Trophy, only boosted their appeal to me.

Something else, too, made me support the Seahawks.

They had a black quarterback, Russell Wilson, who was a rookie in the NFL just two years ago, and in a game that has built its legend on white quarterbacks, with the blacks playing the supporting cast roles in the team, it was easy to be seduced by the Seahawks.

Maybe, you still don't understand this Greek and by now you are saying what-the-hell is this man from Chakari trying to tell us?

Okay, let me try again, maybe then I could hear someone, as they say in Facebook language, telling me "zvaku maker sense manje."

Well, until Super Bowl XXII in 1988, when Doug Williams starred in leading the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 destruction of the Broncos, no black quarterback had played in the Super Bowl and, on Monday morning, Russell Wilson became ONLY the second black quarterback to inspire his team to Super Bowl success.

Then, the Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, in his hour of triumph, said something that cheered my spirits and, alone in that living room, having watched night slowly turn into day, I found every word he uttered having a deeper meaning.


He appeared to be speaking to me, providing a comforting blanket, a reason for me to believe that, despite the depression triggered by a brave Warriors' hunt in South Africa that had, somehow, not yielded even a bronze medal, there were virtues in their defensive solidity that needed to be cherished and, if preserved, could also help us write a success story as big as his Seahawks.

Experts had questioned his leader, Russell Wilson, because he was just 5 foot 11, in a game where the average quarterback is 6 foot 5, and I couldn't help but also think about how our experts had questioned Ian Gorowa's leader at CHAN, Partson Jaure, because he was just 5 foot seven, saying his lack of height would be badly exposed in central defence.

That the same Jaure didn't only turn into a superb leader of his team, but also made the 2014 CHAN All-Star XI, must have been as satisfying to Gorowa the same way Carroll must have felt, that night at the Super Bowl, when Wilson outshone the Broncos' legendary five-time MVP quarterback, Peyton Manning.

Of course, unlike the Seahawks, our DEFENCE at CHAN didn't win the championship, but it gave us a foundation on which to build a team on, going into the future, it gave us an idea of where our strength lies in football, it gave us knowledge of how we should shape our teams.

In the three weeks that we spent in South Africa, Ian Gorowa helped us to rediscover ourselves, to reach out to a soul that we had long lost along the way, to take a trip back to a past where this emphasis on defence almost took us to the World Cup 20 years ago, with the Dream Team giving away very little to the opposition, and then gave us our maiden ticket to the Nations Cup 10 years ago with Sunday Chidzambwa and his Warriors playing with an impregnable fortress at the back.

Gorowa And Carroll Have Striking Similarities

As I watched Pete Carroll come of age by winning his first Super Bowl title in his coaching career with his Seahawks on Monday morning, I could not help but find some similarities between the Seattle coach and Gorowa who, in just three weeks, gave us a new definition of success in international football tournaments.

Those who had cast doubt on Gorowa's suitability as the right man on whom a whole nation could invest its trust, let alone its hopes, for the revival of its Warriors' brand, had pointed to the fact that he had been fired at modest Super Diski side, Moroka Swallows, had his contract terminated at Ajax Cape Town and his short stint, in charge of Sundowns, could not last into the new season.

If a man could fail at Moroka Swallows, that team eliminated by CAPS United from the Confederation Cup not so long ago, could fail at Ajax Cape Town, that team knocked out by Monomotapa from the Champions League not so long ago, how could that same man be expected to take even a bigger load, leading his nation, and turn himself into a success?

Vana Doubting Thomas, as you can clearly see, havana kuperera mu Bible.

Well, Pete Carroll, who masterminded the Seahawks' maiden Super Bowl triumph on Monday morning, was fired after one season with the New York Jets and after just three seasons with the New England Patriots and had to retreat to college football, where he spent nine years recharging his batteries, only to bounce back at Seattle and win the biggest trophy in the game.

Interestingly, Carroll, just like Gorowa, believed in his high-energy coaching programme and, crucially, both share the common denominator of motivating a number of players, who have been overlooked in the past, and inspiring them to scale heights that they never believed they could touch as they paraded their true potential.

Before Gorowa arrived, George Chigova was being ignored by the Warriors' coaches, despite his impressive statistics at home, but Ian saw the flaw in the judgment that was being made to sideline a 'keeper who not only had the imposing built but also complemented it well with his agility and general good reading of the game, with his only weakness being his poor service which, thanks to his youthfulness, could be taught and improved with time.

Six months ago Chigova wasn't number one, not number two and not even number three in the pecking order of 'keepers, who were still on the domestic scene, and was left out by Dieter Klaus Pagels when the Warriors went to Zambia to defend their Cosafa Cup crown in July with the German mentor putting his trust in Maxwell Nyamupangedengu, Munya Diya and Tafadzwa Dube.

For a coach to pluck a 'keeper from such obscurity and entrust him with the number one position, suddenly give him that confidence that he was the best of the available talent, provide him with the mental strength to believe that he can not only guard that goal but do it very well that at his first major tournament he emerges as one of the two best 'keepers, is the mark of good leadership by Gorowa.

But Gorowa's biggest success story at CHAN wasn't the towering frame of Chigova, a man who could monopolise the number one position in the Warriors for the next decade if he can keep his focus on improving his natural talent, or finding leadership qualities in Jaure, who had been tossed away as an outcast just a month before the tournament for the part he played in the chaos at Barbourfields.

Or finding out that Eric Chipeta, with his mobility, was a better option in central defence than Felix Chindungwe.

His biggest success was playing Danny "Deco" Phiri as the shield in front of his back four, and this diminutive dynamo emerged as the best performing Warrior at CHAN, putting in shift after shift of a defensive midfield master-class and he was so dominant he reminded Lawrence Moyo of the immortal Benjamin Nkonjera, and to be just compared with the great Makanaky, is a huge vote of confidence in this man's talents.

When you consider that Deco wasn't even part of the Warriors who went to Zambia for the Cosafa Cup tournament, Gorowa's eye for competent playing personnel can clearly be seen and, more importantly, like Pete Carroll, his quality of motivating a number of players, who have been overlooked in the past, and inspiring them to scale heights that they never believe they could touch, becomes very pronounced.

"THE PEOPLE WHO SAY DEFENCE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS CAN GLOAT FOR A LITTLE WHILE BECAUSE IT SURE DID TONIGHT," Carroll told us on Monday morning as Seattle celebrated winning the Super Bowl.

Of course, Gorowa and his defence didn't win the championship, so they can't gloat for a little while, because it surely didn't win them the CHAN title in South Africa.

But it gave them a starting point, a strong foundation to build their house, it gave them the first step, in a journey of a thousand miles, they know that as long as they can stop the opponents from scoring they won't lose games and, in five out of six matches at the CHAN finals, they didn't lose matches, and even on the occasion they lost, it was a very late goal, when they had played virtually the entire match one man down.

The challenge now is to sort out the other departments, so that the team can develop from being one that can't lose matches into one that usually wins its matches, and the good thing for Gorowa is that he is well served, in foreign bases, in areas where his Warriors struggled and that troublesome right side of midfield is a position for Khama Billiat, Musona can get us the goals that we lacked in Mzansi and keep a very close eye on Matthew Rusike.

Why It's Important To Hear Both Sides Of The Story

I have received a lot of criticism, some it quite severe, from people who questioned our decision to run an analytical piece by former Sporting Lions' footballer, Bothwell Mahlengwe, in which he said Gorowa's shortcomings were cruelly exposed at the CHAN tournament and, rather than having everyone jumping onto the bandwagon of praising the coach, we should also look at where he fell short.

One of the people who called me, expressing their reservations, was the coach himself with Gorowa saying he felt The Herald, as the leading national newspaper in the country, should have a responsibility of leading by example and publishing articles, where analysts like Mahlengwe were "abusing" their freedom to criticise by hitting him below the belt, wasn't certainly a demonstration of leadership.

I have enjoyed a good working relationship with Gorowa, something that we both respect, and I understand the disappointment that might have been generated by Mahlengwe's article not only to Dibango but to the scores of readers who got in touch with me, via the usual handles, to express their disappointment.

But, as much as I understood their collective disappointment, I told them that while I might not agree with some of the things that Mahlengwe wrote, I would be the first to put my head on the line for the analyst's rights for his thoughts, no matter how scathing the criticism that came with every word that his little pen vomited, to be heard.

The more that we all start seeing things one dimensional, especially in a campaign where we didn't bring the trophy home, the more that we will be entering dangerous territory because we will be lying to ourselves today if we were to say that our CHAN campaign was perfect, because we know that it wasn't, and the more that people talk about our weaknesses, even in our moment of triumph, the better chances we have of fixing them.

Even the Libyans, who took the CHAN trophy home, will conduct a post-mortem and they will see that their defence was fine, just like ours, but they will see that their midfield was not as creative as it should have been and their strikeforce, in the last three knock-out games, was found wanting.

Now, if the champions can acknowledge that they were not a perfect machine, what about the team that came fourth, which tried to convert an out-and-out striker like Daniel Ngoma into a right-sided midfielder, when his ball control is limited, his dribbling skills, as noted by Mahlengwe, non-existent and his vision, to find that pass or supply that cross, clearly questionable?

The more that we acknowledge our weaknesses, the better chances we have of working on them to convert them into our strength and while others have been saying that Mahlengwe went overboard with his criticism, of a team and a coach who travelled the longest distance in any of our continental campaigns, I think the bottom line is that some of the issues that he raised are very valid and rather than dismiss him we should embrace his points.

Gorowa and his Warriors were a success story at CHAN, something that even Mahlengwe acknowledges, but their success should not be the end of the journey, something that he puts a lot of emphasis on in his analysis, but the beginning of a new era for the team where we will never accept mediocrity, a quarter-final place at the Nations Cup, as a measure of success.

That's why we expect more from Dynamos in this Champions League because they have the 'keeper, the defensive stalwart and they hired some key men upfront, the expectation is for the Glamour Boys not to settle for just making the group stages but, like the Warriors at CHAN, competing bravely for the silverware.

For us to make that giant leap forward, converting ourselves from a team that came fourth at CHAN into one that can come first at the Nations Cup, we have to discuss openly the areas that need attention and Mahlengwe might have been severe in his language but he raised points that, when we really think about it, many of us were raising even when our team was progressing.

His analysis of the Libya game, which we should have won comfortably because the anti-football Mediterranean Knights were too frightened to face us that day they remained at their hotel only to pop up during the penalty shootout, had Gorowa abandoned his safety-first approach of using a sole striker, once he realised the opposition wasn't there for the fight, was spot-on.

Someone, who says he has been a fan of my writings for more than a decade, told me he had been so disappointed by the fact that I had given Mahlengwe access to use the newspaper to criticise the coach and his players, he had broken that special link that bonded us all this time and I needed to know that I had lost one good fan and reader.

It's a tough job, isn't it, but that's the way the world is and I told him I still stood by my decision to publish Mahlengwe's analysis even if it meant losing one fan or reader.

Ranga Mberi's Letter To Sportswriters

Dear Sports writers,

Enough already with this "Zimbabwe's representatives in the Champions League" drivel. When Dynamos play in the CL, they represent DeMbare fans, and DeMbare fans alone.

What, you expect Liverpool fans to support Man Utd in the Champions League now? Dortmund fans to root for Bayern against Arsenal? Honestly, chaps, it's silly. Stop.

I thank you.

I leave it in your hands to decide whether Mr Mberi is right or wrong.

To God Be The Glory!

Come on DeMbare, Come on Chikurupati!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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