21 February 2014

Zimbabwe: "Currently, I Am Doing Nothing for a Living, I Have No Money in Person, At the Bank or At Home."

SUNDAY was my birthday and there was a special touch to it this year because, for some of us lucky to have been in Tunisia on February 3, 2004, this month marked the 10th anniversary of that historic maiden win by the Warriors at the Nations Cup finals.

Time flies and it's hard to imagine that a good 10 years have passed since that unforgettable day when the immortal Adam Ndlovu, may his soul rest in eternal peace, and Joel Luphahla scored goals that elevated us to another level.

Adamski is gone, cruelly taken away from us in that horrific crash, but the others, from the Golden Warriors Class of 2004, soldier on.

Energy Murambadoro, Dumisani Mpofu, Esrom Nyandoro, Bekhi Ndlovu, Dazzy Kapenya, Kaitano Tembo, Lazarus Muhoni, Agent Sawu, Wilfred Mugeyi, Charles Yohane, Peter Ndlovu, George Mbwando, Ronald Sibanda, Tapiwa Kapini, Harlington Shereni, Alois Bunjira, Ephraim Mazarura, Tinashe Nengomasha, Joel Luphahla, Dickson Choto and Leo Kurauzvione.

Exactly 10 years ago, Kurauzvione was one of the Golden Warriors, immaculately dressed in a green Zifa jacket, white shirt, matching green tie and a black pair of trousers, who stood as super heroes at the Harare International Airport, soaking in waves of praise songs, as thousands of football fans bade the national team farewell on its maiden adventure to the Nations Cup finals.

It was such a grand event that it was televised live on national television and you didn't need to be at Harare International Airport, to pay homage to those gallant Warriors and, as their plane took off from the runway and eased into the distance, the ZBC television cameras kept following it as far as their lenses could capture.

Then, as the giant plane disappeared into the distance that night, a big message was splashed on the television screen -- GOOD LUCK WARRIORS!

On Thursday, Kurauzvione stood alone in the dock at the Harare Magistrates Court, facing the possibility of going to jail because he had failed to honour the US$200 monthly support payment for his child to his former wife Primrose Muchiriri.



Kurauzvione was slapped with a four-month jail term, wholly suspended on condition that he pays the child support by next month and, at 33 now, with his athletic powers clearly in remission, the midfielder has few prospects of landing a good deal with a local Premiership club.

He had just turned 22 when we arrived in Tunisia 10 years ago, and with Tinashe Nengomasha, represented the future of the Warriors, the freshness that would keep the flame burning when a number of veterans, who were on tour, had inevitably called time on their careers, the youthfulness that brought the assurance that tomorrow was secure.

But, just 10 years down the line, the career of yet another Zimbabwean footballer, who promised so much in his youth with every touch oozing class and justifying the grand expectations invested in his talent, has just gone full circle, with very little to show for his time on our football fields and why, exactly 10 years ago, an entire nation believed in him.

Kurauzvione was no ordinary footballer, for goodness sake he was good enough to force his way, at just 22, into that Golden Warriors team in a midfield that had Gidiza, Nyandoro and Nengomasha and, after the Nations Cup adventure, he had the leadership qualities to be appointed the captain of Dynamos and had a brief stint in Poland.

But, if in just 10 years, Kurauzvione has fallen so dramatically, from being the Prince who carried the hopes of a nation to just a penniless footballer, with no money in his pocket, no money in the bank and no money at home he finds himself facing the grim reality of going to jail because he can't support his child, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions.

Is it that our football stars lack guidance, support from their club officials, PSL officials, Zifa officials, and their player representatives, to make them understand that their career is a shooting star and life in the fast-lane of the football fields, and the glamour of the back pages of the newspapers, doesn't last a lifetime?

Is it that our footballers don't have the proper family units that provide the right guidance that make them understand, and appreciate, that theirs is but a robber industry and, like a mine, its reserves will soon run out and it's always important for them to plan for that rainy day when those legs, battered by injuries and the curse of age, will not deliver on the field and, in just an instant, everything will be gone?

Is it that our footballers haven't heard about Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne, the greatest English football talent of his generation, who lost his way in the fast lane of the fame that followed his excellence, and would go on endless drinking binges with his trusted friend Jimmy Gardner who drank so much alcohol, on a single night, experts said it was enough to fill five stomachs he ended up being called Five Bellies?

Or is it that our football simply doesn't pay, it just dishes out peanuts to its stars, and if people like Kurauzvione, who were lucky enough to be part of our first Nations Cup appearance, can find themselves facing such extremely difficult times -- just 10 years after the nation stood still to wave them goodbye as they left for their historic adventure, what then about those who ended their careers in Division One or those who play for the unfashionable teams that hardly paid a dollar?

Kurauzvione has prominence because he was part of those Golden Warriors and he captained DeMbare and that means his personality attracts publicity but how many other footballers, who don't have a similar big profile, are quietly suffering around the country, with very little to show for all the years spent entertaining us?

How many of them today will, in the event we ask them what they are doing, will respond, like Kurauzvione, that: "CURRENTLY, I AM DOING NOTHING FOR A LIVING, I HAVE NO MONEY IN PERSON, AT THE BANK OR AT HOME?"

I'm quite sure thousands and thousands of them, not only those who spent their entire football careers on the domestic front, but including a lot of players who spent a bigger chunk of their careers playing for foreign clubs, earning huge sums of money, every week, possibly every month, in salaries, bonuses, appearance fees, you name it.

We all don't want to confront this subject because we feel it is taboo, we feel it is wrong because so-and-so will feel we are talking about them and that's not right, so-and-so will feel we are hitting back at them, so-and-so will feel we are mocking them.

We find comfort in pretending as if it's not happening, as if we can't pick lessons for future generations to use so that they don't plunge into the same trap, so that our teenage footballers, when they finally get their professional contracts, don't get stuck in the same web, so that Norman Mapeza, who invested his career earnings in something significant he is guaranteed a decent life becomes a symbol of inspiration rather than a subject that is not an example of how our footballers should manage their lives.

Too Bad They Didn't Remember The Class Of 2014

Bobby Mudorch was the youngest of the Glasgow Celtic team that made history when they became the first British club to win the European Cup, now called the Champions League, in Lisbon in 1967.

Like Kurauzvione when he travelled with the Warriors to Tunisia, Bobby was just 22 when he won the European Cup and became part of the legendary group, who would later be known as the Lisbon Lions.

Scotland has never forgotten that Celtic team and on the 25th anniversary of their success in Europe, a limited edition of specially blended 25-year Scottish Whisky, aptly named Lisbon Lion, was commissioned while in 2003, a crowd of 22 000 turned up at Celtic Park for a Lisbon Lions benefit match.

The 40th anniversary of the team's triumph saw the club holding a gala dinner, right on their football pitch.

Bobby Mudorch was the first of the Lisbon Lions to die, succumbing to a stroke at the age of 56, as his health, which was often poor, with the player having battled alcohol problems, a failed business venture and bankruptcy, finally gave in.

Thousands of fans came to say goodbye to a player who, like most footballers of his era in Scotland, didn't get much in terms of material or financial rewards but whom they adored for what he achieved with their club and even though he is gone they still remember him because at Celtic Park the East End was renamed Lisbon Lions Stand to immortalise the Team of '67.

This month, we marked the 10th anniversary of that historic day when our Golden Warriors won their first game at the Nations Cup finals, but no one among our football leaders cared to remember that phenomenal feat by a group of individuals who, in the desert battlegrounds of Tunisia, fought gallantly for their country and showed us that we were good enough to win games at this level.

Kurauzvione didn't play in that match against Algeria, and neither did he play in the other two group matches against Cameroon and Egypt in which we scored four goals against the giants, even though we ended on the losing side on either occasion, but he was part of the group that made history that day in Sousse with that victory over the Desert Foxes.

Of course, the day-dreaming brigade that we mistake for serious national football leaders, who are allergic to a successful past that took us to two Nations Cup finals but somehow find romance in remaining in trenches fighting someone like Guthrie Zhokinyu, didn't care to mark that special historic day when it came to pass.

To them, I guess, what those Warriors achieved in Tunisia that day, blazing the trail and breaking the wall of virginity that, until then, had separated us from the real world of true football-playing nations that not only qualify for such tournaments like the Nations Cup but even win games at such a tourney, doesn't mean a thing.

Maybe, they have a case.

Why should they celebrate 10 years of the day when the Warriors first won a game at the Nations Cup finals when, twice, in the past four years, they have failed to send the team to grace that tournament, why should they remind the nation of a golden past when the present has been all bleak?

How do they mark the 10th anniversary of that historic day, and celebrate everything good about it, without honouring Sunday Chidzambwa, the coach of those Golden Warriors, against a background where they have taken every available opportunity to drag his name in the mud by accusing him of match-fixing, a charge that has failed to pass the test of the neutrals at Fifa?

Maybe, we are the ones who are really foolish to even have expected something would be done to mark that landmark occasion.

Come on, guys, Jonathan Mashingaidze told us that Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid or Juventus to paint the town either blue or red in a grand festival of football that would bring the entire nation to a standstill, but come crunch time, no celebrations were held.

You have to spare a thought for Lovemore Banda and his committed men and women, in that Golden Jubilee Committee, who invested countless hours, days, weeks and months, planning for something that was never going to happen, waiting for a big European football giant that was never going to come, organising a party that was never going to be held.

A World Of Good Men And Bad Men

Morgan Dube is probably not a household name in Zimbabwe football but he is a respected man in Matabeleland North where he made his name as a player, coach and administrator and, in the past two years, served as the chairman of the Southern Region after taking over from Gift Banda following his suspension.

Morgan served just half of the four-year Zifa board term, which ends next month, but he will not be standing for elections for the Southern Region chairmanship this weekend, even though he was virtually guaranteed of victory, because he feels he has played his part and it's time to pass on the baton to someone else.

"It is with immense pride that I am announcing my intention not to contest the forthcoming elections at the end of my term as the chairman of the Southern Region next month," he told the Chronicle.

"I want to go back down to development and concentrate on rebuilding local football with the emphasis on grassroots and junior development for now. It is in its heart that the swallow knows when to leave its nest and it is in its soul that it chooses a fitting time to return. I believe it is best to leave while you are still at the top and wanted by many."

Now, that's a good man, the one who knows that football leadership isn't something that one holds on to forever and, when you consider that he just served half the four-year term, then you can appreciate his decision even better.

Fungai Chihuri, the Zifa Eastern Region chairman, is the other regional boss who has decided that the time has come to hand the baton to others so that fresh ideas can bring innovative projects.

But, interestingly, Musa Mandaza, who was the old Matabeleland North Zifa chairman as far back as 1987 and won four consecutive yearly terms of boss of the bloc, who was there in 2006 as chairman of the Southern Region and lost in 2010, in the battle for the same post, to Banda, is back in the running for the same post this weekend.

In three years time we will mark 30 years since he was Matabeleland North Zifa chairman which means that, if he wins tomorrow, he will mark that anniversary in office while serving on the Zifa board as the Southern Region chairman.

I'm not so sure why our football keeps glued to these old-school administrators, who keep sticking to the game as if the game owes its life to them, who only take a sabbatical, when they lose an election, but soon bounce back when an opportunity presents itself, why the game never attracts fresh faces with fresh ideas?

Even rules are changed to suit individuals, when they are politically correct in the games that are played in these elections, and Banda is banned for two years, for taking Zifa to court, while Mandaza is allowed to contest this weekend's elections even though, just four years ago, he also took Zifa to court seeking the nullification of the elections that swept Banda to power.

Animal Farm, isn't it, all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others?

The Invasion Of Britain

English clubs were taught a lesson in football this week with Arsenal and Manchester City being tamed, at home, by Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the Champions League while both Swansea and Tottenham failed to win in Europa.

Gunners and City fans will point to those red cards as the turning points, with some justification, but I have never seen the Premiership giants being bullied, on their home turf, by their rivals the way both Arsenal and the Noisy Neighbours were dominated by their rivals, both in terms of possession, and penetration.

Maybe football has left the little island and is now played on the mainland and when its richest club, City, invests its future in a coach who never won a Cup or championship in Europe, its biggest club, United, invests its future in a coach who has never won anything, and its capital's biggest club, Arsenal, tells you, in their coach they trust, almost a decade after last winning the league, it's probably understandable.

It's not Arsene alone, Jose, but the entire English Premiership is in danger of turning into specialists of failure.

To God Be The Glory!

Come on United !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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