The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: King Peter Is Widely Regarded As the Greatest Zimbabwean Footballer of All Time but, As With Such Labels, There Are Many Who Argue Otherwise

While success at European clubs will win African players millions of dollars and millions of admirers, the reality is that immortality will only be sealed by how these guys perform in the colours of their country -- that is where greatness is secured, where heroes transform themselves into superheroes.ROGER Milla took African football into the living rooms of a world that, until his goals and seductive dances at Italia '90, didn't believe we had the quality to also play this game at a level that oozed class.

He was 38 then, an old man in the twilight of an international career that had started 17 years earlier, and his 16-year journey as a professional footballer in Europe had come to an end and was back home for a swansong with his beloved Tonnere Yaounde.

Milla didn't play his football in the age where players could strike multi-million dollar deals or force their country's leadership to send a chartered plane, carrying a US$3 million bounty, flying across the Atlantic for players just to fulfil a World Cup assignment.

He played in the age of innocence where greatness wasn't secured by what you did for your club but what you did for your country and at the World Cup in Italy in '90, those Indomitable Lions didn't only create memories to last a lifetime but gave African football a coat of respect.

They set the benchmark for teams from this continent, redefined what represented a success story at this level of the game by venturing into virgin territory for us, by bulldozing their way into the quarter-finals and they beat world champions Argentina, and Diego Maradona, who would go all the way to the final.

Roger Milla didn't win a major European crown, something that Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o have done in their careers but there is no question that Milla is a bigger African football brand, and will remain a bigger African football brand forever, than Eto'o and Drogba combined.

Milla might not have made the millions that have secured the future of Eto'o and Drogba for good but, in terms of legacy, the old man will leave a bigger impression and his immortality has been sealed and he will always be remembered as a bigger African football hero than Drogba and Eto'o combined.

The Old Lion didn't play for the big European clubs like Marseille, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea, something that the likes of Eto'o and Drogba did with regularity, but when the history of African football is written, Milla will get a bigger chapter and special coverage than the two young turks.

While success at European clubs will win African players millions of dollars and millions of admirers, the reality is that immortality will only be sealed by how these guys perform in the colours of their country -- that is where greatness is secured.

That is where heroes transform themselves into superheroes, where men convert themselves into supermen, where humans turn themselves into super-humans, where mortals take the huge leap into the world of immortals and nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the honour of representing one's country and that is why, those who die in this line of duty, are our greatest heroes.

Given what he did for his country, and by extension to Africa as the performance of the Indomitable Lions at Italia '90 helped convince Fifa that we deserved more slots at the World Cup than just two places, Milla is qualified to be part of a jury that can pass judgment on the performance of African teams in Brazil.

Only two African teams -- Nigeria and Algeria -- have made it into the second round and with Ghana and Cameroon failing to win even a single game in six matches in Brazil, it's easy to understand the Old Lion's fury with the way African football appears to be staggering into the darkness again, eroding all the gains that were made in the '90s.

Ghana and Cameroon picked just one point out of a possible 18 in Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire lost two of their three games and even for those who succeeded -- Nigeria and Algeria -- the gulf between them and the team that won their group was FIVE points while, as a group, the African teams leaked 28 goals with the Indomitable Lions conceding an average three goals per every game in Brazil.

The Black Stars, who provided the silver lining in South Africa, spectacularly fell, in just four years, from a team that came within a penalty conversion of making the semi-finals of the World Cup to one that could only manage one point in Brazil in a campaign blighted by in-house turmoil.

"It is not the players we lack," Milla told the German Press Agency.

"THE PROBLEM LIES MORE WITH THOSE WHO MANAGE FOOTBALL IN THE COUNTRY. FOR CLOSE TO TWO DECADES NOW, CAMEROON HAS NOT WON A SINGLE INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION.

"THE ONCE FEARED INDOMITABLE LIONS DO NOT RATTLE ANYONE THESE DAYS. WE DEFEATED ARGENTINA DESPITE HAVING BEEN GIVEN TWO RED CARDS. IT WAS BECAUSE WE WERE A TEAM OF WARRIORS. IT IS NOT THE SAME TODAY."

Milla also blamed the Indomitable Lions' weak performance on a lack of discipline among the players and had an even radical proposition to teach today's players the values of patriotism suggesting they should be taken to military barracks to "learn real discipline."

Milla's Message Is Not Only For The Indomitable Lions

The Old Lion is sickened by the way football in his country is being run, which he blames for the Indomitable Lions' stunning decline as a power nation in the game, and suggested that Cameroon should pull out of international competitions and focus on rebuilding their battered image.

His words might have been targeted at Cameroon but they ring true for those in South Africa, who have seen Bafana Bafana lose their way in the past decade, and those in Zimbabwe, who have seen their beloved Warriors turn into punching bags on the continent.

Bafana Bafana have had 23 coaches in 22 years, as our graphic shows, but even against that depressing background, they still believe things will work out.

Today, the Warriors' fans cry out for a Peter Ndlovu, the man who was driven by his undiluted love of his country to play a league match in England on a Saturday, rush in his dirty kit to catch an overnight flight out to Zimbabwe, via Johannesburg, and get here just two hours before kick-off.

Somehow, against all odds, King Peter would still play at a level that was better than everyone else, in those green-and-gold shirts, and provide, as he usually did, the star quality that the team needed to win battles.

Peter is widely regarded as the greatest Zimbabwean player of all-time but, as with such labels, there are many who stand in the other corner saying that he isn't, but it's a measure of his greatness that any debate, related to this issue, which doesn't feature the Flying Elephant, would be dismissed as wayward.

Peter and Bruce Grobbelaar are the only Zimbabwean footballers who can send the world media into overdrive, every time something happens to them, and we saw that with the global media splash that followed when Peter was involved in an accident, which took the life of his brother Adam.

The Flying Elephant stands out not because of what he did for Coventry City, where he was so good they named him the next George Best, but for what he did for his Warriors - from the heartbreak of the Dream Team and how they came close to a place at the World Cup and Nations Cup finals to the joy of ending a 33-year wait for a place at the Nations Cup finals.

While Grobbelaar won the European Cup with Liverpool and a number of English league titles, Peter will certainly win a vote here, among the fans, for the greatest Zimbabwean footballer of all-time because of what he did for his nation.

His goals for the Young Warriors, that special goal against South Africa, his contribution to the Dream Team and his leadership of the Warriors as he, finally, dragged them into the Nations Cup finals.

A nation can't expect to be blessed with a special football talent like Peter Ndlovu all the time but a nation has a right to expect to have national football players, who are driven by a sense of patriotism all the time, the way King Peter always put his country first.

A nation has a right to demand football leaders, who care for the development of the game and the success of their national teams, and not football leaders who, as described by Roger Milla in his analysis of the FECAFOOT leadership, are "people only interested in money and missions."

This week the local media went into overdrive suggesting that Ian Gorowa's future as Warriors' coach was doomed and he is now being painted as the fall guy of our failed campaign in the 2015 Nations Cup, where we fell at the first hurdle for the first time, and even his employers appear to have turned against him.

But if Gorowa is a failure, Pagels was a failure, Rahman was a failure, Norman was a failure, Madinda was a failure, all this coming in the last four years, I'm sure there is also the other side to this story, the role that the leadership might, or might not have played, to help them and, crucially, the hostile conditions they all worked in.

The easiest thing would be to dismiss Gorowa, just as it was so easy to dismiss Pagels, so easy to dismiss Rahman, so easy to cut ties with Madinda and so easy to freeze Norman out of the game but if we believe that will, suddenly, provide the forklift to pluck us from the quagmire of mediocrity, where we have been trapped for some time, then we are just day-dreaming.

If Cameroon, who were good enough to qualify for the World Cup, can today hear their greatest Lion, in his analysis, question the patriotism of the players and the competency of the leadership, surely a nation like ours, who failed to win even one game in the qualifiers for Brazil, should also be making a thorough sober introspection.

Gorowa had his shortcomings in how he handled the assignment against Tanzania but to paint him as the main reason why we failed in the Mission to qualify for Morocco, without acknowledging other factors -- very hostile to success which stalked every move we made -- would be comforting ourselves with a lie.

The same lie we chose for our comfort when we lost to Cape Verde in Praia, and made the coach the sacrificial lamb, the same lie we chose when we lost to Angola in Luanda, and made the coach the sacrificial lamb, the same lie we chose when we lost to Guinea in Conakry, and made the coach the sacrificial lamb.

Meanwhile, No one Is Crying For Our Dying Game

The Battle of Zimbabwe came and went and, if we needed compelling evidence that all is not well in our national game, then the pathetic attendance at the National Sports Stadium should have provided us with the graphic picture that everything isn't as fine as we believe.

That this big game lost exactly half the number of supporters, who paid to watch the same game two years ago, even when the price of the tickets was cheaper this time around, should have been a huge talking point among our football administrators this week.

But there was nothing from our football leaders, even when the flagship duel has lost half its paid patronage in just two years, and if that is happening to Highlanders and Dynamos, then what is happening to Bantu Rovers and ZPC Kariba?

Sadly, in the week that the Battle of Zimbabwe lost half its paid patronage in Harare, the big local stories in the mainstream newspapers appeared to be celebrating another mass movement of the only decent players that we have in our Premiership to Super Diski.

There was no analysis in the reports about the impact that this wave of player movement will have on a league that is losing its attractive powers to bring the fans to the stadiums, no one tried to talk to the PSL and Zifa leaders about their reaction to all this and no one, among our football leaders, felt it was his responsibility to address the nation on this disturbing trend.

That's what we have become, sadly, a football nation that doesn't care, even if the biggest league game in our Premiership has lost its paid patronage by half in just two years, even if tomorrow will be darker because of all the players who are going to Super Diski, we just watch and dream on, until one day, no one comes to watch Dynamos or Highlanders.

When we get stories about Shabanie players living in converted toilets, we react with surprise but we choose to ignore the signs when the biggest football game in the country has lost its paid patronage by half, in just two years, and the big revenue that has been wiped out, just like that, from the clubs' financial base.

When we get stories that CAPS United have slipped into financial challenges our immediate reaction is to laugh at them that they are a team nose-diving into extinction but somehow, when the signs emerge when only 500 fans come to watch them, we choose to ignore rather than address the symptoms.

Yes, times are tough, it's difficult to get a dollar but there were 55 000 fans when the Warriors last played at the giant stadium, the price of the ticket was right and those boys, whom we are losing yearly to Super Diski, were back in town.

Surely, we can't go on like this.Nation Gets Taste Of His Medicine

Hwange coach Nation Dube said Dynamos were crybabies, when they cried foul about a disputed penalty that settled their league tie at the Colliery, two weeks ago.

"If they had come for football they should have played for a win and not concentrate on the handling of the match. Dynamos should just accept defeat and move on," said Dube.

"It was clear for everyone to see that their player handled inside the penalty box and what did you expect the referee to do? That was a clear penalty and any good referee could have given it."

Last Sunday, Hwange lost at home, for the first time this season, when they were beaten 0-1 by Chicken Inn and Nation had no kind words for the referee.

"The referee denied us legitimate penalties and he seemed like a man on a mission. How can a Bulawayo team bring their own referee?" thundered Nation.

How times change and, as they say in Shona, dindingwe rinonokwa richakweva rimwe, kana iro rokwehwa roti mavara angu azarevhu.

But, that aside, well done Nation mate, you have made Chipangano competitive again.

Enjoy The World Cup, Don't Bite More Than You Can Chew

Well, the team that I was supporting failed to win even one game and are already home by now but that's what football is all about and, even in failure, you cherish your bond and that's why we can't stop supporting the Warriors.

It has been a good tournament for local coaches and 10 of the 16 nations in the Round of 16 have their home coaches, four of the other six that have foreign coaches have two Germans and two Argentine gaffers.

It's not been a good tournament for Luis Suarez but, rather than casting him out of the game, Fifa need to help him get the treatment he requires to enable him to become one of the greatest to play this game.

Come on Mexico!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chicharitoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

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