IT’S BEEN A COCKTAIL OF FURY AND THE UNRULY, HATE AND THOSE HURT
MYsocial media platforms are an explosive interactive arena, but I have to agree they have never exploded, as far as I can remember, as much as they have been raging this week in the wake of that farcical decision to try and nullify Christian Epoupa Ntouba’s red card.
A decision that triggered a seismic shock in domestic football, the kind of which could be measured on the Richter Scale like an earthquake, and whose tremors are still rumbling up to this day, stubbornly refusing to be tamed by the passage of time. Where do I start? Okay, referee Arnold Ncube had a stinker of a game, no doubt about that, one of the worst performances I have seen in this big game, a man who was all at sea, overwhelmed by the occasion he made a mockery of what match officiating is all about.
Ntouba’s first-minute goal was scored from an off-side position, the foul on Bosso forward Godfrey Makaruse was a penalty, defender Benson Dube should have been sent off for slapping the Cameroonian, in an off-the-ball incident, and that he ended up scoring his team’s goal, was ironic.
The Dynamos forward was roughed up by the Bosso defenders, they came with a masterplan to stop him, using both fair and foul means, but you can’t blame them because it’s the job of the referee to pick out such things and outlaw them.
The Cameroonian is one hell of a good player, I like him a lot, but anyone who also tells me he doesn’t push the boundaries of what is acceptable, in terms of physically bullying his opponents, to the very limit, will certainly be lying.
He is a master at roughing up his opponents, subjecting them to a taste of his physical prowess and casting a spell on them, at times stretching the boundaries of the acceptable, and it’s something Bosso coach Erol Akbay must have picked and decided to fight fire with fire.
The brutality of this game is that it has no place for those who take matters into their hands and when Ntouba plunged his head into Peter Muduhwa the die was cast, the red card inevitable and whatever rough treatment he had received cannot be used as an alibi for that.
My Arsenal colleagues from a certain era will remember the “Battle of the Buffet’’ on October 24, 2004, when the Gunners arrived at Old Trafford on the back of a 49-game unbeaten run and with a new shining star in their team, Jose Antonio Reyes.
Alex Ferguson devised a plan to rough him up, including some of the most brutal tackles on a player in the era of the Premiership, Arsene Wenger had to withdraw him after 70 minutes for his own protection.
“Identifying Reyes as Arsenal’s biggest threat, Gary and Phil Neville set about ruthlessly kicking him out of the game,’’ The Guardian newspaper’s Rob Smythe wrote. “It was blatant, outrageous and vicious. The referee did nothing. Reyes did even less, and Manchester United won 2-0.
“Scandalously, neither Neville was sent off, and eventually the only player who left the pitch was the shell-shocked Reyes, substituted for his own good after 70 minutes. No match, no matter how much of a mark it left on you (and Reyes had loads, the Nevilles made sure of that), can be that definitive.’’
Reyes never recovered from that traumatic experience and a special talent, spoken of in the same vein as King Henry when he arrived at Arsenal, went to waste.
Against that background, it’s difficult to understand why ZIFA rushed to plunge into the Ntouba case to the extent of nullifying a red card, which the Cameroonian deserved, and which the referee — for all his shortcomings that day — was right to show him.
IN FOOTBALL, JUST LIKE LIFE, TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The timing of the chaotic way of handling this case couldn’t have been worse, especially with the Harare Derby set for tomorrow, against a CAPS United side who, to their eternal credit, respected the laws — whether they had been wronged or not becoming irrelevant — and didn’t appeal for Dominic Chungwa’s yellow card at Chapungu to be nullified so that he could have played in the reverse Derby.
Or Justice Jangano’s ghost red card, given by a rookie referee when the country’s leading match officials were attending a high-level FIFA course, which ruled the defender out of the first Derby and gave Ntouba the freedom, which might probably have been different had Justice been in the team, to score the two goals that decided that match.
The gravity of the ruling which ZIFA made on Monday is found in the way it feeds into a web of conspiracy that the Association are trying to give DeMbare a helping hand, which these Glamour Boys don’t need, especially given the way they have gallantly fought for the big prize against all expectations, this season.
My learned lawyer colleagues will tell you that justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to have been done and in the Ntouba case, you can’t say it was seen to have been done and ZIFA should not have dragged themselves into a case which was only going to attract controversy, rather than value, for them.
Whether they were doing it in good faith becomes irrelevant because there was too much baggage, which was weighing against such an intervention and pronouncement, they should simply have dismissed that Dynamos appeal on the basis of procedural flaws.
And, the failure by the football authorities to also address issues, which went against Bosso that day, including a clear penalty that wasn’t given and the way the Bulawayo giants’ attacks — in the dying stages — kept being disrupted by balls thrown onto the field by the DeMbare bench, with none of the Glamour Boys being punished for that, feeds into the conspiracy.
To argue, as DeMbare did in their ill-advised protest letter to ZIFA and not to the match commissioner, that Ntouba has a swollen face is at best laughable and, at worst, ridiculous.
After all, this is a game of contact where Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech has been wearing a protective head gear for 11 years now since a collision with Reading’s Stephen Hunt in 2006, left him with a fractured skull.
Now, the conspiracy theorists have been having a field day saying it’s not a coincidence the referee in the Derby ignored a foul on CAPS United’s John Zhuwawu in the penalty area, while the score was still 0-1 in favour of DeMbare, only to give Ocean Mushure a ghost free-kick after a perfect tackle from Moses Muchenje from which the Glamour Boys skipper swung in a beauty which Ntouba headed home for the insurance second goal.
And they are saying it’s not a coincidence Makaruse was denied a penalty on Sunday when contact, inside the box that afternoon, was as clear as day and night.
There is a song called, “You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All,’’ and it is pregnant with a lot of meaning and ZIFA could have said it best this week, in their condemnation of the poor referee and how they deal with him, by saying nothing at all.
AND, AMID ALL THIS DRAMA, THE ANTI-CHIYANGWA BAND PLAYS ON
Clearly, with the benefit of hindsight, Philip Chiyangwa and his crew could have done better, far, far better, in all this without triggering all the negativity we have seen this week.
And, as so often happens on our toxic landscape, the regrettable events have opened a window of opportunity for those who have always argued that Chiyangwa has serious limitations — both as a person and as a leader, to be entrusted with the huge responsibility to lead our national football — to feast on the carcass of the controversy.
They are always there, waiting in the wings, bidding their time, waiting for a blunder, a poor decision, and when the Warriors win the COSAFA Cup, as was the case this year, they say it’s a developmental tournament and there is no need for wild celebrations to accompany such a triumph.
But, when the Young Warriors fail at the COSAFA Under-17 Cup, which is itself a proper development tourney, as was the case this year, they say it’s a reflection of a failed leadership.
They will tell you he shouldn’t get credit for the Warriors 2017 AFCON finals qualification, even though four of their six games — which included victories of Swaziland and Malawi to confirm their place in Gabon — were played under his leadership.
The same people who, will tell you the Warriors’ qualification for the 2006 AFCON finals was masterminded by Charles Mhlauri, which is fair and fine, and conveniently forget the big contributions made by Sunday Chidzambwa, who started the campaign by eliminating Mauritania before handing the baton to Rahman Gumbo, whose men picked a big away point in Gabon, a big home point against Algeria, three big points away in Rwanda before his adventure was ended by a 0-3 home defeat at the hands of Nigeria.
They will tell you his liquidation of Tom Saintfiet’s $180 000 debt which he inherited, within a month of coming into office, to ensure the next generation of Warriors would not be burdened by the sins of their leaders by being barred from playing in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, is not a big deal.
The same people who watched from a distance as the previous ZIFA leadership failed to pay $68 000 they owed Valinhos leading to the banishment of the current generation of Warriors from playing in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Chiyangwa has a lot of people who just don’t like him, if not for his flashy lifestyle in which he appears to suggest being poor is a crime, then for a life lived in the public glare of online videos and selfies or just simply for his politics which he never hides.
The same people who are ready to salute Bayern Munich as a model of professionalism, celebrating Uli Hoeness’ re-election as the German giants’ president, with an overwhelming 97 percent of the vote on August 8 last year, just six months after walking out of a German prison where he served a three-and-half prison term after being convicted on seven serious counts of tax evasion running into $34 million.
They will tell you there is everything wrong in having a ZIFA president who once spent time in remand prison in a case he was eventually cleared.
The same people who will tell you SAFA president Danny Jordaan is their model football leader, claiming Chiyangwa represents everything that is wrong when you mix football and politicians, conveniently overlooking the fact that Jordaan is an ANC heavyweight who just two years ago was appointed by the party to be the executive mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
The same people who will hail Kalusha Bwalya as a perfect model of a football leader, saying football and politics should not mix, and conveniently overlooking the reality that King Kalu was one of the leading figures who campaigned for Zambian President Edgar Lungu to win the last poll.
The same people who will say Germany, the World Cup, Confederation Cup and Euro Youth Champions, are benefiting from having an FA leader, Reinhard Grindel, who isn’t a politician, conveniently overlooking the fact he used to be an MP for the Christian Democratic Union, the party led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and remains an influential member of that party.
Yes, Chiyangwa is not a superhuman, he has certain flaws — like everyone else — he makes blunders, including some big ones, like the Ntouba one, but that shouldn’t blind us from the reality he has done far more in converting ZIFA into a working organisation again than a lot of his predecessors did in treble the time he has been in office.
THE MYTH ABOUT THE SO-CALLED FOOTBALL PEOPLE
Then, of course, there is that old-school constituency that always argues, aaaahhhhh, but he is not a football man, as if Roman Abramovich, whose arrival transformed Chelsea, has a traceable history in this game.
Amid the blitzkrieg of fury, hate, hurt, insults, jeers, tears of disbelief, toxic messages and even some claims that domestic football was now facing its Armageddon moment, with the internet brigade in full rebellion, the ray of light for me in all this darkness this week was provided by an Englishman l had never met. And, it seems, l will never meet. Patrick Clyne is the brave owner of Barnsley, an English football club which plays in the second-tier Championship league and last season they won two trophies at Wembley — the EFL Trophy and the Promotion Play-Offs Trophy.
Clyne is terminally ill and his fate is in the hands of a raging cancer that will soon end his flirtation with the world of the living and make him the next addition to the world of the departed.
This week, Clyne wrote this moving letter for his club’s programme for their EFL Cup second round match against Derby which not only questions the whole myth that only the so-called football people should be in charge of this game, but shows why we waste so much time pursuing things that don’t matter at all, driven by hate, while the world is moving on.
“I am living on borrowed time. I live in pain, but living is better than the alternative. Cancer is insidious, cruel and rapacious and I implore everyone to have regular checks to stop it gaining hold.
“Recent months have brought into focus the things that are important to me. I have spent a lot of my life pursuing the ultimately pointless when there were better things to do. My family have always been important to me but I should have spent more time telling them so.
“I do now and it creates joyfulness in our relationships.
“Of course, my football club has been important, too, and I am lucky that my family have shared my love of Barnsley FC.
“For much of the time since I became the club’s buyer of last resort, I allowed others to run the club, fearing that I did not know enough to win the respect and support of the ‘football people’. It is ironic, therefore, that we enjoyed one of our most successful periods when I did take up the mantle ending in two successful visits to Wembley.
“Maybe, one day, before too long, I will tell the secrets of how we did it. Certainly, the whole club working as one was instrumental. I don’t know if we will ever repeat the sense of togetherness of that season, which extended also to the fans, their tolerance and incredible support.
“There are many things I wanted to achieve before my custodianship of our fabulous team ended at the hand of the Grim Reaper. Of course, I wanted to see us get back to the Premier League and make some enhancements to the iconic West Stand.
‘’On a personal level, I wanted to bring back together all the 1912 FA Cup final medals, but I only managed to retrieve five.
“Most people realise I was a reluctant custodian but what has made it bearable, against the occasional cruelty of the internet world, is the kindness shown to me by so many fans on a personal basis.
“People are not shy in coming forward and telling me they appreciate my efforts, even if I have fallen short of their aspirations. I receive many letters and cards from fans who share with me their memories and best wishes. I am grateful to them all.
“Regarding this season, I think we will get stronger as it goes on and our team gels, not unlike the double Wembley season. I do not expect to live to see the ultimate outcome, but I travel in hope. I wish you all a good football season and thank you for your kindness down the years.”
So much for the myth about the so-called football people and their mythical kingdom.
To God Be The Glory Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Khamaldinhoooooooooooooooooo! Text Feedback — 0772545199 WhatsApp Messenger — 0772545199 Email — email@example.com Skype — sharuko58 Chat with me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @Chakariboy, interact with me on Viber or read my material in The Southern Times or on www.sportszone. co.zw. You can also interact with me on the informative ZBC weekly television football magazine programme, Game Plan, where I join the legendary Charles “CNN” Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande every Monday night at 21.15pm.