Makomborero Mutimukulu: Sports Editor
IN the most unlikely of settings, Zimbabwean football touched a new nadir on Friday night. At the Harare International Conference Centre, the nation was supposed to send off its beloved senior men’s national team to their third Africa Cup of Nations dance.Alas, it was not to be. Instead, a night of celebration was thoroughly ruined as the Warriors decided to act like Simon Mann’s hired cousins and put money over decency.
The stage had been set for what promised to be a memorable evening, a classy affair with Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the guest of honour.Sports and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane and his team pulled all the stops to deliver an event to remember.
Well, we will remember it alright – but for all the wrong reasons. Skipper Willard Katsande and lieutenants vowed not to come down from their hotel rooms to attend the event because of money issues.
Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa and his deputy Omega Sibanda tried to save themselves from an embarrassing situation but their efforts were futile.
The pair pleaded with the players to make an appearance to show respect to the guest of honour before coming back to settle matters with Zifa.
The players refused to budge. After exhausting his notoriously thin diplomatic skills, Chiyangwa reportedly lost his cool and threatened to call up “a new team made of players who are ready to represent the country”.
“Chiyangwa said he will call Issa Hayatou, the Caf president, and request that Zimbabwe registers a new team and that did not help matters. That made things worse,” said a source who watched the drama unfold.
Amid the boiling tempers, striker Mathew Rusike touched his own personal low as he said to have told Sibanda to “f**k off”.
In the eyes of Zifa, and perhaps many people now, Rusike is a spoilt and uncultured brat. But to his teammates the lad is a trooper.
As the drama unfolded on the hotel side of the complex, jazz musician Bob Nyabinde attempted to lift the spirits of the mix of invited guests, journalists and gatecrashers.
He couldn’t. Even Bob Dylan would have failed. In fact, Bob Marley wouldn’t either. A dinner slated to start at 6pm had not started two hours later. Bellies grumbled almost as loudly as the guests, journalists and gatecrashers who wanted to know what was going on.
Finally, at around 8:30pm, it was announced that the send-off dinner had been cancelled but food would still be served. A disaster beyond words had been confirmed and Nyabinde sang: “Mwari tiratidzei simba renyu, (God show us your glory).”“This situation really needs God,” said the man who swapped the chalk of the classroom for the guitar.
As Nyabinde continued with his Herculean task of trying to brighten the mood, Warriors’ super fan Chris “Romario” Musekiwa strolled by the band.Nyabinde called him to join his set.Away from football, Musekiwa is an ardent singer in the United Methodist Church’s Vabvuwi. He too had a song for the occasion.
“MaWarriors musarambe kudaira kana jesu auya achitsvaga iwe. (Warriors, answer when Jesus comes looking for you),” Musekiwa sang.
The Warriors were nowhere to be seen. The only thing visible was the mess Zimbabwean football is in.
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