The Sunday Mail
THERE have been a fair few iconic sportscasters in Zimbabwe.
From the man dubbed “CNN”, Charles Mabika, whose passionate commentary thrust us in the very heart of Rufaro and Barbourfields even before we had seen what those cathedrals of the beautiful game looked like.
Steve Vickers, head of the sports department at Star-FM, the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. But get past the warm smile and gentle handshake, you’ll find one of the keenest minds in sport – a seasoned journo with a nose for the essential in sports reporting.
Then there’s my good friend, Barry Manandi.
Over a decade ago, Barry signed-off a television show with the following phrase: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, Manandi OUT!”
Today, it’s delivered with the same relish and received with the same acclaim it was a decade ago.
From Tommy Smyth “with a Y” to Robert Marawa’s “Gqimmm sheleleeee!” Barry joined a select group of sportscasters whose signature sign-offs have found national, if not international acclaim.
“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it” is more than just a neatly constructed phrase designed to tickle the ears.
It speaks of confidence and even has an air of defiance – the ability to articulate a view and stay the course without fear or intimidation.
It’s a creed that any sportscaster worth their salt should live by, especially in the polarized domain that is football in Zimbabwe, where your background – who you played for, or didn’t play for, who you support or who you don’t support, have as much, if not more importance than your opinion.
Enter Alois Bunjira.
He is as opinionated as they come and his greatest quality is that he’s not afraid to articulate them. After the goalless draw in Mbababane on Good Friday Bunjira posted this on Facebook: “We were pathetic against Swaziland. Period. We should be asking why we were pathetic, instead of trying to feed others with the flimsy ‘we got a point away’.
“Let us stop defending and celebrating mediocrity. That was 2 points lost not one point gained. If we want to grow as a footballing nation, we should be bold enough to criticise and give a fair analysis without fear nor favour.”
This post drew the ire of a legion of fans that have set base on social media, transforming themselves into masters of opinion.
Over the last week, Alois has been denigrated and insulted by many of these nameless wonders throwing barbs from the safe distance that Facebook provides.
He dared question the sub-standard performance of a team coached by one of Dynamos’ most revered sons.
His sincerity questioned on the basis of his links with Caps United, his observations dismissed because he is from the green half of town – to his critics, the wrong half of town.
His career both as player and a coach also came under the spotlight with his critics arguing that a less than stellar contribution to the Warriors and a brief but disastrous sojourn into coaching did not warrant him the right to analyse let alone criticize the Warriors.
But I’ll ask, what top-flight football, never mind international football did Mourinho play? How many goals did Marawa score? Or maybe the more uncomfortable but pertinent question, how many caps did Kallisto Pasuwa have for the Warriors?
In their jaundiced view, Bunjira’s critics lost sight of the merits of his opinion – his background holding sway over what was a valid call for introspection.
When Pasuwa was commissioned to lead the Warriors’ to battle, he knew what territory he was venturing into.
He knew that his battles would not be confined to the playing field alone, but even off it.
It’s the nature of the beast! – Applause, acclaim, reward, but also criticism, skepticism and cynicism.
In as much as our Easter Monday mauling of Swaziland was a vindication of Pasuwa, it was more so for the likes of Alois who saw in the aftermath of the Mbabane debacle, that something needed to be done to turn around an abject performance.
A four-goal swing barely 72 hours later is enough to tell you that our failure to beat Swaziland away on Good Friday was very much a function of wrong team selection and tactical shortcomings rather than a quality opponent.
Credit to Pasuwa for the ability to heed criticism and rectifying his errors in such an emphatic manner – a quality that some among his legion of admirers need to learn.
Pasuwa is a good coach, a record breaking four championships with Dynamos, is testament to that fact.
But he is by no means perfect and as long as he is the national team coach, he will receive praise and criticism depending on the performance of his Warriors and the expectation of the millions that back our boys – Alois included.
Mike Madoda is co-host and producer of Sportsline, a sports magazine that airs every weekday on Power FM between 5-6pm. Twitter @mikemadoda