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Too much sadza fails Zimbabwe

Independent Sportview  By Darlington Majonga

LAST Sunday a friend of mine who is a footballer decided that we chill at home and watch on television South Africa play Fiji in a 2007 Rugby World Cup quaterfinal in Marseille.

But before we couched ourselves for the encounter, we felt we had to tuck into some food and then gulp one or two as the game progressed.

We drove to a nearby restaurant where they were serving what they termed a special traditional meal: sadza and guru/matumbu (pulverised maize meal and tripe/casings).

The debate started.

There’s nothing traditional about offals, unless cattle in Western countries don’t have tripe, casings and hooves (mazondo), I argued.

But since time immemorial our ancestors have treated such food as a delicacy, my friend countered.

Unless he meant eating offals has become a tradition for the poor, I totally agree.

Of course my friend could not say who enjoyed the rumpsteaks, T-bones, fillets and oxtails.

Tummies full, we rushed home to enjoy the action. Yes, we were ready to watch those on proper diets slug it out.

By the time the teams went to the break with the Boks leading 13-3, we had marvelled at the display of power in mauls and scrummages that involved packs on either side weighing in excess of 900kg.

The second half was another furious display of brawn and brain.

Of course high tackles, some comparable to the clothes-line in wrestling, could not be avoided as the contest remained close.

Yes, these men were well fed, we agreed with my friend, but on what we didn’t.

Then skipper Mosese Rauluni broke downfield as Fiji mowed down South Africa’s defence before dreadlocked centre Seru Raibeni, fresh from the sin bin, set off giant Ifereimi Rawaqa who charged into the corner and was about to plant a sensational try . . .

Just when he was about to do what he could not have failed — placing the ball on the ground to complete a remarkable comeback by Fiji — Springbok winger JP Pietersen unbelievably hauled the 119kg Rawaqa over the touch line in one of the best tackles seen at the World Cup in France.

None of the two eats sadza, we agreed. And none in either team, we concurred.

Maybe they do, but probably small amounts and not regularly.

All my life I have survived on sadza and I sometimes go nuts if I can’t have it for days like has been happening in these days of basic goods shortages.

Yet I have no doubt whatsoever that the same maize meal — apparently only brought to Zimbabwe by white settlers around 1890 — could be one of the reasons we don’t do well in sport.

We tend to eat too much of it.

I’m not an expect in nutrition, but I strongly believe that as long as we continue eating mounds of sadza — which at times gets you dozing soon after ingestion — we will never achieve anything in sport.

If any of our athletes want to sprint anywhere below 10 seconds, they should stop shoving mounds of sadza down their throats. Period.

They could as well ask star swimmer Kirsty Coventry if she can attribute her Olympic success to a nutrition based on sadza.

Gary Brent will confess those toe-crushers he now bowls at opposition batsmen are a result of a good nutrition, which I have no doubt includes little sadza.

Black brothers Byron and Wayne, as well as their sibling Cara, could have a story to tell about the nutrition that made them a name in world tennis.

And little sadza is probably the reason Benjani Mwaruwari is playing well for Portsmouth in the English Premiership.

Maybe Tonderai Chavhanga, Tendai Mtawarira, Brian Mujati and other Zimbabwean rugby players can tell us what they eat in South Africa that they didn’t have at home.

Did anyone see Takudzwa Ngwenya, who played for the United States at the World Cup, expose Springbok star Bryan Habana for pace to score one of the most sensational tries in France?

When I get the chance to talk to him, I will ask him what he eats: chicken breasts or soya chunks.

Richard Atkins revolutionised eating habits in the West with his low-carb diet programmes that at one time had become a craze.

The Atkins diet involves the restriction of carbohydrates in order to switch the body’s metabolism from burning glucose to burning stored body fat.

But then, sportspersons — athletes, cricketers, footballers, rugby players and so on — don’t just want to lose fat but to build body mass as well as improve their endurance and speed.

Zimbabwean sportspersons want to be as big and athletic as Springboks Os du Randt, CJ van der Linde or Schalk Burger.

How is that possible?

It’s not easy, considering the hardships and food shortages in Zimbabwe.

But at least sportspersons will not be harmed by attempting to follow what experts advise.

British nutrition specialist Barry Groves has his own theories on the best nutrition for athletes.

Groves believes that “carbo-loading” — which involves eating high carbohydrate meals of such things as bread, pasta and cereals (and sadza) for a few days immediately prior to a tournament — “is the way to failure not only for an athlete but for anyone who needs energy to work”.

In view of the vast amount of dogma which surrounds nutrition for athletic performance, you may be surprised to learn that there is little or no evidence that carbohydrates are an energy food, he says.

Groves says those who recommend carbo-loading don’t appear to realise, among other things, that the body can’t store carbohydrates in large quantities and most people already get more than enough carbohydrates to fuel their bodies’ daily activities.

All carbohydrates, whether they are bread, pasta, sugar or (sadza) when you put them in your mouth, enter the bloodstream as glucose. And the bloodstream can only hold so much, he writes on the website Second Opinions.

The body, being a well-run power plant, puts the leftovers in storage to use in the future if it’s needed. Some is stored as a type of starch called glycogen, but as it can’t store much of this, the body turns most of the excess into fat and keeps it on deposit in the body’s fat cells. And we see it walking around the streets wherever we go, hanging off bodies in a most unattractive way. Put simply, carbo-loading cannot work simply because excess carbs are not stored in a readily usable way, according to Groves.

As the Rugby World Cup enters the penultimate round this weekend following sensational quarterfinal matches that trashed predictions that had seemed banal, the talk has been about power.

The Springboks hope to employ a conservative approach centred on heavy forward play as well as kicking.

Argentina have vowed to take the game to the South Africans with a similar plan evolving around their pack.

England, who meet France in the first semifinal tomorrow, have been powered all the way by their massive forward pack as well as Johnny Wilkinson’s kicking.

For now we can only enjoy the battle for the Webb Ellis trophy from France with the hope that one day Zimbabwe will boast powerful forward packs as well as really athletic backs.

The talent is there in Zimbabwe, but as long as we don’t get the nutrition side right, haulume!

Should it not be criminal for anyone to expect a sportsperson who chomps away mounds of sadza with a relish of soya mince chunks or covo to excel in his or her discipline?

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