Independent SportView By Darlington Majonga
THREE weeks on, we still don’t know what provoked French maestro Zinedine Zidane to head-butt Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the dying minutes of the World Cup final in Germany.
A week on, we still don’t know why Fifa saw it fit to cast Materazzi as the villain of the farce after the world body fined and suspended him for two international matches – even when Zidane said the incendiary insults were not of a racist nature as earlier speculated.
Three weeks on, we know why apologists all over the world were more than ready to forgive Zidane and justify his loutish behaviour at a time his soccer sainthood was long guaranteed.
One week on, we know why Caps United player/coach Lloyd Chitembwe was involved in a fracas with miffed supporters at Callies last Saturday.
For a player who many a time has been found wanting when it comes to behaviour on the pitch, Chitembwe by now should have learnt everything about controlling temper.
Here is the same Chitembwe who got a lenient three-month suspension for spitting on referee Wallace Zimunya after he was cautioned during a match against Dynamos in June 2002.
Sadly Chitembwe, now 35, has not been short of admirers.
Four months later, then Masvingo United goalkeeper Muzondiwa Gonese was banned from football for life after he savagely assaulted referee Philip Kawara during a Madison Trophy tie against Amazulu. His ban was however later lifted, which is why today he plays for Monomotapa.
Masvingo striker Lloyd Hlahla was an accomplice in that attack, and his indefinite ban was also lifted.
Some might remember referee Showman Tsuro who died after an Arcturus player he had expelled during a Division One league match stoned him.
Chitembwe’s latest gaffe probably draws parallels with Eric Cantona’s kung-fu lunge into Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in 1995 after the Manchester United skipper had been sent off.
Cantona, idolised at United, was sentenced to two weeks in jail but his punishment was commuted to community service on appeal.
Senegalese striker El Hadji Diouf was fined £5 000 for assault after spitting on a Celtic fan during Liverpool’s Uefa Cup tie in 2003.
It’s strange how some people think they can monopolise violence.
Violence in any form should not be condoned – even when one’s mother is called a whore or any other profane slur.
This idea of always finding rationale behind thuggish behaviour by sporting idols is regrettable when we fail to rebuke them for their idiocy.
What message are we sending to children who take footballers as role models if we behave like ruffians and scoundrels in front of them?
At least for now, we don’t know whether Chitembwe really threw punches or not but we condone whichever way he was involved in the reported fracas.
What will Chitembwe tell those youngsters at Zengeza 2’s Huruva stadium who see a hero in him? No, please grow up!
Chitembwe is no orphan when it comes to unruly behaviour on and off the pitch. Recently Eddie Nyika violently kicked a ball at Black Rhinos officials, while Shooting Stars striker Prince Mbara reminded us of Rowan Nenzou’s bad side by allegedly assaulting a ball-boy during a league match at Chapungu in Gweru in April.
It’s appalling for football, religiously followed by both young and old, to provide a bad lesson to innocent children.
We should not send an entirely wicked message to children about how to handle emotions and confrontation by behaving aggressively like rogues who have no place in modern society.
Football authorities should come down hard on hooliganism by players as well as officials, not that unruly spectators should be let off the hook.
In the same breadth, violent acts undertaken during the course of a match must be punished beyond red cards.
It’s high time players faced criminal charges for deliberate crude tackles that threaten or worse still end the careers of others.
Godwin Stone, popularly known as Banda, would have been a great player had a crude tackle not shattered his dreams during his nascent days at Darryn T in the 90s. Today he’s popular for his meat barbequing skills, not his football talent.
Desmond Maringwa is lucky to have returned to action after suffering a career-threatening injury in 2002. But he has never been the same, and he might have lost a glorious opportunity for a dream move abroad.
There are so many footballers and other sportspeople whose only means of livelihood has been ended by one brutal challenge.
It’s probably high time the police made it their business to look out for cases of GBH during football and other sporting matches.
Remember Everton striker Duncan Ferguson?
The Scot, who has been convicted on four different cases of assault, two arising from taxi-rank scuffles and another one an altercation with a fisherman in a pub, was infamously jailed for six weeks in 1995 after head-butting an opponent while playing for Glasgow Rangers.
Perhaps our sporting heroes don’t understand how role models should behave.
While there is no prescription for how they should conduct themselves, the critical thing is that they should behave acceptably.
The privileged life of fame and fortune — though the latter isn’t entirely true in Zimbabwe — comes at a price: privacy.
It’s unfortunate that most of our stars lack exposure — except of course to HIV and Aids — so much that they are easily excitable when they get a little extra dollars and behave as if the world is ending tomorrow.
What they forget is that newspapers are in the business of selling news, and once a star is caught on offside they will not miss or spike the scoop.
This in no way means our stars should not frequent places they like — for example whore-infested nightspots or musical shows — but they should behave in acceptable ways. Acceptable to the society that sees them as role models. In any case, even us who write about the stars have social lives, but it would be scandalous for us to behave in a way that mocks the role we play in society.
If any footballers continue misbehaving — on and off the field — sorry, forget we will only remember you “for my football”!