Independent Sportview With Darlington Majonga
FOR over a decade French footballer Zidane hypnotised the world with his mélange of shimmies, step-overs, close ball control, precise passes and goal instinct as well as everything that made hi
m a legendary midfielder.
July 9 2006 was meant to be a treasured swansong for Zidane — and the entire world believed his guile would lead France to World Cup glory in the last match of his 18-year career.
But in seconds of madness, Zidane chose the biggest stage to shove that legacy built over years down the drain.
Zizou, worshipped from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, sacrificed glory — in the full glare of over a billion people — for vengeance with violent conduct that belies the soft-spoken football talisman we had grown to admire.
We thought Mutsvedu or Nyamhanza — the bald-headed one — only talked with his talent on the pitch.
To many in Africa, Zidane — born to Algerian immigrants — makes up for the continent’s lack of heroes at the top level.
It was cruel for Zidane to remind us that he was not superhuman after all in that barbaric way.
The maestro should be kicking himself every time he’s reminded of the closing chapter to his career: Italy, not France, are now the world champions and his demigod status has been blemished.
Since the World Cup final in Germany the whole world has been fretting over what really goaded Zidane into ramming his head, like a charging bull, into the chest of Italy’s Marco Materazzi.
As Materazzi was floored by the awful head-butt, so fell the whole world into disbelief — unsure whether to censure Zidane or commiserate with him at his moment of madness.
What really provoked the living legend to attack Materazzi has been a subject of speculation, with many alleging the Italian player had said Zidane was a son of a terrorist whore.
If it’s true, the remarks are outrageous.
Materazzi, however, has denied ever uttering such insults, arguing that to him mothers were sacrosanct after he lost his own at 15. But he has not told us how he insulted Zidane, saying he had uttered something common between players during football matches.
The Italian felt Zidane had invited his tongue-lashing after the Frenchman told him not to yank his jersey but wait until the match ended so that he could have it for good.
Some might want to call it arrogance, but probably Zizou was saying it in jest.
Zidane broke his silence on the farce on Wednesday, but he still could not reveal what Materazzi told him.
The best the French maestro could do was to apologise, especially to children, for his unprecedented flare-up.
Many of us have — for sentimental rather than logical reasons — already forgiven Zidane for the sham.
All things being equal, we would be asking why German police, who kept hooliganism at the World Cup finals under close check, have not had an interest in the case.
But no, the very few who have dared reproach Zidane have done so in a veiled manner, trying by all means to justify why the maestro probably lost it and floored Materazzi.
They perhaps feel Materazzi deserved to be floored if he really insulted Zidane’s mother or sister as speculated.
Another version doing the rounds in cyberspace is that Zizou lost his marbles after Materazzi snarled at him: “You Zinzou, you must be from Zimbabwe and a member of Zanu PF too!”
Well, Zidane wouldn’t want to take such comments lightly for obvious reasons.
One, for all his athleticism, twists and turns, Zizou would feel offended to be called “Zinzou” — Shona for a big elephant.
Two, he would rather be Algerian if the French were to tell him to go back home. But they won’t, and he’s as French as Le Pen is.
Three, we won’t dare say why Zidane wouldn’t want to be associated with Zanu PF.
Last but not least, he just wouldn’t want to be Zimbabwean. Period.
We don’t feel ashamed at all and make no apologies for being Zimbabwean.
But certainly Zimbabwe is not the best place to be right now.
We feel like we are in purgatory, with the devil turning us over on a pyre with his fork for a sin we naively committed — allowing someone to mess up when we had the power to stop it.
Everything is collapsing in Zimbabwe, and the crisis is just a hotchpotch of everything that can make a country hell on earth.
The bumper harvests we were told about recently remind us of that year when a certain minister flew around the country in a helicopter, counted every green thing he saw including trees and told us we were going to reap big.
The government, hamstrung by an acute shortage of foreign currency, has no answer to the crippling fuel crisis Zimbabwe has suffered for the past six years.
Other critical imports such as drugs and power are still causing headaches among our rulers.
Inflation is wreaking havoc above the 1 000% mark, and the central bank has had to print money to fund key national programmes as well as pay salaries for restless civil servants.
Basic foodstuffs are now luxury items, while decent accommodation will soon be only for the lucky few.
We shall not say much, lest we be given a “Zidane” (head-butt) or worse.
But we know a sane man earning less than what he needs to survive would not sacrifice his pittance to watch a soccer match at Rufaro.
The crisis in the country is not good for life, let alone sport.
That’s the situation we all have to appreciate when we talk about sponsorship of football in Zimbabwe.
The failure by the Premier Soccer League to attract sponsorship has, in the broader context, nothing to do with domestic football’s soiled image.
It has nothing to do with the Zimbabwe Football Association’s bungling — though the association still owes the nation an apology for shooing away Econet’s sponsorship.
It’s probably high time we disabused ourselves of the propaganda that previous sponsorship for the PSL had always looked after the top-flight clubs.
The sponsorship had always been an incentive to perform better, and in no way went towards covering the day-to-day running of the clubs.
The question is: what’s in football for anyone to bankroll a club or a league? Your guess is as good as ours.
We can only feel pity for those guys running football clubs in this environment.
Let’s assume a Harare club is playing away in Bulawayo on a Sunday.
With fuel going for at least $500 000 per litre, the 430km trip to Bulawayo would not chew less than $40 million while the return would take as much. On the way, the team would certainly stop over along the way for food which we have no doubt would take another $30 million for a travelling party of say 25.
If the team books in at the Holiday Inn hotel in Bulawayo, the accommodation bill would chew up at least $500 million while dinner munches another $100 million — as much as might be needed for lunch before the game the following day.
All these costs are our modest assumptions, but it looks like such a team would need close to $2 billion every time they travel out if not every week.
How then do these clubs recover all this money sunk into a hollow tunnel?
Gate-takings? TV rights?
We all know too well which two clubs can generate enough to sustain themselves from gate-takings. As for television rights, we better not waste time on that.
As the PSL teams hold a strategic planning meeting this weekend, we hope they can focus more on the day-today running of the clubs instead of the ultimate prize money which only one team can win.
Getting one big sponsor for everything the clubs need is impossible, as none might have the capacity to bankroll the whole bill.
The PSL can enter accommodation deals with hotels and lodges, while the same can be done for travel with transport companies. Energy drink suppliers can also be engaged as can be other service providers.
Does anyone still doubt why Zidane would not want to be Zimbabwean?
What we don’t doubt is that the economic mess in Zimbabwe is the biggest threat to football and other sporting disciplines. The sooner we realise that, the better.
For now, we only hope we won’t see players head-butting each other because there are so many stressful things — low pay, outstanding allowances, unaffordable food prices and so on — that can easily upset them. After all, don’t they say a hungry man is an angry man?
At least Zidane was hungry for success!