Sports Panorama Enock Muchinjo
IN a community where narratives can veer off wildly, fuelled by the vicious world of social media, humiliating elimination at the hands of Somalia — one of Africa’s weakest footballing nations — would have quite possibly sounded the death knell for Zimbabwean football.
Moments before Khama Billiat rescued the situation on Tuesday afternoon with a last-gasp blinder that ensured Zimbabwe didn’t gain some unwanted international publicity in world media — being knocked out of the World Cup qualifiers by of all the teams Somalia — one could already start imagining the outpouring of derision and scorn that was sure set to dominate the storyline for a foreseeable future in this country.
Even though, that the Warriors managed to pull off a great escape should not camouflage the fact that the team has been pretty poor lately and losing 1-0 to Somalia in the first leg last week was horribly worrying even by Zimbabwe’s own low standards of recent times.
An article like this, I know, is a total bore to the growing band of Zimbabwean football cynics who would not be more than a little excited about the Warriors’ prospects in the main World Cup qualification campaign, and for good reason I suppose.
To the pessimists among us, elimination by Somalia would have served the Warriors right, to allow the nation to go back to the drawing board and perhaps emerge stronger from the wreckage and heartache.
But let us be honest about this.
If a bit more context is added in — bungling officials, unavailability of some key players due to an unofficial cold war with the national association — the result of Tuesday was desperately welcome in terms of moving the game forward in this country in the midst of a very difficult phase.
One shudders to imagine what would have become of football in Zimbabwe in the wake of such collective national shame, what with the game already torn apart by bitter rifts threatening to shake the foundation of its soul.
It is extremely difficult to come back from such setbacks, ask any of the nations that have had the misfortune of going through such unfortunate phases — our most recent opponents Somalia being one of them.
So how should Zimbabwe receive the news of its great escape on Tuesday?
With huge relief, of course, and more importantly, as part of the post 2019 Africa Cup of Nations healing process.
On the field, no doubt Zimbabwe still has decent footballing talent, in spite of what happened in Egypt a few months ago at the Nations Cup finals.
Not being able to compete in the group stage of the World Cup qualifiers, for a second time after the country was banned altogether from the previous campaign, would have been cruel fate.
Off the field, a lot has happened in the boardroom, nasty insults and accusations hurled in all different directions.
Sneaking past Somalia presents an opportunity for the antagonists to unite for the greater good of Zimbabwean football going forward.
Better still, perhaps it is an opportunity to ensure that the right people are placed in the right positions to avoid disaster that tends to always lurk over when you have a gaffe-prone captain steering the ship.