When Henrietta made us cheer fake teams

HARARE - Fate has it that regardless of how educated or wise we might be, we get tricked once in a while in life.

And most of the time it is an old boys’ trick that knocks us.

The Chinhoyi diesel n’anga made fools of government officials, Cabinet ministers and police chiefs by convincing them that diesel “in purified form” was oozing from a rock.

Government went on to reward the n’anga with land as ministers jostled to the land of diesel discovery, only to later dawn on them they had been led down the garden path.

But that was child’s play.

This time around, a whole nation was tricked by a few individuals who made a windfall from throwing away national soccer team matches in a mafia style betting scam.

Today, Zimbabwe is under the world spotlight because of Asiagate, the name given to the match-fixing scandal that involved players, football officials and Asian mafia.

Between 2007 and 2009, the Warriors became a symbol of national disgrace when they lost to global lightweights such as Oman, Malaysia and Syria in unsanctioned invitational tournaments and low-key friendly matches.

A football betting syndicate was quietly built while the entire nation was made to cheer fake national teams.

Zimbabweans continued to rally behind the Warriors, and fiercely debated on how best the team could be strengthened in the midst of the defeats.

As Zimbabwe continued losing matches, fans began withdrawing from the Warriors and so did sponsors.

It was agonising every time the global rankings were released as Zimbabwe continually tumbled down the ladder.

Henrietta Rushwaya, the former Zifa CEO who was the betting kingpin locally (according to the Asiagate report), became our new “diesel n’anga”.

Only that she was much more successful as she managed to hoodwink an entire nation.

In true “mafia” style, Rushwaya put together a gang of trusted running boys who assembled fake teams and acted as the technical managers.

It is interesting how Rushwaya drew her working script because in the mix were journalists, coaches, football administrators and players.

Then, in the eyes of football-loving Zimbabweans, Rushwaya seemed to be working hard as she “successfully” organised friendly matches that were so lacking, yet the choice of the journalists’ participation came handy to Rushwaya’s master plan, since media reports would add to the credibility.

Coaches and players were the most valuable assets in the syndicate as they had to strategise throwing away matches.

It is criminal that coaches and players knowingly threw away matches and made our national soccer team a laughing stock in footballing circles of Africa and the world.

The conspiracy was reportedly established by Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal who was arrested in Finland for attempting to fix Finnish matches.

And this is how it all began. Malaysia cancelled a friendly with Liberia and invited Zimbabwe as a replacement and “Zifa sent out club side Monomotapa to “represent the country”.

The match was stripped of its “A” status when it was found that it was a club side in national team colours. Malaysia won 2-0.

On August 21, 2007 Singapore beat Zimbabwe 4-2; May 12, 2009 Jordan beat Zimbabwe 2-0; December 28, 2009 Thailand beat Zimbabwe 3-0.

There were other rumoured lined-up matches that failed to materialise and these include games with Vietnam, Oman, China, Yemen and Bulgaria.

As the Asiagate drama unfolds, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the police are waiting on the wings to effect arrests.

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