When football borrows heavily from politics

HARARE - On Tuesday night, the Bull Eland was proud to be an Arsenal fan.

Fielding a second-string side against Reading in the League Cup, Arsene Wenger’s men knocked down records and orchestrated one of the biggest come-backs in the history of football.

It was dramatic in the sense that by the 41st minute of the first half, the Gunners had only one shot on target and were 4-0 down.

By the 88th minute, Arsenal were 4-2 down in a match they went on to win 7-5 in extra time.

This is what scintillates some of us — a fascinating brand of attacking football and the tenacity that makes one rise even when the chips are down.

It is that spirit — the never-say die attitude, that is synonymous with the MDC.

It is a party that can be savaged, its supporters killed or jailed, but it will still leave an indelible imprint on the country’s body politic.

It is a party that I know will come up from two contrived surveys down to defeat all and sundry in the next election.

And there was poetic justice on Wednesday night when the gods of football smiled on Chelsea as it avenged a referee-inspired conspiracy last Sunday to grant Manchester United an undeserved victory.

Just like in our elections, it appears the man in the middle, or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commissions of football (the referees) can be an overtly biased lot.

We used to think it was only Howard Webb, but there has been a new revelation called Mark Clattenburg who has shown overt support for the “octogenarian” Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United.

Our own electoral referee, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, has shown equal partisanship towards the octogenarian Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF.

And if we thought Douglas Nyikayaramba, the former Zec CEO, was enough as a biased umpire, George Chiweshe was the revelation of 2008 when he lost his mouth for five weeks as he embarked on a “meticulous verification” exercise of Robert Mugabe’s defeat.

Like football, politics can be spoiled by the man in the middle, in our case the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and its securocratic secretariat.

Decades in office are enough to corrupt the entire spectrum. We have seen it in the case of Robert Mugabe.

I am not sure if over two decades at the helm of Manchester United Football club has not given Fergie the leeway to dominate (or is it corrupt?)  the entire sport, including referees!

And if you thought it was only The Herald’s political pages that are tainted by bias and scandal, Asiagate will give you an answer.

The Herald’s sports section is equally nauseating, with those in charge of this section being fingered in the most embarrassing football scandal of our time.

We saw them with their silver Mercedes Benz vehicles soon after they came back from their scandals and they said the plush vehicles were products of “hard work.”

When our football begins to borrow heavily from our politics, it is time to worry!

When our newspapers’ back pages begin to smell of the same scandal, partisanship and bias of the front political pages, that newspaper and its credibility are finished.

Party political commissars are patrons of national football teams. Our politics is synonymous with “kicking” each other such that one is wont to ask, “Is it our politics that has permeated our football or our football has entered our politics?”

Even the militarism that has entered our politics is now synonymous with our soccer. - Bull Eland

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