Zim football: Not just a game

HARARE - Bill Shankly would have turned 100 years four months ago, but 32 years since his death at the age of 68, his strong views on the game continues to manifest themselves to this day.

Time does nothing to dull chronicles of this remarkable character, regarded as one of world football’s greatest coaches.

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that," he was once famously quoted as saying.

Events of the past week in Zimbabwe, put into perspective, would have left Old Bill chuffed about himself had the great man been in our midst.

The debate surrounding Masimba Mambare’s shock transfer from Highlanders to bitter rivals made headlines in the mainstream media this week and sent tongues wagging in the Zimbabwean football fraternity.

Such was the impact of Mambare’s move to DeMbare that the Chronicle, the leading daily in that part of the region, led with the story on its front page, sparking quite a storm by branding Mambare “traitor” in a screaming front page headline.   

Whether the paper went a little bit too far, or simply captured the mood of a passionate football city and went for a tabloid-like sensational headline permissible of newspapers in the modern era of journalism.

For those not in the know, the rivalry between Highlanders and Dynamos is one of the most bitter rivalries in Zimbabwe and possibly one of the most fierce in Africa.  Not only for the battles they endure on the field, but for reasons that delve deeper beneath the surface of what we see a Rufaro and Barbourfield Stadiums. 

It has been that way since the very beginning; the politics of the land has formed the football warfare that we see today.

Herein lies the dilemma. The cultural contexts of ethnic differences of Zimbabwe perhaps make us a unique country, slightly different from some of these countries which also have such rivalries. Perhaps the media need to tread carefully when dealing with such delicate issues in a potentially explosive atmosphere like ours. 

Others will see it as the kind of passion, that fire needed to spur us on as a football nation. That too is good for Zimbabwean sport.

My only disappointed is that this fire doesn’t transfigure us into a better football nation on the international stage, so the brickbats we often throw at each often tend to be negative energies and paint us as a nation of small people, tiny in size and tiny in mind.

Feedback: sports@dailynews.co.zw.

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