Friday, 21 October 2011

Should Mwanjali shed the Warriors armband?

THE two costly blunders that Warriors’ captain Method Mwanjali committed in Cape Verde were met with mixed reactions; some turned red with outrage, some became sad, while for a few who have been there before it was a case of déjà vu - they easily swallowed the bitter pill because they are used to it.
Mwanjali is considered as one of the best defenders of all time to emerge from this land encompassed by two majestic rivers, the Zambezi and the Limpopo. Who cannot admire the elegance that he has introduced into the national team rearguard, the cool, calm, in-your face defending that turned Mamelodi Sundowns’ head?
The old-heads cannot help but compare his style of play to other Roll Royce-type of Warriors’ defenders who also had the privilege to be captains – Thulani ‘Biya’ Ncube and Norman Mapeza.
But waxing lyrically about Mwanjali’s talent is not the rationale of this piece; it is to question his resolve to remain captain after the Cape Verde shame. He should be applauded for sticking to his guns but there is a lot that goes against that decision.
Those who frown upon the move or lack of it believe that Mwanjali will never fully put behind the ghost of Cape Verde. They fear that each time he takes to the field in a Warriors’ jersey he will be a haunted man and because of that, a shadow of his former self.
To them the national team captain’s armband is now a burden that will weigh heavily on Mwanjali diminishing his skill and pace. If he desires to remain that graceful defender whose play is easy on the eye he must shed the armband and pass it to a Warrior unsoiled.
If Mwanjali has a change of heart and leads the Warriors no further, he will not be alone but will find company in a group of past national team greats who quit the captaincy or threw in the towel altogether.
A few of those greats who turned villain spring to mind:
In 1992 the late Warriors shot stopper, John Sibanda, made a horrendous last-minute goalkeeping error that cost Zimbabwe qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations. Fielding the legendary duo of Peter Ndlovu and Moses Chunga for the first time together, Zimbabwe needed a win against Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and was leading 2-1 until Sibanda, all alone and intent on running down the clock, inadvertently threw the ball in his own net.
The match ended 2-2 and Zaire went through to the finals at the expense of Zimbabwe who would wait for another 12 years to make their maiden appearance at the finals. The former Warriors goalkeeper immediately, though reluctantly, retired into coaching.
In 2006 former Warriors’ captain Peter Ndlovu went to AFCON with the sole intention of exorcising the ghost of AFCON 2004 where the national team failed to qualify to the next round despite an impressive display. But it proved futile as Zimbabwe was soundly beaten by Nigeria and Senegal by 2-0 identical score lines.
They won their last match against Ghana 2-1 and Ndlovu felt that he had let the nation down and that compelled him to quit the international game. Those close to him say Ndlovu retired because goals deserted him throughout that tournament unlike the previous one were he was the leading light.
Just last year, Benjani Mwaruwari decided to do a Peter Ndlovu after the goalless draw against Cape Verde at home at the national sports stadium. Booed throughout the match by the fans that had a love-hate relationship with the former Manchester City striker, Benjani, who presided over the Warriors’ worst run from 2006, felt it was time to walk away from it all.
Benjani, who revealed soon after that match that he was turning his attention to club football, admitted that he was on the departure lounge because he had failed to reproduce his rich club form on a national platform.
But what justifies Mwanjali’s attachment to the armband is that unlike Sibanda, Ndlovu and Benjani he still has age on his side – he is 28. He can unravel that pit in his gut and dare scale heights that other disgraced Warriors dared not attempt again.
The defensive-positional play has not suddenly deserted him and it will be harsh to conclude so after one disastrous match. His display for Sundowns makes sure the jury will remain out for seasons. He has shaken off the Warriors disappointment, the momentary rust is not deep rooted as feared.
Odds are for him that he will not fail to fire up and if that happens strikers will hardly have his measure, even as a right back  where his pace, sure touch and steady nerves make him hard to beat.
The aura of quasi-invincibility that abandoned him in Cape Verde has not followed him to South Africa. He did not look ordinary, a motivating truth that he eagerly acknowledged.
That is enough reason for him to rest assured that the captain’s armband is his to lose. Unless he proves again and soon … in Warriors colours that he can no longer carry the heavy load of leading the team at the highest level, then it will be precise to suggest that he should have passed the button soon after his Cape Verde tribulations and be content with getting his fill captaining Sundowns instead of entertaining the risk of losing the trust of other national team players.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Mthulisi Maphosa and other player misdeeds

THE off-field behaviour of footballers came under the microscope again last Sunday when FC Platinum midfielder and former Warriors international Mthulisi Maphosa handed himself over to the police for allegedly ripping open a Mpopoma man’s stomach following an altercation.
The man, Isaac Mazambane who was rushed to hospital, said trouble started when Maphosa went to Khongo Bar and got red under the neck when an unidentified man mobile-vendor blocked his path as he tried to park his car.
This incensed the defensive midfielder who alighted from his car and slapped the man compelling Mazambane to intervene and Maphosa turned on him and stabbed him on the abdomen.
As expected the media jumped on this incident like a pack of hounds fighting for a meaty bone because of a famous footballer gone haywire. Better still the player turns out for the richest football club in Zimbabwe and the incident makes a-damn-good-read and increases the sale of newspaper copies.
The alleged crime that Maphosa committed is without doubt an outrage and if found guilty he should be punished and the football authorities must come down hard on him for soiling the beautiful image of football.
This is an isolated incident but triggers the mind to go down memory lane, to look into the archives, to recall other players who got into trouble for misdeeds, for doing the unexpected.
Footballers have, since football was born, made and continue making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Serious criminal allegations and unsavoury tales depicting a lurid off-the-field lifestyle have always brought their behaviour into sharp focus.
PSL players routinely get into the news for committing stupid crimes and getting busted. These guys are typically making money, yet they can’t get their act together and just behave like law-abiding citizens. Their behaviour has cost them public humiliation and maybe a short suspension. While many players have proven themselves to be incapable of normal human behaviour, the following list will only include those with actual legal problems off the field.
If Sunday Leisure has left a player you believe deserves to be on the list you can send your comments to From the terraces.
Charles Sibanda
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) match between Chicken Inn and FC Platinum at Luveve Stadium on 27 August will not be remembered for the exciting football that was played and the goals that were scored but misdemeanor of reigning-Soccer-Star-of-the-Year Charles Sibanda.
Instead of putting his boots to play and score for his team, Sibanda decided to momentarily cross the sporting divide to Boxing by assaulting and pouring urine on Highlanders and Warriors legend and now Chicken Inn assistance coach, Adam Ndlovu in juju saga that we will never really know much about.
Sibanda was arrested and whisked away by the police after the match.
Not to be outdone the PSL’s disciplinary panel consisting of Harare lawyer, Don Moyo, Vusa Vuma (lawyer) and Brighton Mudzamiri (a retired referee and serving police officer) fined him $1000 and slapped him with a two match suspension.
Due to Soccer-Star-of-the-Year selection no nonsense rules, Sibanda’s crime rules out of the running of this years player-of-the-year selection.
Proud Zireni
If there is a player whose talent was overshadowed by his penchant for transgressions it is Proud Zireni. The former Under-17, Under-20 and Bantu Rovers defender first got into trouble with the law after he went berserk, assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Tracy Ngwenya and her mother and stoned their family after being dumped.
Zireni went on to assault Sunday Leisure Editor, Delta Ndou who was interviewing his mother by grabbing her by the throat and viciously slamming her against the wall.
Early this year, Zireni strayed into the realm of criminality when he was convicted of stealing a friend’s television and other properties valued at $180.
Zireni was found guilty of disappearing with Patrick Kaunda’s TV, jacket, waist-coat and a stove after being left home alone by Kaunda who had gone clubbing.
The 18-year-old was convicted on his own plea-of-guilty and sentenced to three-months in prison, wholly suspended on condition he restitutes $60.
Gift Lunga Junior
It is a well known but undocumented fact that many footballers smoke the recreational drug, marijuana commonly known as mbanje in Zimbabwe. But one player who was caught red-handed smoking the weed is Highlanders FC’s long serving left back, Gift Lunga.
Thebe as Lunga is affectionately known was picked up by some police officers in civilian clothes at around at 9 am at Glengarry shopping centre in Mzilikazi.
For such a well known celebrity it was embarrassing for the over-the-heel veteran to be seen by his adoring fans being dragged to central police station where he was fined and released.
Lunga also did a Mthulisi Maphosa when he stabbed an unidentified man in Mzilikazi during a brawl. He was fined and released as the wound suffered by the man was not serious.
Chipo Tsodzo
If there is a player who has provided the media with enough garish news to fill a single tabloid publication it is Chipo Tsodzo known by those who have watched him play as Jack Roller. Manchester United Goalie, David de Gea might be the butt of jokes because he stole a doughnut at Tesco Extra but when proximity comes to play his antics pale in comparison to Tsodzo’s sticky fingers which saw the Zimbabwe Saints player stealing a beer can at Metropolis Pub and Grill.
The sticky-fingered former nomadic player also got into trouble when a reveler at a night spot accused Tsodzo of stealing his mobile phone, charges that Tsodzo vehemently denied.
Tsodzo’s fingers, if all the allegations are to be believed have a life of their own as they are said to have gone from sticky to patting  after a woman filed a complaint to the police that the player had indecently assaulted her at the Ibumba Arts Festival by forcibly touching her in the wrong places.
Tonderai Ndiraya
Zimbabwe football has just fallen in love with diamonds after diamond mining giant; Mbada Diamond launched a $1 million PSL 16-team-knockout tournament. But former Dynamos midfielder, Tonderai Ndiraya found the value of diamond way back in 2007 before football did.
He was arrested in Harare's Avenues area while trying to sell 16 diamonds he had brought from Mutare.
The Dynamos assistant coach, Ndiraya who was still kicking the ball at 30 for Dembare pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the diamonds, saying he had been given them by his uncle at Chakohwa in Manicaland and he intended to sell them in Harare.
Peter Ndlovu
The football world will always fondly remember Peter Ndlovu for the goals he scored for the national team, Highlanders, Coventry City, Sheffield United, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Mamelodi Sundowns 
But it also will not easily forget his off-field exploits that landed him in trouble many times. A case-in-point is when he handed himself to the police for allegedly assaulting his then pregnant girlfriend,  Pinky Duda before arming himself with a car jack which he used to smash windows of his posh townhouse in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg.
Duda said in her statement that the two had fought because a woman claiming to be Ndlovu’s girlfriend was constantly phoning him, although he had insisted their relationship was over.
Ndlovu appeared in the Hillbrow magistrates’ court, where Duda withdrew the case. She told prosecutors that she had decided to drop the charges after a meeting between their families.
This is not the first time Ndlovu has been into women troubles as a string of women have lined up to claim maintenance from him. In 2004 a magistrate ordered him to pay R1900 a month in maintenance after he fathered a child to Alice Thabulo.
In February last year Ntswaki Khathong claimed she miscarried Ndlovu’s baby after discovering that he was married to singer Sharon Dee.
The singer demanded R36000 a month from him, R13000 for each of their two children and R10000 for herself.
Nyasha Chazika
In 2002 former Dynamos and Supersport United defender Nyasha Chazika was in the crosshairs of the law when he was accused of statutory raping and impregnating a 15-year-old girl from Mbare high-density suburb.
The scandal became national news as Chazika was the leading light of Moses Chunga’s kidz-net project at Dynamos that unearthed promising young talents that included Norman Maroto, Samson Choruwa and Eddie Mashiri.
Chazika was acquitted of the charges as the as the magistrate concluded that the roving defender was deceived and under the impression that the girl was above 16. The magistrate said though the girl’s birth certificate indicated that she was 15 she looked much older.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

PSL a four horse race

TWO-horse race? Two-horse race my foot!
Five league matches ago, sports writers up and down the Great Dyke were putting the finishing touches on print about the decline of Highlanders and Dynamos, preparing for the worst as the Castle Lager sponsored Premier Soccer League (PSL) faced up to the prospect of having a championship race devoid of the two biggest clubs in the land.
Then Dynamos won five matches on the trot. Better still FC Platinum and Motor Action the then run-away leaders conspired to eke out draws after draws, bringing Dynamos back into the picture and throwing a lifeline to dark horses – Highlanders.
Last weekend, many celebrated Motor Actions lose to Caps United, but few cheered Dynamos’ victory over Monomotapa, a victory that thrust them to second position, a point behind FC Platinum and a point ahead of Motor Action.
Highlanders lost to Black Mambas but the gloom that engulfed the Highlanders’ camp had a tinge of hope, as Bosso are a surmountable eight points behind. A difficult, but possible venture that hinges on the unlikely collapse of the leading three.
With six games to go, FC Platinum’s lead over Dynamos has been cut to one, yet to focus on just that would be to miss the bigger picture as Motor Action and Highlanders still have a shout.
It is a four horse race and if you do the math it will confirm that.
FC Platinum are bullish and no one can blame them because, despite being a season into the topflight, they have a team of galacticos and arguably the best coach (Rahman Gumbo) in the land.
But there is a sense that the tide is turning against FC Platinum, who could have been out of sight had they kept their cool. Charles Sibanda as bulked under pressure and he overtly exhibited this when he assaulted and poured urine on Adam Ndlovu the assistant coach of Chicken Inn. The team is made up of star players with egos and a team of personalities usually crumbles when egos get in the way. 
On FC Platinum being a real team the jury is still out as most of their wins have been achieved through brilliant individual performances. Whenever they have faced a compact club they have come out second best, the best they have done is draw.
But if there is a team that is really in dreamland it is Dynamos and no one can blame them for doing that after their recent run. The team of the moment, Dynamos have collected 15 points in the last five games and they have done that impressively and only after Callisto Pasuwa replaced the wacky Lloyd Mutasa. 
Their strike-force, which was blunt beyond belief and was responsible for most of their failures, has found an edge with Cuthbert Malajila who recently returned from the Libya nightmare bringing out the best in Roderick Mutuma. But their strongest department is the defense well marshaled by the outstanding shot-stopper Washington Arubi.
Considering the form they are in and the restiveness of their usually turbulent board, the obstacle that stands in their way are the difficult matches they have to overcome against Motor Action, FC Platinum and Highlanders. Teams that desire what Dynamos desires. If they come out unscathed in those matches the league championship is good as theirs.
The PSL was ready to engrave the name Motor Action on the league championship cup not long ago but had to put back the engraving pen after Motor Action climbed two places down the log to position three.
Allen Gahadzikwa’s energy, goals and creativity are essential to Motor Action’s bid to retain the title, but it is also true that theirs is a more compact and disciplined squad that relies more on teamwork than those of FC Platinum, Dynamos and Highlanders.
Coach Joey Antipas has built a team that will challenge for the title seasons to come, ruling out such a team because it has momentarily stumbled could be suicide.
Unlike FC Platinum, Dynamos and Motor Action, Highlanders do not have control of their own destiny because even in they win all their remaining games they might not be champions.
If Antipas feels that Motor Action have got it bad, he would not need to look far to see that Highlanders have got it even worse. Coach Mkhuphali ‘Mr Cooper’ Masuku is reported to have lost the support and respect of his assistant Mark Mathe who is said to be questioning Mr Cooper’s tactics.
Mathe is alleged to have strained the working relationship further by countering Mr Cooper’s instructions during matches – with such a coaching department opponents need not train when they prepare to face Highlanders.
Despite being fourth on the log it has not been an entirely happy season for Mr Cooper. The Highlanders coach has been taunted throughout the season with a section of Bosso fans deriding him and questioning his reign. Working in such a hostile environment would rattle any coach and Mr Cooper is no exception.
But if you are a coach you have to adapt and thrive even in the most hostile of conditions, Mr Cooper’s failure is a sign that he is not suitable to manage Highlanders. Hostile environment aside some of his match altering decisions have gone against Highlanders.
Despite promising early signs, the former Warriors player has failed to back his appointment as permanent coach with results when it mattered. It will take more than a winning run in the last six games to rebuild Mr Cooper’s tattered reputation.
Highlanders still have a chance to win the league but at Bosso expectations have dimmed and fans look forward to the day he will be fired. For most Mr Cooper’s stay has turned into a crisis, the day he is fired the catastrophe that Highlanders are in might end. Such an argument is made with Dynamos in mind, Dynamos fired the infective Mutasa and his replacement, Pasuwa has been on the roll and Dynamos have been the winner.
From the time he was appointed critics believed be was riding on Mohammed Fathi’s momentum and the scenario now suggests that they were right. It looks as if his adventure with Highlanders came to an end the moment it started.
If Highlanders are to maintain the chance to win the league they should part ways with their incapable and uninspiring coach.