SHARUKO ON SATURDAY
LAST week on Tuesday, my marriage with this newspaper entered its 25th year, a Silver Jubilee of an adventure pregnant with trials and tribulations, in a profession that has always been my passion from the moment it dawned on me that one good day I would have to work for my living.They say time flies, of course it does, because it seems just like yesterday when I first arrived in this newsroom on November 1, 1992, as a fresh-faced recruit from the journalism school to join a very powerful sports desk headed by Jahoor Omar, the finest all-round Zimbabwean sports journalist of our time, whose lieutenants included Sam Marisa, Collin Matiza and Phillip Magwaza.
Along the way we lost Marisa and Magwaza, who both died in the prime of their lives, dear colleagues whose spiritual presence will always be felt around our closely-knit sports desk even when death took away their physical frames away from us.
We also lost Lovemore Musharavati, a regular correspondent for our desk who at times appeared to be a man born to make us laugh, always full of life and jokes, who called himself my elder brother simply because he was from Kadoma and I had grown up just 30km away in the goldfields of my beloved Chakari.
From the original Fab Five, as we called ourselves on the occasions we broke a big story that drove the newspaper sales and made all of us proud the following morning Jahoor would call us into his little glass office for a share of his tea, delivered by Sekuru Thomas, who has since gone into retirement, only two of us — Collin and myself — remain on the desk.
The typewriters have long been replaced by laptops and new faces have come and gone. ZIFA are looking for the seventh secretary-general to lead their secretariat in the past two-and-a-half decades with Ndumiso Gumede (twice), Charles Nhemachena, Cliff Mcllwaine, Edgar Rogers, Henrietta Rushwaya and Jonathan Mashingaidze (twice), having occupied the hot seat.
Five ZIFA presidents — Trevor Carelse-Juul, Leo Mugabe, Vincent Pamire, Wellington Nyatanga and Cuthbert Dube — have come and gone, during the same period and I arrived here just about the time when Ghanaian coach Ben Kouffie told this country, after being fired from his job as the head of the Warriors’ technical staff, that even if we hired a coach from the moon, Zimbabwe would never make it to the finals of a major international tournament.
It became known as the Kouffie Curse and the more the Warriors seemingly perfected the art of collapsing at the final hurdle, always so near yet so far away from the green fields of the Promised Land, the more the millions of their fans and leaders, began to believe in Kouffie to such an extent that, on one occasion, an offering was made to the football gods with an animal being slaughtered at the National Sports Stadium in a cleansing ceremony.
Of course, Sunday Chidzambwa and Peter Ndlovu combined in 2003 to exorcise that ghost of failure which had stalked us for more than two decades, as they led from the front in sealing our maiden appearance at the Nations Cup finals and that the successful qualifiers had started in 2002, on the 10th anniversary of my arrival on this desk, used to cheer my spirits no end.
Of course, we were not the only ones who used to curse fate, who used to feel ours was a story which would always end in tears, no matter how we tried, and only last week — as I entered the Silver Jubilee of my marriage with this newspaper — we saw the seventh largest gathering of people in history as five million Chicago Cubs fans thronged the city’s lakefront to celebrate a milestone achievement.
One journalist even described them as “five million of the most patient humans in the world,” a unique group of people whose love and belief in their beloved team could not be shaken, let alone broken, by over a century of a failed search for baseball’s ultimate trophy, the World Series, which the Cubs won two weeks ago after 108 years.
I dealt with the Cubs’ heart-warming tale in detail on this blog last week and ahead of the elections for the 45th President of the United States on Tuesday, I also looked at the possible coincidence between the Chicago team’s success and the person who was likely to win the right to stay in the White House.
“IT’S WORTH NOTING THAT THE LAST TIME THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES IN 1908, LIKE THEY DID ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, AMERICA WAS ELECTING ITS PRESIDENT AND, WITH INCUMBENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT HAVING DECLINED TO RUN FOR A THIRD TERM BEFORE THE TWO-TERM LIMIT CAME INTO EFFECT, IT PAVED THE WAY FOR THE NOMINATION OF EVENTUAL WINNER WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT,” I wrote in last week’s edition.
“HILLARY CLINTON AND HER SUPPORTERS WILL BE HOPING THE CUBS’ TRIUMPH ISN’T A BAD OMEN GIVEN THAT THE LAST TIME THE CLUB WON THE WORLD SERIES, A REPUBLICAN WON THE BATTLE TO THE WHITE HOUSE.”
Of course, we now know, don’t we, that a Republican outsider, Donald Trump, beat Clinton in the battle for the White House this week in — just like the Cubs’ sensational curse-breaking-come-from-behind triumph in which they erased a 1-3 deficit in the final to be champions — one of the biggest upsets in the race to become US President.
Some readers have, once again, been calling me Prophet Sharuko — just like they did when I warned on this blog that Sam Allardyce’s blasphemy would come back to haunt him and he was unlikely to last in his dream job as the manager of the England national football team — with the coach being sacked less than three months after his appointment.
Of course, I’m not a prophet, it’s a narrative I have emphasised again and again, saying that my good brother Walter Magaya is the one who is a prophet, but some guys have kept suggesting that I’m a prophet with even one guy saying this week that I should also start my church.
No buddie, I’m just a sports journalist!
BASEBALL IN AMERICA HAS A FUNNY WAY OF PREDICTING THE PRESIDENCY
Nigerian prophet TB Joshua has been getting a lot of criticism that he got it wrong in his prediction that Clinton would win the race, but maybe, the televangelist got it right that the lady was going to win the popular vote, which she is set to, even though the electoral college votes are what matter and have swept Trump to the White House.
Clinton might end with more than 200 000 votes more than Trump, but the electoral college system, whose roots are in America’s dark past of slavery, is what matters and for only the fourth time in the history of these elections, the person who received fewer number of votes will be unveiled as President.
Al Gore won 539 000 more votes than George W. Bush in 2000, but lost the Presidency, after that controversial intervention of the Florida electoral votes, in 1888 Benjamin Harrison was elected US President even though Grover Cleveland had won more votes and in 1876 Samuel Tilden beat Rutherford B. Hayes, in the popular vote, but lost the Presidency in the complication of what is known as the Compromise of 1877.
But, surely, one doesn’t need to be a prophet, to be blessed — once in a while — to see things that will probably happen in the future.
After all, Michael Lee, an American high school student had a dream, back in 1993, of the Cubs ending their long wait for the World Series by winning the 2016 championship he actually inscribed it on his yearbook, back then, with the worlds “CHICAGO CUBS, 2016 WORLD CHAMPIONS, YOU HEARD IT FIRST HERE”, under his photo in a framed picture.
And Nate Silver, statistician and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, on May 11 this year tweeted, “REMINDER: CUBS WILL WIN THE WORLD SERIES AND, IN EXCHANGE, PRESIDENT TRUMP WILL BE ELECTED EIGHT DAYS LATER.”
Even though Chicago, the Cubs base and the hometown of President Barack Obama, is traditionally a Democratic city, the family that owns the team — Joe and Marlene Rickets — are Trump supporters and donated a cool $1 million into his campaign.
When the baseball World Series goes to a Game Seven, as was the case this year when the Cubs won the title for the first time in 108 years and the team which plays in the American League wins, as happened this year given the Cubs play in the American League, the Republican nominee wins the vote for the White House.
If the National League team wins, the Democratic nominee wins the White House race, but unfortunately for Clinton and company, the Cleveland Indians, the finalists from the National League this year, lost to the Chicago Cubs and the die, even for the politics, had been cast.
In 1924, the American League team Washington Senators, just like the Cubs, won the World Series and a Republican Calvin Coolidge was elected US President; in 1940, the National League team Cincinnati Reds won the World Series and a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt was elected US President; in 1952, the American League side New York Yankees won the World Series and a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, was elected US President; in 1956, the Yankees again won the World Series and Eisenhower was re-elected.
In 1960, the National League team, Pittsburgh Pirates, won the World Series and a Democrat, JF Kennedy won the US Presidency; in 1964 another National League side, St Louis Cardinals, won the World Series and another Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, won the US Presidency; in 1968, an American League team, the Detroit Tigers, won the World Series and a Republican, Richard Nixon, was elected US President while in 1972, another American League side, Oakland Athletics, won the World Series and Nixon, a Republican, was re-elected President.
COME ON GUYS, JUST ADMIT IT, IT’S THE SEASON OF THE UNDERDOGS
Donald Trump was born just a few months after Billy Sianis, the Cubs’ fan who was ejected from Wrigley Park, his club’s home ground, during the 1945 World Series, because some other fans didn’t like the smell of his pet goat, named Murphy and he responded by telling them, “THEM CUBS, THEY AIN’T GONNA WIN NO MORE,” a curse that lasted until this year.
From 1945 to last year, as the Cubs staggered in the darkness with their fans and officials being weighed down by The Curse of the Billy Goat, 42 players who played for the team went on to win the World Series while playing for other clubs.
This year, the Cubs exorcised the so-called 71-year curse, ending 108 years of waiting for the World Series, and just a week after their triumph, another rank outsider, Trump, born just a few months after Sianis cursed them, was elected US President in a stunning victory that shocked the world.
Baseball is to the Americans what football is to us and those who are being shocked by the events dominating United States politics need to reflect on a sporting year that has predominantly been for the rank underdogs, from Leicester City defying 5 000-1 odds to become champions of English football to Ngezi Platinum, newboys in the domestic Premiership, going to Barbourfields to knock out Highlanders in the semi-finals of the Chibuku Super Cup and then comprehensively beating FC Platinum 3-1 in the final last Saturday.
What about Mamelodi Sundowns, being knocked out of the CAF Champions League by AS Vita of Congo in the second round and then dropping into the second-tier Confederation Cup where they were also beaten, at the first hurdle, by an obscure Ghanaian side Medeama, only for the Brazilians to be recalled into the Champions League because Vita had been expelled for using an ineligible player in a game against Tanzanian side Mafunzo.
Then, somehow, against all the odds, Sundowns making full use of their reprieve to win their group, including winning games in Algeria and Egypt when they had failed, earlier, to win in Bulawayo and Kinshasa and then defeating five-time champions Zamalek to be crowned kings of African football for the first time in their history.
Our beloved Warriors, somehow defying the odds to arrive in Malawi, after a tortuous overnight bus trip, just hours before their opening 2017 Nations Cup finals qualifier against the Flames and beating their hosts in their backyard, to start a run that would see them seal their qualification for a place at AFCON finals, for the first time in a decade, with a game to spare.
Swaziland, of all teams, going to Morocco and beating Guinea in the same Nations Cup qualifiers and then, to show that victory wasn’t a fluke, beating the West Africans again in Mbabane.
Uganda, the country we beat 2-0 in a friendly recently, qualifying for their first Nations Cup finals since 1978 and their star goalkeeper, Dennis Onyango, just like his Sundowns teammate Khama Billiat, being nominated for the African Player of the Year.
Maybe next weekend, or the week after, we will know the winners of the domestic Premiership and it’s more than likely to be a team that hasn’t won it in 11 years, CAPS United, or one that hasn’t won it in 10, Highlanders, or one that hasn’t won it at all, FC Platinum, who — like the Cubs — are burdened by the weight of history as no club from outside Harare or Bulawayo has been crowned champions in 50 years.
That’s a Golden Jubilee, twice the number of years I’ve been married to this company, but in the season of the underdogs, who am I to say this isn’t the year for that jinx to be broken?
Even at next year’s 2017 Nations Cup finals?
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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