What else, but football, could have upstaged the man of the moment, Lameck of Mabvuku, who had dominated social media for a good four weeks becoming a folk hero after being captured on video speaking bluntly at a burial that the person being interred was not worthy of the tributes being paid to her?
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
Only a football game pitting Highlanders (“Bosso”) against Dynamos (“DeMbare”) — appropriately termed “The Battle of Zimbabwe” — could dislodge Lameck. The match was abandoned in the 40th minute with the scoreline at 1-1 because of crowd trouble after Dynamos had — disputably in some eyes — equalised.
I am not keen to go into the merits or not as to whether the Dynamos equaliser was a legitimate goal or not because people being people — myself included — tend to interpret the rules of the games according to their team stripes. Notwithstanding refereeing mistakes or bias, a goal or offside, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. For instance, when Roderick Mutuma was at Dynamos, he was vilified by some sections of Highlanders supporters as overrated, but now he is their hero just because he has joined them.
But one thing I know for sure is that football fans, like others who follow team sports, are gluttons for punishment. A glutton for punishment is a person who continues to do things whose consequences he or she finds difficult or unpleasant, one who persists in an effort in spite of harmful or unpleasant results. Likewise, football fans habitually continue to support their team even when it gets walloped week in week out.
Indeed, there is something morbid about supporting a team that keeps on inflicting pain on you.
Highlanders supporters did not stop backing the team just because it had gone seven years without beating Dynamos in the league. They stood by their team through thick and thin. And they are still fervent supporters even though Bosso have not won the league since 2006. On the other hand, Dynamos face a three-year league title drought, but their fans are still as enthusiastic about DeMbare. Once a supporter, always a supporter.
In England, I have been a life-long supporter of Tottenham Hotspur despite the fact that they have under-achieved for a good deal of all those years.
Furthermore, we should not draw false and facile parallels. There is this stupid, ignorant and shallow inference that just because Dynamos were formed in the same year as the ruling Zanu PF — 1963 — the two are somehow linked whereas they were set up separately and independently. The linkage is not even tenuous, but non-existent.
In fact, Dynamos were at that time nicknamed “Timu yaMdhara” (The Old Man’s Team), the old man being Joshua Nkomo, then Zapu leader when his party was the biggest in the country. Today, Zanu PF has its footprints in both Bosso (Obert Mpofu and Tshinga Dube) and Dynamos (Webster Shamu and others), but that does not mean the ruling party owns them. Who does not know that Zanu PF’s tentacles reach every nook and corner? President Robert Mugabe’s only two sons, Robert Jr and Chatunga, are avid Caps United supporters, but it does not follow that Mugabe owns Makepekepe.
Which brings us to the next issue: How do we come to support a football team? Well, most of our support is inherited or “referred”: It runs in the family. If, for example, your great-great-grandfather supported Liverpool, most of the present generation in your family will most likely be Reds fans. This could also be accidental or situational. It runs in the locality. If you were born and bred in Hwange, there is a high chance that you will support the local team, Hwange FC, through thick and thin. In my case, supporting DeMbare came easy. Being impressionable young boys in the then Salisbury, we became attached to DeMbare because it was supported by adult men — father figures — and older boys we looked up to.
So, it was no coincidence then that two of the boys I was with at primary school, Sunday Chidzambwa and his younger brother Misheck, went on to play and excel for Dynamos, not to mention Zimbabwe. Had I been born and bred, for instance, in Bulawayo, chances are high that I would be an avid Bosso supporter today. The basis of my support for Dynamos is not because I hate Bosso or Makepekepe, but because I was, as it were, “born” to support it. So let’s not be rabid and hateful about football because we could have easily been “born” into supporting the opposite camp or that rival team.
Thus, we must not be as fanatic as now South African opposition Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, who once said: “We will kill for Zuma”, before the very same President Jacob Zuma dumped him. Or Zanu PF youth leader Kudzai Chipanga who has said: “We will die for the First Family.” No team is worth killing or dying for. You must love yourself first before you extend that love to Bosso or DeMbare. External stimuli can never fill the emptiness in our lives.
But we can take positives from such crowd trouble. It’s not necessarily bad to have such emotional outbursts as happened at Barbourfields because they sort of reset societal values after people from both sides realise that they have overdone it.
But we cannot run away from the reality that in every community, there is a thuggish element. Marginalisation or no marginalisation, that element will still cause trouble. Trouble does not find them — they go looking for trouble. In Europe, such hooligans can be banned from stadiums for life, not by the national football association, but by the very clubs they support.
That said, tribalistic stuff often rears its ugly head in such situations as at Barbourfields. But there is a way of fending off bigots for both Ndebeles and Shonas. You can defeat prejudice by stealing the thunder from your tormentors. How do you do this? You pre-empt them by appropriating and using against yourself the very same derogatory terms they spew at you. Tottenham fans have mastered this self-mockery, much to the chagrin of their abusers. Rival fans used to indiscriminately call Tottenham supporters Yids because of their original strong support among the Jewish community in London. “Yid” is an insulting and contemptuous term for a Jewish person.
But Tottenham’s support base expanded to include non-Jews, who are now the majority of its fans. Thus, Spurs supporters did not grow up as “Yids”.
“They became Yids in adversity through a complex and contested process of identity formation. Forced to respond to pejorative, abusive taunts from rival supporters, many in the crowd embraced the term ‘Yid’ in order to render the abuse impotent. But the word ‘Yid’ remains highly controversial. Many Jewish fans support their club despite the word, not because of it.
“. . . the proportion of Tottenham fans who are Jewish, impossible to know precisely, is likely to be small. The best estimate is a maximum of 5% of the crowd. On the other hand, Arsenal (Tottenham’s bitterest rivals) have at least as many Jewish fans. But they are not Yids,” write Martin Cloake and Alan Fisher.
Well, Bosso have a much higher percentage than that of Shona supporters; and Ndebeles make much more than 5% of Dynamos supporters.
So, what’s the basis of this ignorant and stupid talk about Bosso being for Ndebeles and DeMbare being for Shonas?
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org