By Sheldon Hakata
FOOTBALL is not war.
It is a platform from which bridges of peace, unity, tolerance and development are built.
Yet that is not the case with African football.
Zimbabwe has been a victim of abuse by host nations over the years.
The national team has suffered that fate before, while a number of Zimbabwean clubs continue to fall victim.
It is really unfortunate that our brothers choose to bring shame to the whole continent by employing primitive tactics designed to intimidate opponents and soiling the good name of football.
FC Platinum could not be availed an escort when they arrived in Congo-Brazzaville for their Total CAF Champions League first round first leg encounter against AS Otoho last week.
Instead they had to hire taxis to their training venue after transport, which they were supposed to be given, suddenly ‘disappeared’.
To be honest, how can we expect the rest of the world to take us seriously when we behave and act like this?
Zimbabwean representatives in the Total CAF Champions League said FC Platinum’s stay in Congo-Brazzaville was a horrible nightmare from the day the team touched down at the Maya Maya Airport on Thursday last week.
As long as teams win matches fairly they earn respect.
Desperate need for victories has resulted in the rise of dirty tactics being employed by teams, mainly in Central and West Africa on a regular basis.
Such tactics are now part of their game plan and it seems these shenanigans are here to stay, if the treatment of FC Platinum is anything to go by.
As such, it is not surprising to hear stories of coaches frequently psyching their players to employ such dirty tactics.
A lot of these teams live by the infamous motto: ‘It doesn’t matter how goals come, as long as they come’.
Dirty tactics often take the form of shirt pulling, simulation or simply diving and also provoking a player using a personal remark or abuse which may be more subtle but worse for the spirit of the game of football.
Genuine football lovers always get a feeling of satisfaction when they see a player getting booked for simulation, irrespective of loyalties towards their clubs.
However, it is sad to see most of these acts go unpunished.
The authorities need to have a stronger stance on this aspect of the game and have standard penalties for certain types of actions on the pitch which go unnoticed by referees.
Media reports said the FC Platinum game was marred by Togolese referee Kokou Ntale, whose shambolic and embarrassing show got even neutrals on the terraces shaking their heads in disbelief.
Surely we will not go anywhere as Africa with such kind of behaviour.
Inside 20 minutes, Ntale awarded the hosts 16 free kicks.
The Zimbabwean champions kept on probing forward while keeping shape and were duly awarded four minutes into the second half.
Stima stepped up to hit a ferocious grass-cutter that gave goalkeeper Chansel Massa no chance after reigning Soccer Star-of-the-Year Rodwell Chinyengetere was fouled outside the box.
With an away goal, FC Platinum need a goalless draw to qualify for the Group Stage of the Champions League.
It will be the first time the platinum miners reach such a stage since playing in the African safari on numerous occasions.
FC Platinum host the Congolese side this Saturday at Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane.
There are several incidences Zimbabweans have been made to suffer on foreign soil while on tour of duty.
In July this year the Zimbabwe senior men’s rugby team, the Sables, received bad treatment in Tunisia where they had travelled to play a World Cup qualifier match.
They were delayed for up to six hours at the airport and were booked into a sub-standard hotel.
The Zimbabweans slept on the streets in protest, attracting the world’s attention.
In 1998, the year Dynamos reached the final of the Champions League, dirty tricks were used by Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast to frustrate the visitors.
Memory Mucherahohwa was head-butted just before kick-off by Asec Mimosas players and could not participate in the match that DeMbare lost 4-2.
The team was forced to make last-minute changes to the team as Mucherahohwa was taken to hospital after the brawl.
In some instances, teams from Zimbabwe would be booked in noisy hotels, hosting all-night music shows.
The players’ lack of sleep obviously affects player performance.
At times, training facilities provided by host teams will be below par and teams are denied access to the match venue prior to the game.
However, in Zimbabwe, visiting teams receive good hospitality.
It is a life rule that, one good turn deserves another. However, in football, that might not be the case as the game has its own rules, away from humanity.
Let us seriously think about how we can improve our football on the continent.