By Anesu Chakanetsa
MOST Zimbabwean fans following the world soccer jamboree sided with Sub-Saharan nations that qualified for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Unfortunately, all of them have since fallen by the wayside.
And when ‘The Lions of Teranga’ (Senegal), were being mauled by the ‘Three Lions’ of England, Zimbabwean fans started:
“Mweya weAfrica wabata (spirit of losing). Ma Africans tiri shiri hatigone bhora, kunorema uku.”
They instantly lost faith.
Many lacked a positive mindset that fortunes can be turned around.
African hopefuls Senegal were knocked out of the tournament by an energetic English side, losing 3-0.
Prior to that, Ghana had exited the showpiece in group stages after a 2-0 defeat to Uruguay.
The ‘Indomitable Lions’ of Cameroon win against the mighty Brazil, was too late it did nothing to get them to the next round.
There was no hope until North Africans Morocco displayed a magnificent penalty shootout to kick out Spain and qualify for the quarter finals.
The ‘Atlas Lions’ of Morocco play Portugal tomorrow in a quarter final encounter.
After Senegal exited the World Cup, its President Macky Sall commended the boys for a solid performance during the tournament though bowing out to the English.
In a tweet, the Senegalese premier said: “Dear Lions, You have not failed. And you played without Sadio (Mane), (Cheikhou) Kouyate and (Idrissa) Gana. You are among the top 16 teams in the world and England were a strong opponent.”
Talisman Sadio Mane expressed similar sentiments on Twitter.
“The people are very proud of your journey which has warmed the hearts of the supporters, defending the national flag with dignity.”
He added: “The learning continues. We will go in search of other trophies.”
Mane added that the Senegalese performance had ‘warmed the hearts of fans’ despite the loss to England.
The Senegalese were received with great jubilation in Dakar.
Turning to Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe cricket made headlines over the past seven or so months, felling minnows and giants, qualifying for the T20 World Cup and notching some memorable victories.
In one of the matches at the World Cup in Australia, Zimbabwe beat Pakistan by a single run, a performance that charmed the humorous Zimbabwean President, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“Next time you will not give us the fake Mr Bean,” twitted President Mnangagwa.
At that moment, Zimbabwean fans, some of whom did not understand cricket, fell in love with the game.
The support for the Chevrons increased exponentially on social media.
And when Zimbabwe lost to Netherlands and India, bowing out of the tournament, hearts were broken.
A good number of patriotic Zimbabweans went to the Robert Mugabe International Airport to receive the boys.
But most have now forgotten about the Chevrons. They are waiting for them to shine again.
Why not follow the team through thick and thin?
The behaviour of Zimbabwean fans was best explained by Charles Mhlauri In 2006 just before the Warriors flew to Egypt for an Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Speaking on Charles Mabika’s Gameplan (then called ‘This is Football’) on ZTV, Mhlauri was hammered by some sections of Zimbabwean fans who were negative about everything.
“Some of our fans have a morbid propensity for negativity,” he said.
Mabika asked his namesake to explain what he meant.
Well, that’s what exactly happens when it comes to supporting national teams locally.
When performance is low, no one bothers to cheer the Gems, the Chevrons, the Warriors, the Olympic team etc….
When the Warriors of Zimbabwe are in their best form and hit a purple patch that is when you hear fans, journalists and pundits asking: “who is this player? which team does he/she play for? when is the Warriors’ next match….”
So electric was the crowd in Australia supporting Zimbabwe during the T20 World Cup that even when the team bowed out of the tournament, the crowd cheered on and hoped for better times.
If supporters, would remain consistent in their support we could achieve sustainable success.
Sometimes Zimbabwean fans create a difficult atmosphere for one to peform.
One would remember a CAPS United fan who shouted “ibhora ripi iroro (what kind of football is that).”
In sport, like in everyday life, there are good and bad times and what is required is encouragement.
There are some teams who have sailed through because they had a legion of great supporters, who stand with them through thick and thin.
In 2008, Dynamos played Zamalek at Rufaro and the Glamour Boys were on their way out of the CAF Champioms league.
They needed a win but Zamalek defence parried Dynamos’ attack.
But the Vietnam stand, the heart of Dynamos support, would have none of it.
The started to sing, “Hatimborohwa kunyeperana” (No, you a lying, we will no get beaten).
That song pumped and spurred the Dynamos players and their beloved team stormed into the African Champions League semif-finals with David Shoko blasting home a fierce last-gasp goal to destroy the visiting Egyptian giants Zamalek.
In Bulawayo, Highlanders fans always get time to go to Barbourfieds Stadium to watch Highlanders play. When it comes to supporting national teams, self-hate should not take centre stage.
Good luck to African hopefuls Morocco when they play Portugal tomorrow.