By Robson Sharuko
Zimbabwe’s talismanic forward, Knowledge Musona, has quit international football in the wake of the match-fixing row that erupted in the countdown to the 2013 Nations Cup qualifier against Burundi in Harare last month.
The TSG Hoffenheim striker, who turned 22 on June 21, announced yesterday, in a letter to Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, that he was taking a break from international football and would not be available for selection for the Warriors.
Musona said he would only reconsider playing for the Warriors again if Zifa issue a public apology, confirming that they erred in painting him with a match-fixing brush, and forwarding such communication to world football governing body, Fifa.
The Warriors chief striker’s announcement comes just two days before the Warriors go into the hat for the draw for the 2013 Nations Cup final qualifying round in Johannesburg, South Africa, tomorrow.
The Smiling Assassin has been the heart and soul of the Warriors in the past two years, leading the attack with aplomb, and scoring crucial goals for his country, including the golden one that swept Zimbabwe into the final qualifying draw.
Zimbabwe beat Burundi 1-0 at the National Sports Stadium two weeks ago, with Musona scoring the priceless goal, to earn a 2-2 draw that helped the Warriors squeeze into the final qualifying round on the back of the away goals’ rule.
Musona had also scored the priceless away goal, when the Warriors lost 1-2 to Burundi in Bujumbura, after arriving in the East African country just hours before the big game.
The striker played the home game against Burundi carrying the weight of accusations that he was involved in a shadowy match-fixing scam after claims by Mashingaidze that he was spotted in the company of former Zifa chief executive, Henrietta Rushwaya.
Rushwaya is accused by the Zifa board as the mastermind of the Asiagate match-fixing scam.
Despite the damning allegations, which included Mashingaidze’s announcement in the mainstream media that they had sent a dossier about the shadowy activities to Fifa, Musona kept a cool head and fired home Zimbabwe’s golden goal against Burundi.
But, yesterday, lawyers representing the Warriors’ chief striker, Hogwe, Dzimirai and Partners, wrote to Mashingaidze advising the association that Musona was taking a sabbatical from international football.
Musona’s lawyer, Misheck Hogwe, said his client had suffered irreparable damage to his status as an international football star, in the wake of the allegations, which could affect his development in the game.
“On or about 13 June 2012, your good office was widely quoted by numerous media as having insinuated that our client could have been involved in match-fixing in the games against Guinea at home and Mozambique away,” wrote Hogwe in his letter to Mashingaidze.
“In subsequent publications, your good office was also quoted as having said the matter had been referred to Fifa. This was despite that nobody from your good office had bothered to afford our client any kind of audience whatsoever.
“Our client’s position is that the allegations were baseless and most unfortunate, but he will not pre-empt any due process. Meanwhile, our client has instructed us to advise your good office that he shall NOT be available for selection for duty with the Warriors pending ‘investigations’, which apparently have not commenced to date (since he has not been interviewed).”
Hogwe also outlined the parameters within which Musona could possibly return to the national team fold. “In the event that our client is cleared by any investigation(s), he would only be available for national duty on the following conditions:
That your good office proffers an unequivocal apology and ensures that such apology is given equal or better prominence by the Media. That your good office communicates with Fifa confirming our client’s clearance and furnish us with a copy of such communication.
“Our client has adopted the foregoing position on account of the immeasurable and probably not so reparable damage the grave allegations will potentially have to his career advancement if the matter is not disposed of expeditiously. “Our client will, therefore, expect your good office to move with speed in bringing the matter to finality.
“Please be guided accordingly and note that any communication to our client should, in relation to this issue, be through our office.”
Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, David Coltart, criticised the way Zifa handled the Musona case, saying the negative publicity generated by the hysterical media response was unwarranted.
Musona made his debut for the Warriors in a 2010 World Cup finals preparatory match against Bafana Bafana at the Moses Mabhidha Stadium in Durban, which the South Africans won 3-0.
His first competitive tie was the 2012 Nations Cup qualifier against Liberia in Monrovia and Musona fired the Warriors into the lead but the home side rallied in the second half to get the equaliser in a game that ended 1-1.
He fired blanks in the goalless home tie against Cape Verde at the National Sports Stadium amid chaos in their camp, during the countdown to the match, with the confusion related to would be in charge of the team spilling onto the eve of the game.
An injured Musona missed Zimbabwe’s away tie against Mali in Bamako, which the Warriors lost 0-1, but returned to score a brace at Rufaro, amid bedlam in the stands as he converted a last-gasp penalty, to beat the same opponents 2-1.
Injury then ruled him out of the home tie against Liberia, which the Warriors comfortably won 3-0, and returned to play in Cape Verde, scoring the only goal as Zimbabwe lost 1-2 to crash out of the battle for a place at the 2012 Nations Cup finals.
Musona failed to score in the two opening 2014 World Cup matches against Guinea and Mozambique and, predictably, the Warriors fired blanks but he found his coring touch, just at the right time, to score the golden goal against Burundi.
He has scored all the three goals that the Warriors have registered in their last five World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers. Musona now has six goals in eight World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers for his country and nine goals, in 12 international matches, including the four friendlies he has played. The Herald