By Lot Chitakasha
They say we should not pitch our tents in the past but often enough, the past can be used to inspire the present. If the past can be used as a reference point to motivate the present generation, then indeed, the past should be celebrated. 1996 was a great year for the dormitory town of Chitungwiza.
It was a year when four of her sons were among the crème de le crème of Zimbabwe football. It was a year that the town’s leadership should celebrate, a year the residents of this football mad town should cherish. In one conversation with a friend, Innocent Mupatsi we visited this topic.
He is a man whom I respect for his football thoughts. He happens to be a man who is close to my football heart, because not only is he a Kepekepe die hard, he is also a Shamboist.
For the uninitiated, I call him a Shamboist because he believes, like I also do that Shambo the late Caps United Captain made us love football. He was a master midfielder, a complete player, a leader with a fitting nickname, Mwalimu, the Headmaster.
But on the issue of Chitungwiza however, we were at variance, our ideas as far apart as the north and the south pole. For I had suggested that the Chitiungwiza City fathers should honour 1996 Soccer Star of the year, Stewart “Shutto” Murisa by erecting a statue at the town centre.
They should follow this up by also putting a plague with the names of the other Chitungwiza born and bred finalists, Alois Bunjira, Lloyd Mutasa and Callisto Pasuwa. This was a clean sweep and therefore a pivotal moment in the history of the town. But my friend begged to differ.
He presented a strange argument, that our footballers only excelled locally but did nothing special to justify Heroes status beyond our borders. He therefore thought that to do so would be to celebrate mediocrity. Let them conquer Africa, let them conquer the world. Then we can build statues for them he reasoned. I was taken aback. Then I thought, let me tell him the story of Okonkwo, that warrior of old captured in Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart.
Just the introduction will suffice. “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen, he had brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the cat. Amalinze was a great wrestler who seven years was undefeated from Umofia to Mbaino.
He was called The Cat because his back never touched the ground. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.”
It remains one of the best introductions ever written, one of the greatest stories ever told! Why this reference? Because I think it puts my friend Innocent’s argument to bed. What made Okonkwo famous was a local duel. It was a local act which made him a hero among the people. He did not have to travel abroad to fight every wrestler to gain his fame. He simply turned the tables on a local hero and with that his name was permanently etched in the annals of Umofia history.
That act also guaranteed him a second wife, Ekwefi the village beauty. Yes, Murisa, Bunjira, Mutasa and Pasuwa are local heroes from Chitungwiza who conquered the football world. They were born, bred and perfected in Chitungwiza and they put the town on the map. What better way to remember this special year than by honouring these local heroes.
Imagine a statue of Shutto , the only Soccer Star of the Year to emerge from this dormitory town. Imagine a plague of the other finalists. This at the Town centre where all the young people can see. How will they feel? I bet they will be motivated and one or two will think, “Wow, our brothers conquered the football world in 1996, can we not repeat that?”
If one more Soccer star emerges from this, then it will be a worthy cause. We should never underestimate the power of symbols, the power of legacies inspiring new legacies. Yes, the topic of honouring legends divides opinion. I have made suggestions about George Shaya, Peter Ndlovu and Moses Chunga among others. The powers that be do not seem to be receptive to this idea.
The more I read about the history of Zimbabwe football, the more I discover Heroes who deserve to be honoured. Think of Peter “Thunderboots” Nyama, 62 goals in one season, simply unbelievable! Freddy Mkwesha for his conquest of Portugal where he spent over a decade. Sunday Chidzambwa and his Dynamos warriors of 1998 for reaching the Champions league final.
Sunday Chidzambwa again for breaking the Afcon jinx, Norman Mapeza for breaking a 51 year old hoodoo by winning the league with FC Platinum . Yes, even my homeboy Evans Chikwaikwai for emerging from the dusty roads of Rusape to conquer the Zimbabwe football world.
When we will we see another one from Rusape , I wonder? But others, like my friend Innocent Mupatsi will say “ Aaah, you are being too generous..” But I beg to differ, local achievements in our football world must be honoured. I quote Ben Okri, the Nigerian writer, “To poison a Nation, poison its stories.
A demoralised Nation tells demoralised stories of itself.” While Chitungwiza town elders and residents grapple with the challenges they face which include burst sewage pipes, potholed roads and even the current cholera epidemic, they should not forget 1996, the year that the town’s sons conquered the local football world. It is a good story.