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Chinyoka on Tuesday: Was the DRC game fixed?

By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

It has become par for the course, corruption has. The Auditor General released her report, from about 3 years ago, and what you read about would be shocking, if only we hadn’t become so sensitised to corruption that we not only try and justify it, we also write copious articles defending corrupt people and pointing out how they got their wealth fairly and through honest means. We even write stupid things like: oh, how can he be corrupt when he comes from this or that part of the country? Like, really?

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

A whole parastatal lost not one, not two but three airplanes. Now, when I was growing up in Mberengwa (or was that when we were briefly in Shurugwi?) we lost donkeys now and then, and it took weeks to find them. We would search east and north, and each time someone swore they had seen them ‘just yesterday’, and they would turn up west or south, nowhere near where they had allegedly been seen.

Donkeys, yes, I can understand. I even managed to lose homework once in a while, though that tended to invite the ire of the teacher, but planes? I mean, how do you lose three aeroplanes? It seems to me that you would have to try really hard to lose a whole airplane seat, but the actual planes? I mean, the damn things cannot be put in a suitcase, or carted away in a Pick’n’Pay trolley, can they? Someone must file a flight plan, someone clears it to leave, and you know where it landed. It, singular. But they lost three. Three!

Speaking of things you cannot lose unless you are trying, did that just happen? Did we get humiliated 4-0 by the DRC, the team we beat during the qualifiers? The team that was beaten by Uganda, that great footballing nation? Yes, they made memés of Musona missing the open goal during the Uganda game but, after that last game, one must ask, was that a miss?

We have heard about Asiagate, and we know that ZIFA, that paragon of probity and everything proper, looked into things and forgave people while exonerating others. And we know that those that were in Asiagate were not in Egypt……wait a minute, what?

There were moments, during the Zimbabwe – DRC game, when I thought to myself: they are not trying to win this thing, but why? I called my son, watching from 9,000miles away, for his opinion, and he too was dumbfounded. His comment was: “you need to score 3 goals and you are back heeling? This team is shocking.”

Shocking might be one way of putting it. On a plan, might be another.

In the world of match-fixing, gamblers make money when the odds are not in favour of the result they want. We were going to beat DRC. That was a given. We were going to qualify as either second or tied on points with Uganda. It was just a question of getting the ninety minutes out of the way. The odds that we would lose 4-0 were high, and only someone with a plan would have placed a bet on that score.

In the modern age, how do you fix matches? Some do it through team selection: good players played out of position or left out altogether. Others say that this or that player will not be playing because they are injured, then they play. Others say this or that player has had a sudden injury, and cannot play, and then an inferior qualify player is put on the team. Now, because none of that happened with our team, we cannot say that there was any match fixing, can we? Of course not.

Otherwise good players did not inexplicably shoot when a pass was the clear choice. Otherwise good players did not run into opposition defenders despite having acres of space on either side. Otherwise good players did not try to back heel the ball into the net with acres of space and time to turn. Saves that would have been made easily weren’t fumbled and resulted in goals. Deliberate fouls weren’t committed resulting in dangerous set-pieces. In fact, we did not stop trying to score, the whole time we wanted to get at least one in. No?

The trouble with having national teams playing for money is the obvious, they want to get paid. The trouble with being unable to pay your national teams, whom you have raised on diet of money, is that there will be others willing to pay them. The trouble with there being people who are willing to pay is that they have a lot of money, but might not pay for the result you want.

The DRC needed a scoreline that would leave them with a positive goal difference. In other words, they needed four goals without reply. They needed an early goal to rattle our nerves. They needed us to not try to score, but to shoot awry or into defenders when it was easier to score than miss. They needed us to head the ball into the ground when faced with an open goal. They needed us to lose some of our better players to injury. They needed us to capitulate.

It is a good thing that we did not do any of that, isn’t it?

Still, we mustn’t worry. For a country that is capable of losing three aeroplanes into thin air like they were a fart in the wind, what’s a 4-0 scoreline between friends? We died for their country during that war, did we not? It was, after all, their independence day.