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After 16 years of horror, is the mood finally changing for the Silver Fox?

By Robson Sharuko

For years, it has been the symbol of ultimate choking by a Warrior on the grand stage, an act of both infamy and betrayal it even provided a name for wayward shooting in football matches in the playgrounds of the country’s schools.

TIME IS A HEALER . . . It appears the mood is now changing, among fans who have spent years vilifying Wilfred Mugeyi for his horrible miss at the 2004 AFCON finals, with some now suggesting the chance he blew away was not as simple as it looked on television over the years
TIME IS A HEALER . . . It appears the mood is now changing, among fans who have spent years vilifying Wilfred Mugeyi for his horrible miss at the 2004 AFCON finals, with some now suggesting the chance he blew away was not as simple as it looked on television over the years

It even added a new name to the vocabulary of domestic football.

‘‘Mugeyi (verb) — to, somehow, fluff a chance from where it’s easier to score than miss, especially when the ball has been blasted over the bar from close range)

It transformed Wilfred Mugeyi into a sorry figure of hate and an effigy of hurt, the fall guy of the Warriors’ maiden AFCON finals campaign in Tunisia in 2004, the one everyone blamed for the team’s exit in the group stages of the tournament.

A career built over more than a dozen years, in which he was crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 1992 and went on to become one of the finest imports to grace the South African Premiership, was reduced into one single act that barely lasted a second.

But, it appears, 16 years down the line, the mood might be changing.

The Silver Fox arrived in Tunisia as a proud member of the pioneer battalion of Warriors representing their country, for the first time, at the Nations Cup finals.

But, by the end of the campaign, where they celebrated Peter Ndlovu’s heroics in scoring three goals at the tournament, they also criticised Mugeyi for missing a gilt-edged chance that could have changed the course of the team’s campaign.

The critics were brutal, some hooligans even went to his parents home in Mabvuku and stoned it in frustration, while Mugeyi was left to slip away from international football without the fanfare that usually accompany such a retirement.

That his inclusion in the squad, in the first place, had been a subject of intense debate, with some questioning whether he could deliver at such a big occasion, only inflamed the fury among those who didn’t believe in him.

The defining moment for him came in the dying moments of the Warriors’ opening match at the 2004 AFCON finals against the Pharaohs of Egypt at the Stade Taieb Mhiri in the Tunisian city of Sfax on January 25, 2004.

The Warriors had taken the lead, shortly after the break, through a header by their skipper Ndlovu before Tamer Abdelhamid’s fortuitous goal, from a deflection, drew the Pharaohs level.

Substitute Mohamed Barakat then put the Pharaohs into the lead with a controversial goal which came from a goal-mouth scramble.

Dazzy Kapenya’s spectacular acrobatics appeared to have cleared the ball from the line, something which Burkinabe referee Lassina Pare appeared to agree with, as he waved away the Egyptian calls for a goal.

However, the referee’s assistant ruled the ball had crossed the line and the Pharaohs had their golden goal, and the lead, in a tough battle.

With goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro in the form of his life, the lead remained just a single goal, providing the Warriors with hope that a sucker punch could give them a point which would have represented a good day’s work for the Nations Cup débutantes.

That moment appeared to arrive right at the end when a ball swung in from the left was misjudged by an Egyptian defender, Mugeyi, lurking on the blind side, expertly took the ball on his chest but, from close range, and with ‘keeper Nader El Sayed seemingly at his mercy, the striker powered his effort over the bar.

And, the Mugeyi bashing started.

However, 16 years later, thanks to the availability of videos which now show different angles of that play, including our ability to now freeze every phase of that play, some fans are beginning to have a different view, arguing that the striker has been unfairly treated.

Others, though, remain convinced he produced the Miss of the Millennium and are not yet in the mood to forgive and here are some of the comments in a debate, provoked by The Herald, which has been raging on Twitter.

Bothwell Mahlengwe

‘‘It wasn’t as bad as it was portrayed, a bit of head down, it could have nestled into the top corner of the roof. He did everything right for a striker, except that he missed the target. There have been many worse misses like the Yakubu one at the World Cup. If you check well, it didn’t miss the bar by more than 10cm, however, because of the power behind it, it looked wayward. The takedown was just brilliant, tough luck Silver Fox.’’

Lesley Chiwona

‘‘I have just compared this miss, with that of Benjani Mwaruwari in 2006, Musona’s miss, let alone CR7 miss at Man Utd, and I have come to the conclusion that WE WERE AS A NATION JUST UNFAIR TO MUGEYI’’

Lee Dzenga

‘‘Perhaps Mugeyi was a victim of expectations. The boys were clinical in the qualifiers and the nation was expectant. The defender was closing in, he needed to take the shot when he did. Not sure why, the miss looked like his fault in 2004 but, in retrospect, it wasn’t a big deal.’’

Ticha WekwaShiri

‘‘It wasn’t a bad miss zvayo sekutaurwa kwayaiitwa.’’

Tonderai Mugabe

‘‘Having another view, with a fresh mind, it wasn’t easy at all and it’s just an ordinary miss.’’

Emmanuel Zhou

‘‘Although very difficult to accept, it happens in football, even with the world-class strikers (miss). Remember Roberto Baggio’s decisive penalty miss at ltalia ’94 which handed Brazil the trophy?’’

William Manhuma

‘‘I think the issue is on the significance of the miss.’’

Emmanuel K. Shonge

‘‘It’s the expectation we had as a nation that made it look worse. If we were leading 4-0, nobody would talk about it. Remember in 2012 Drogba’s penalty miss too against Zambia that’s joked of not only missing the gate but the whole stadium and landed in Mars?’’

@nketa2000

‘‘Looking at it now, I think before he hit the ball, he had celebrated already, plus the technique shows the guy was under pressure to impress.’’

Mambo Gutu Chitova

‘‘It was a bad day in the office for the Silver Fox, whose national team career never produced the sparkle that we all expected, especially comparing with his club football career. His twin brother, the Golden Fox always won the battle of being a better FOX in the national team.’’

Munyaradzi Peresu

‘‘This was a moment where great players distinguish themselves from the average players. Mugeyi had finally been presented with a golden opportunity to justify his inclusion on the team sheet. Sadly, his nerves outdid him, the near post was open but instead he let it fly.’’

Tawanda Savanhu

‘‘Bad miss considering the level of game and what was at stake. Greatness is attained by scoring such goals at the end of the day. Big heart, gave it 100 percent each time he was on the pitch, a great servant to Zim football.’’ The Herald

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