Warriors opening match : A déjà vu of blood sweat and tears

Opinion by News Editor, Nigel Pfunde

I am not a huge football fan but I support the Warriors, I’m proudly Zimbabwean.

Zimbabwe national team faces the Pharoahs of Egypt in their opening match on Friday night in an emotionally charged match which has blood, sweat and tears as a ‘common denominator’ for both teams.

The Pharaohs are playing in their own background giving them an added advantage.

They are record seven time Afcon winners making them seen as the team to beat as they boast of Mo Salah, the talismanic striker, who dons the famous Liverpool jersey.

They are the favourites to clinch the title.

Salah is basking in the glory of winning the Champions league with Liverpool and will obviously be hungry for yet another continental silverware.

On the other hand, the Warriors come in as underdogs but gaffer Sunday Mhofu Chidzambga assembled a youthful team comprised of both local and foreign players that are determined and ready to defend the national flag.

I mentioned earlier in this article about blood, sweat and tears being a major imagery in this match.

Let me decipher for you dear reader.

On February 28 1993- exactly a week after the nation celebrated former President Robert Mugabe’s birthday, the national soccer team then known as the Dream Team headed for Cairo in a must win match.

The magnitude of the same match equals this opening encounter- it is also a must win!

However, the Reinhard Fabisch coached and Peter Ndlovu inspired team lost by a goal in a match that was characterized by blood, sweat and tears.

Dream Team players were pelted with unknown objects from the terraces and the likes of right wing Henry McKop and goalie Bruce
Grobbelaar were left wounded and bleeding.

It was blood in the soccer pitch!

The same blood, sweat and tears is expected on Friday as the Warriors are obliged to carry the 1993 inspiration and put their all.

Their fellow compatriots the Dream Team were left with blood on their faces and tears rolling down their cheeks.

Like true Warriors, Chidzambga’s troop must punish the Pharaohs for that moment of madness recorded in African football history.

They must put their all in the match- blood, seat and tears!

The match  of 1993 was later nullified by the then sober minded FIFA led by Brazilian Jaoh Havalenge and played at a neutral venue in Lyon, France.

The Dream Team won the match and the Egyptian players cried, like literally.

The basis for the match nullification were as stated hereunder in italics:

Both the referee (Jean-Fidel Diramba, Gabon) and match commissioner (George Lamptey, Ghana) stated that there was a “shower of stones” prior to the kick-off of the match.

One stone hit Zimbabwean player, Henry McKop, on the nose prior to kick-off, requiring treatment and consequently delaying kick-off for more than five minutes.

This player was able to play with diminished responsibility and his performance was possibly affected to the detriment of the visiting team (giving him an alibi for the penalty that he conceded leading to Egypt’s equaliser).

The referee was forced to stop the game after 27 minutes for a period of three minutes because one of his linesmen was constantly being pelted with stones.

In the 36th minute, Zimbabwe coach Reinhard Fabisch was hit by a stone while standing a few metres in front of the bench, seriously injuring him on the head and requiring treatment and preventing him from giving instructions to his team at half-time (which again possibly affected the course of the match).

During the second half, Zimbabwe goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar was also pelted and that several stones struck him on the back of his head and Grobbelaar had to undergo a brain scan in England as a result of the incident.

The facts reported by both the referee and the match commissioner were grave.

Of course its been more than two decades after that ill-fated match and we have played the Pharaohs a couple of times in between but I feel that the ‘bad’ history between the two teams need to be told.

In the same period both countries also ousted Hosni Mubarak and Robert Mugabe.

I deliberately mentioned this because the relationship between sports and politics is often complicated ..need I say more.

I am not well acquainted with post Dream Team football dispensation so I would not want to pen down toxic information .

But the bottom line is I am proudly Zimbabwean and  remain a Warriors fan.

I wish them a successful  outing at African football’s premier showcase.

King Peter Ndlovu has given them his blessings and said they will reach the semi finals – as many have touted that I am his lookalike I concur!!!

That is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Go Warriors Go!!!!!