Simba Jemwa, Sports Reporter
FOR years Zimbabweans have been denied any sort of cheer from national sporting teams.
They have had to endure the indignity of watching other nations celebrate their sporting icons with exuberant abandon while they wallowed in seething anger.
Many a time, locals have had to hold their heads in their hands, wondering where ‘a’ festive cheer will come from. National team fixtures no longer attracted more than a whisper of interest, many sports fans arguing: “We won’t get far anyway!”
One could be forgiven for thinking Zimbabweans are not a patriotic lot.
But for two months, one national team has allowed Zimbabweans to dare to dream again, to dare to stand up in public and back ‘a’ national team. Which national team has brought these moments back into the lives of locals who love sport?
It is the Chevrons, the Zimbabwe cricket national team that has slowly crept back into the broken hearts, and into the disappointed minds of the fans!
Thousands of people have gone through the gates of Queens and Harare sports clubs in recent weeks to watch Zimbabwe do battle and win while they were at it.
Stadiums are once again full.
Now, as the team brought back cricket home with a monumental series victory against Bangladesh – with Sikandar Raza Butt leading like a bull charging to save his brood – it’s almost unfathomable to believe that just over two months ago the sport was actually struggling to attract fans into match venues.
Losses to minnows like Namibia did not help their cause. But this malaise by fans was/is not confined to just cricket – people have lost faith in all sporting codes that previously brought joy to the hearts of Zimbabwean sports followers. Be it tennis, football, rugby and almost all sporting codes loved by Zimbabweans – locals had lost all love for our ‘success-phobic’ athletes.
Zimbabweans used to travel hundreds of kilometres to watch the Black brothers, Byron and Wayne or their sister Cara play tennis and beat some of the world’s best. They travelled hundreds of kilometres to add their voice to Reinhard Fabisch’s own whenever the Dream Team was local.
Kilometre after kilometre after kilometre they travelled just to watch chicken farmer, Eddo Brandes streaking down the wicket or facing down Shoaib Akhtar. Many sleepless nights were had whenever Kirsty Coventry, now the Sports Minister, was competing in swimming pools across the world!
Back then the support was premised on seeing these athletes give their all whether in victory or defeat.
After all, Brandes and his bunch of Chevrons did not win a World Cup, nor did the Black brothers win the Davis Cup. But what they did do was lose gracefully, with blood and sweat dripping down their foreheads after giving more than their fair share of effort.
Zimbabweans did not mind some of these defeats because more often than not, they were preceded by unlikely victories against top competition. As this crop of athletes faded into the sunset, Zimbabwean sport was beset with talented but disinterested successors.
There was little of the blood and sweat that gave fans hope that victory was indeed possible. In its stead, Zimbabwe was presented with national teams bereft of determination, guts and fight – a bunch of athletes just happy to make the cut, take the money, get on a plane and be done with it all as quickly as possible.
Then my oh my! The Chevrons came to town and tore the party right out of the form book. Fans were reminded of the sweet taste of victory that was seasoned with a dash of hard work and a pinch of commitment. Result – T20 World Cup qualification and a first ever series victory over Bangladesh.
All of a sudden, India and Australia are wondering if the Chevrons are maybe a touch less likely to capitulate at the sight of the first 150km plus delivery.
They both now have to think really hard about Zimbabwe before they get onto those flights! Be it Raza and his determination to drag his teammates out of their phobia of winning matches or Dave Houghton’s Midas touch, it seems locals will be singing long into the night more often than they have to cry themselves to sleep!
Now the rest of the sporting fraternity hopes this success rubs off to football, tennis, rugby and other sport codes.
Zimbabweans would like to see the Warriors become unbeatable again at home and the Locke brothers bringing back the glory days of old in the Davis Cup and that young Donata Katai keeps swimming her way into the millions of hearts that pray for her every stroke in the pool.
Long live the Chevrons! We believe again! Lord, give us the strength to have faith in all our national teams and may they not betray our trust. — @RealSimbaJemwa