When Zimbabwean fans at the National Stadium were hit by the reality that their beloved Warriors team had lost at home against Guinea and for the second successive time in the year, all hell broke loose and there was havoc and pandemonium at the giant stadium.
During the match, irate fans turned against their own coach, caretaker gaffer Rahman Gumbo as they sought for answers to their nightmare, a very unfair 0-1 defeat at the hands of Guinea at home. There were calls form the placards waving fans for the return of suspended coach Norman Mapeza as fans battled to come to terms with the reality of the defeat.
After the match, angry Warriors fans held their own players and even worse still the visiting team and match officials hostage, as missiles rained onto the pitch, preventing the trapped players/officials to exit the pitch into their dressing rooms.
Needless to say, the disturbances at the stadium which placed players from both teams and officials at huge risks of injury will attract a heavy fine for Zifa and there is a possibility that the Warriors might play in an empty stadium in their next match at home.
The anger of the fans is understandable as they battled to accept that their team had lost a second match in succession.
However, no amount of violence no matter the enormity of the pain can ever be justifiable in a civilised society. There is a better way to deal with one's losses and pain. Attacking one's own players or coaches and subjecting the opposition and officials to risks is no solution to one's problem.
The action of the fans has to be condemned in the harshest of ways. Simply put, the fans overreacted and with the benefit of hindsight (especially after the impending Fifa sanction) the fans will realise that they could and indeed should have responded differently.
Even paying hard-earned cash to watch a national team does not give one a licence to mete out violence on anyone who is blamed for causing this and that, and worse still for damaging properties of innocent people who are themselves sharing the same pain of losing a match at home!
And after all the above has been said, there are questions to which wee answers must be found.
The first question is: Was the reaction of the fans and the disturbing scenes at the National Sports Stadium on 3 June something new to the world of soccer and sports? The simple answer is, certainly not. It is an expression of cumulative pain and the pain of the fans is understandable, even if their reaction remains unacceptable.
The cause of such pain cannot just be ignored by those who are tasked with running a nation's football.
The causes must be identified and acknowledged. Responsibility for causation must be taken. It is unacceptable for leaders, if they are real and true leaders, to simply behave like they are beyond reproach when it is an open secret that they are to blame for the poor performance of a team, which in turn can give rise to unrest among fans who love their Warriors passionately.
Jonathan Mashingaidze, the ZIFA CEO chose to give a hugely unfortunate response to the disturbances at the stadium on Sunday. Instead of showing leadership and accepting Zifa's responsibility in the poor performance of the Warriors and showing sympathy with the grieving fans, the CEO chose to find a scapegoat to the disturbances at the giant stadium.
“We know that there are some elements that are being sponsored to
denigrate the technical team that we have but we believe in the
technical department that we have,’’ Mashingaidze said.
Earlier the Zifa CEO had made the following unintelligible remarks.
"As Zifa we are hurt by the result but it is not our habit to apportion
blame on anyone. After all we are the custodians of the game. We want to
appeal to the nation to remain calm and let the competition run its
“It’s the first game in such a campaign and anything is
possible in the next five games. We want to urge the fans to rally
behind this team.
The statements from Mashingaidze sum up a terrible attitude from anyone in a leadership position following two painful defeats. If the CEO's statements are representative of Zifa, then the fans have reasons to believe that our soccer is in wrong hands.
The nation expected at least an acknowledgment of Zifa's responsibility, and the CEO appears to be oblivious to his organisation's responsibility in this whole mess and sounds like taking advantage of the opportunity to sound boastful.
It is terribly naive for Zifa (Mashingaidze) to think that all the chaos at the National Sports Stadium was caused by people sponsored to cause unrest and "denigrate" the national team's technical department.
So, following that same line of reasoning, did the same people who are accused of having sponsored the violence (whoever they might be), also sponsor the loss of the team in Burundi and in Harare so that they could have an opportunity to attack Rahman Gumbo?
It is impossible to avoid making comparisons between South African Football Association (SAFA)'s reaction to a draw at home and Zifa's response to the painful defeat on Sunday.
Safa had to be locked up in meeting for the entire day on Monday, and a decision was made at 01h00, that is, in the early hours of the morning. Even though the sacking of Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane was unfortunate, Safa's application of their minds to the crisis is commendable.
In stark contrast, for ZIFA, despite having come out of the first match of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers worse off than South Africa, it was business as usual for the Zimbabwean football custodians.
In Mashingaidze's words, after-all "it is the first game in such a campaign and anything is
possible in the next five games", so there is no need to press any panic buttons.
Everyone else should just shut-up and say nothing about the second loss of the Warriors, and dare not even point a finger at Zifa, because again in Mashingaidze's misguided statement " as Zifa... it is not our habit to apportion
blame on anyone", and maybe he forgot to add that it is not Zifa's habit to accept responsibility for a mess.
Whatever happened to the understanding that everything falls and rises at leadership.
While we all condemn the unfortunate reactions of the Warriors fans who failed to handle their pain of a loss at home, the inaction or inappropriate response of Zifa is a cause for serious concern for soccer loving Zimbabweans.
A bad result should surely awaken anyone who is duty-conscious to the reality of the problem at hand. Does Zifa think that condemning the reaction of the fans is the end of it? Real leadership shows during times of crisis.
Can real leaders of Zimbabwean football stand-up and be counted! Now is the time. No amount of grand-standing or media statements will stop the Warriors from losing. Real response will. And we are not talking about hiring and firing coaches here.
ZIFA! Fix this caretaker coach non-sense. If Gumbo is the man, then give him the job on a full-time basis and stop exposing him and the hard-working players to unfair ridicule from understandably angry fans.