Last week, Kubatana sent out a text message asking Zimbabweans what they thought about the state parting with $1.8 million as payment for Brazil’s Samba boys to come in for a friendly with our national team, the Warriors. They also sought to influence our conscience by reminding us that this was being done in the face of our civil servants getting peanut salaries. I don’t know how far true this business of paying $1.8 million is since ZIFA has been denying ‘such allegations’, but I remember looking at Kaka that day and thinking that clearly, Kubatanas are not soccer fanatics.
I was among the 40 thousand plus crowd that thronged the national sports stadium for the friendly and I must say; it was an electrifying experience .The atmosphere was just eclectic with cars everywhere and momentarily, all paths leading to the stadium turned into one-way streets. The excitement was infectiousness and previously at the office, we had all been having a hard time concentrating on what we were doing, watching the clock like eagles for the half-day knock off.
Like at all football matches, people saw this as an opportunity to flaunt their different ‘jerseys’ depicting the international teams they supported. Among them were the bright yellow Brasil T-shirts that I think somehow just look better on women. Inside the stadium, vuvuzelas did most of the talking and the crowd did not seem to mind the noise or the fact that uncle Bob turned up – as is usual when the national team plays – to jinx the match. Only this time, credit clearly could not be pinned on the geriatric leader. That Zim would lose to Brazil was predetermined. But we didn’t care. If anything, Zimbabweans in the stadium that day struggled with the true test of loyalty and patriotism tugging at their consciences and had a hard time trying not to support both teams. At the end of the day it didn’t matter which team one supported. It was enough just being there.
Seeing Kaka and Juan in flesh and bone was our Fifa moment, and the Zimbabweans in that place could not give a flying fart whether $1.8 million was paid for it or not.
Moreover, it’s not like that money would have been put to better use anyway, we all know that. And if it’s any consolation to know, by FIFA standards, $1.8 million is nothing compared to what some of these players are paid internationally. Recently, Real Madrid reportedly parted with an obscene € 8m to get one of the world’s most prestigious coaches, Jose Mourinho. Kaka is currently the highest paid soccer player in the world, with an annual salary pegged at $12.87 million. This tells me that for Brazil, it wasn’t about the money.
Nobody was ‘bussed-in’ to come and watch that match. Zimbabweans from all corners of the country willingly drove their cars or walked to the stadium and paid their hard earned money to watch the game. For those 90 minutes, 40 thousand Zimbabweans momentarily forgot they had problems. Men smuggled in vodka and made merry, for the match provided an excuse to drown their sorrows. Some were already vomiting, way before kick-off. Women clad in tight leggings and boots danced sele like crazies. It was sheer craziness. At kick-off, the stadium steps shook and reverberated with feet stomping excitedly on the terraces. It was like being 10 again for most of us. Apart from the lousy sound system supporting the big screen and the visibly smitten mousy woman behind me who annoyingly kept screaming, ‘come on Kaka’ each time the player had the ball at his feet, this promised to be a good match. At the end of 90 minutes we had of course lost the game, but we did not go home unhappy people. If anything, the only thing that dampened our spirits was the cold and long hours spent in the slow-moving traffic negotiating our way out of stadium grounds.
So to answer the question, what do I think about paying $1.8 million (that easily would otherwise have been used for some obscure purpose like shopping in Malaysia by you know who) – if it meant seeing the five-time world cup champion team playing live on our soil; if it meant experiencing 90 minutes of hectic action and excitement and momentarily forgetting how some people are everyday screwing up this beautiful country for us and lastly, to see 40 thousand Zimbabweans laugh out loud for once with great abandon despite all their problems; the answer is I’d have that again, any day.