HARARE – Asifuni Bumbulu (we don’t want nonsense) is a phrase that is fast gaining traction among soccer fans, especially Highlanders’ followers in the aftermath of the recently abandoned Bosso and Dynamos match in Bulawayo.
So popular is the phrase becoming that some Highlanders fans have even printed T-shirts emblazoned with the catchy expression.
Unfortunately, and very sadly for Zimbabwean football, Asifuni Bumbulu is also being used by a few Highlanders fans to demonstrate misguided defiance against the sport’s administrators, at a time that the country’s second biggest club after Dynamos stands accused of bringing the world’s most beautiful game into disrepute through violent, deviant behaviour.
And so it was again this past Sunday that, without any sense of shame and responsibility, some Highlanders fans needlessly caused the abandonment of their club’s high profile league match against FC Platinum at Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane, after the hosts had equalised via a disputed penalty at the death.
This was despite the ominous fact that Bosso has already been dragged before a disciplinary hearing to answer charges relating to the unacceptable behaviour of its fans which led to the abandonment of the game against Dynamos.
Which brings me to the nub of this opinion. It is disconcerting that there is a group among Bosso’s fans which believes that if results or decisions do not go their team’s way, then violent or loutish behaviour is the way to get their grievances addressed.
It has not helped matters that a few lost souls within and outside the club (both Ndebele and Shona) have foolishly tried to ascribe ethnic and political undertones to this thuggish sporting behaviour.
The fact is, violence should have no place whatsoever in football, no matter how aggrieved fans may feel by both on-field and off-field decisions that will have gone against their favourite team.
As it is, Sunday’s mayhem in Zvishavane, for which some Bosso fans were solely responsible, resulted in police firing teargas at fans, a situation that could have resulted in a fatal stampede.
Another fact that is worth bearing in all this nonsense is that Highlanders are not the only team locally or internationally to have been at the receiving end of bad decisions by match officials.
Recently, to give a few examples, Barcelona were given a penalty after Jordi Alba conned match officials in an embarrassing act worthy of a Bollywood Emmy award.
In this year’s Uefa Champions League quarter-final return leg at the Santiago Bernabéu, Real Madrid scored two goals from clear offside positions, and also benefited from having Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal being wrongly sent off.
Before that, Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, who was on a yellow card, escaped a second yellow card that would have seen him sent off after he was perplexingly allowed to remain on the pitch when the referee did not book him. Madrid went on to win the match 4-2, with Bayern Munich crashing out 3-6 on aggregate.
And only this past Saturday, Arsenal profited from a handball by Alexis Sanchez during the FA Cup final match against Chelsea.
In all these cases, there was no storming of the pitch by irate fans or an abandonment of the match. The clubs which were on the receiving end of the self-evident bad decisions took it on the chin and moved on with life, understanding that they too had sometimes benefited from poor officiating.
Which is why mature football players, fans and pundits talk of the “rub of the green”, as that is the way football goes.
Which is why what we are witnessing with some Highlanders fans lately, the “Zanufication of sorts” of the beautiful game, must be condemned unreservedly by all soccer-loving followers and peace-loving Zimbabweans.
It is also the reason why the Premier Soccer League (PSL) must act decisively against Highlanders and its fans if football is not to suffer irreparable harm, including fans and sponsors running away from the game.
Ultimately, this is not about Highlanders, it’s about the local game and its future.