CALL him King Sunday III, the COSAFA King, Warrior King or whatever name with a touch of royalty and, if you are taking about Africa’s most successful regional football tournament, it’s unlikely you will get critics throwing bricks at you for hoisting him on such a pedestal reserved for revered monarchs.
When someone finally decides to pluck a leaf from Memory Mucherahowa and writes a book about the COSAFA Castle Cup in an era where possibly this regional tournament would have long staggered into extinction, there will certainly be a special page reserved for this Zimbabwean coach.
For, choosing not to do that will not just be seen as an insult to the real story of this tournament, which this year celebrated 20 years after its inaugural edition with the Warriors making history by winning a record fifth crown after demolishing bitter rivals Zambia 3-1 in the final on Sunday, but will certainly be viewed as an aberration.
Welcome back home Mhofu. And, before we get lost in the mist of statistics that provide the soul of this piece, it’s important to tell you that while you were away on national duty in South Africa, one of your old boys Moses Chunga went on national television on Monday night to thank you for delivering this piece of silverware.
He also told the nation, using the massive reach that the weekly Monday night ZTV football magazine programme Game Plan has across the country, he was indebted to you for restoring the Warriors’ pride at this tournament after years of underachievement by our boys since we had last graced the winners’ enclosure back in 2009.
Chunga said it was an insult to this nation that the Warriors should be ranked among lightweights of the COSAFA Castle Cup, reduced to the Mickey Mouse football nations who have to start their adventure in the group qualifying stages because of our repeated poor showing there, given the talent around this country.
Play the video below:
Amid the explosion of joy at the Royal Bafokeng Palace on Sunday, after victory over the ultimate rivals had been secured, in comprehensive fashion and with a touch of class in which the attacking football of your players illuminated the mild winter afternoon, you might probably not have heard South African football commentator Mark Gleeson telling millions of television viewers across the continent that this was your 15th unbeaten match in this tournament.
Gleeson, who also writes for some of the world’s leading publications, is a man everyone in this part of the world respects, for good reason too, because he is considered the ultimate football encyclopedia in Southern Africa, the authoritative voice of the game who was even honoured by the CAF leadership for his services to African football.
He was the SuperSport commentator for our final against Zambia and did a pretty good job of it, as he usually does, and as you started that sprint, which appeared like a jog, onto the field to be with your players in their hour of success, Gleeson remembered the scar that the old injury that ended your career and makes you run in an awkward way, and used it as a sound-bite to his commentary. And if it was meant to honour you for the service you have given to his game, to remind his audience that you were not a Johnny-Come-Lately suddenly trying to parade himself as the master in this game, Gleeson really hit a bull’s eye.
Oh, by the way, this isn’t about Big Mark but about you, the man whose parents, somehow, aptly, chose a fitting first name for given your life in the public glare, and your greatest stories, have generally been told on any given Sunday.
Welcome home Sunday Chidzambwa. Of course, I have been doing the maths and your record in this COSAFA Cup, where you are unbeaten, doesn’t tell me that you have been involved in 15 matches, as previously broadcast and written, but that you have guided your Warriors in 16 games.
And you have won 13 and drawn 3, in the period spread over 17 years that you have been involved with this tournament, with your Warriors scoring 37 goals and conceding only seven and, if this was a league championship, this will give you 42 out of 48 points.
Now, that an impressive 87.5 percent success rate in this tournament although, given the ultimate mission is to try and win it, and you have done so on all the three occasions you have been asked to take charge of your Warriors in this tourney, others can rightly call it a 100 percent success rate.
There have been nine clean sheets by your men in those 16 matches and only two teams, Lesotho, has managed to score more than one goal in the 16 matches that you have presided over in the three COSAFA Cup tournaments.
Yes, Lesotho scored twice against your Warriors at Rufaro back in 2009 in a 2-2 draw, one of only three teams — the others being South Africa and Madagascar, of course, with a little bit of help from that Botswana referee who denied your boys two clear penalties — who have managed to scrap draws against your team in the COSAFA Cup.
And Lesotho, who are the only ones who appear to have perfected a way of piercing your defensive shields when it comes to this tournament, again scored three times in South Africa in that seven-goal semi-final thriller even though, as your boys always do under you when the COSAFA Cup comes along, you won that contest.
Your Warriors have only trailed once, in your adventure in this COSAFA Cup, in that semi-final against Bafana Bafana at Rufaro on October 28, 2009, when Lennox Bacela shot his country into a first half lead to plunge more than 25 000 fans into silence.
How dare, I may ask, did they even doubt your men because your Warriors came fighting back, found the equaliser in the second half and in the penalty shoot-out lottery that followed, held their nerve to triumph.
Our colleagues, across the Zambezi, must be rowing tired of just your presence because, on the occasions we meet them in the final of this tournament and you are the one in charge — as was the case on Sunday — it always ends 3-1 in our favour.
It was the same story back in 2009 when a double by Nyasha Mushekwi and another goal by Cuthbert Malajila powered your boys to a 3-1 triumph in that final and, on Sunday, it was a similar score in Rustenberg.
By the way, why do players with a surname that starts with “M”, as was the case with your old name Marimo before it underwent major surgery and came out as Chidzambwa, and is the case with your nickname, clan name or whatever, Mhofu, always steal the show with the goals in the COSAFA Cup final in which you are the coach?
Albert Mbano and Zvenyika Makonese in that 2-1 win in Malawi in 2003, Nyasha Mushekwi and Cuthbert Malajila in that 3-1 win over Zambia at Rufaro in 2009 and Knox Mutizwa and Ocean Mushure in that 3-1 win over the Zambians in Rustenberg on Sunday?
Maybe, now that you are back home, King Sunday III, I will get a chance to find an explanation to all this?
Sixteen games, 13 wins, three draws, 37 goals, just seven against, it just doesn’t get better than this and, in case you doubt, ask the Zambians.
Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor