The beauty of the game lies in the emotional attachment between the principal actors — the fans and the players.
However, on numerous unfortunate occasions across the world, tragedies have spoilt that beauty.
Recently three Egyptian players Mohamed Barakat, Mohamed Aboutrika and striker Emad Motaeb quit the game of football after watching in horror 74 fans dying while hundreds were injured following a match between rivals Al Ahly and Al-Masry in the resort town of Port Said.
Back home, former Warriors goalkeeper Muzondiwa “Lazy Mzoe” Mugadza is still to come to terms with the July 9 2000 disaster that claimed 13 fans after a stampede at the National Sports Stadium. On that fateful day, mayhem erupted after South African striker Delron Buckley scored his country’s second goal as Bafana Bafana went 2-0 up.
Defeat was eminent for the Warriors and fans couldn’t fathom that leading to the disturbances that claimed the lives of many fans.
Although it is almost 12 years since that horrendous day, Mugadza, who is now safely tucked in Coventry, in the United Kingdom, still vividly remembers the anguish of the fans as they jostled for safety after police had indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters into the stands.
“Losing to South Africa at the National Sports Stadium crossed my mind here and there. I (as the team’s goalkeeper that day) felt as a team we let the nation down on that day and as an individual I could have done better. What angered me is that people lost their loved ones on that day.
“I do not want to imagine how those who lost their loved ones feel to this day and would not want to think I am the only one who has got a guilt conscience in the squad that played that day,” he said.
Two years later, a disillusioned Mugadza quit the game at the age of 27, when the effects of the economic meltdown began to show in the country. He left for England to pursue a career different from the game that had given him fame.
“I work as an inventory and administration controller for a firm in the United Kingdom. As for football, I am no-longer in love with the game. I am more hooked with Formula One,” he said.
The 37-year-old, who was nicknamed Lazy Mzoe after then popular Lazy Sam jeans, however did try a hand in soccer upon arrival in the United Kingdom, but all was in vain.
“There was a lower division side that was interested in my services when I arrived in England, but I failed to get an international clearance since I had sneaked out of the country,” he said.
Mugadza started his career at Mzilikazi Youth Club before he was lured to the Zimbabwe Saints Under-14 team by Lloyd Jowa and Dumisani Dube.
“I then joined Highlanders juniors briefly, but grew impatient with my progress there so I rejoined Saints which I can proudly say is the team close to my heart followed by the now defunct AmaZulu,” he said.
Mugadza, who starred in the popular AmaZulu squad that included colourful characters such as Isaac Riyano, Ronald Sibanda, Mkhuphali Masuku and Norman Komani, was also part of the Under-23 squad that missed qualifying for the 1996 Olympic Games by a whisker.
That Young Warriors squad had the likes of Alois Bunjira, Methembe Ndlovu and skipper Vusi Laher. The team lost 2-0 to a talent laden Nigeria team of Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Nwanko Kanu and Taribo West in the final qualifiers for the Atlanta Games. Nigeria went on to win the gold medal at the same tournament.
Mugadza, who was popular for his penalty kicks, broke into the Saints first team against Dynamos in 1995 and in 1996 was voted the goalkeeper of the year.
“I played many games but regard my first game for Saints as my best. I was very inexperienced, but did well against the lethal Dynamos strike force led by Vitalis Takawira and Tauya Murewa. In 1996 and 1997 I was one of the 11 best players.” he said.
In 1996 and 1997 I was one of the 11 best players in the country and still feel cheated after being left out in 2001 when three goalkeepers were chosen.
“I was ignored despite conceding 13 goals and had kept 11 clean sheets. I feel there was a bit of politics in the selection,” he said.