“The Britons bankrupted me. I came to their country with £10 in my pocket and they gave me £1 back,” former Warriors and Liverpool legendary goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar once told the British media.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Grobbelaar was referring to his £85 000 libel award which he had won against British tabloid newspaper The Sun in 1999, but was sensationally slashed down to a meager £1 after suing the newspaper for coverage of his match-fixing allegations.
The Sun’s successful appeal against the award also saw the Liverpool legend being ordered to pay the newspaper’s legal costs estimated at £500 000, but he was unable to pay after being declared bankrupt.
The former Highlanders goalie went through a grueling tussle against The Sun after being caught on videotape allegedly discussing match-fixing with a bookmaker and was charged with conspiracy before being acquitted in 1997.
“I have been through 10 years of court cases to clear my name, which I succeeded,” Grobbelaar told Standardsport.
Gobbelaar would, however, report for Warriors duty during his trial period.
Now, 18 years after his much-publicised bribery allegations were unearthed, Grobbelaar’s countrymen are bearing the brunt of various degrees of sanctions imposed on them by Zifa for their alleged involvement in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.
But Grobbelaar feels the problem lies with the country’s football authorities.
“I do not know the full story of what happened in the tournaments in Asia and I am not going to comment on that. But I can tell you that when I was care-taker coach with Sunday Marimo (now Chidzambwa) in a four-team tournament in South Africa some years ago, we had a problem with our own corrupt officials from Zifa. Sunday and I managed to get the money that was promised to players before the officials had spent it. The story is quite humorous,” said Grobbelaar, who added Chidzambwa was better-placed to explain the incident.
However, Chidzambwa could not be reached for comment.
Grobbelaar still has a pessimistic view of Zimbabwean football and refuses to offer advice to current football authorities.
“What I say will go in one ear and goes out through the other in terms of motivation. The advice must come from one who is involved as coach, trainer, manager and captain of the team.”
It might be over a decade since Grobbelaar last danced with Zimbabwean football, but the eccentric glove man insists he has not turned his back on his country in imparting his goalkeeping skills.
The “Jungleman,” as he is affectionately known, is a bitter man and feels that it is Zimbabwe itself that has turned its back on him.
“I have plenty to offer to Zimbabwe football. That position has been spoken of on several occasions and that is why I am here and my country is where it is,” said Grobbelaar before going satirical.
“There was a young boy who was born in Africa and played the beautiful game, football. This boy was taught to play by Africans of all races. He competed against the best in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe from a young age.
“This boy grew to be a man and represented his country with dignity which was unfortunately taken away from him by the people in power. Now that man is elsewhere, teaching what he learned in Africa to people who appreciate his talent. Like so many others, he may never go back to where his heart is, and that is Zimbabwe. However, he always gets news of what’s happening! This is not coming from me, but the people in charge in Zimbabwe,” Grobbelaar said. Now based in Canada, Grobbelaar holds a Uefa A Licence coaching badge and occasionally conducts coaching courses.
He also does not hide his desire to one day sit in the Anfield dugout coaching Liverpool, a club that gave him fame from 1981 to 1994. “I would love to coach Liverpool one day, but age might work against me. With the younger Brendan Rogers there now, I believe he will be there for a long and successful time,” said the 55-year-old.
Having served in the Rhodesian army for two years during the liberation struggle, Grobbelaar believes military experience sharpened him into a tough character.
“Serving in the army helped me a lot as some of the places we went to play were like war zones such as Togo, Sudan, Angola, Guinea, Tunisia and Mozambique.”
Known for his workmanship in between goals, and equally for his clowning antics, Grobbelaar would pull a world-class save one minute, followed by a fumble the next second.