Africa | Destroyers v. Rebuilders, a Zimbabwean allegory

Harare, Zimbabwe | According to an extended allegorical match account mailed to the Zimbabwe Standard (“Matchless Match,” Apr 12), the Destroyers—meaning the state apparatus of entrenched president Robert Mugabe—hold a 10–2 edge over political opponents, the Rebuilders.

As Morgan Tsvangirai and his opposition Movement for Democratic Change demand that the government release election results of Mar 29, it seems appropriate to see the confrontation in football terms. Since 1999, the MDC has issued its supporters red cards to flash at stadium rallies to demand Mugabe’s sending off (see Mar 28).

As the anonymous correspondent says:

The captain of the Destroyers was shown a red card numerous times but his response was to wave his wizened fist around somewhat unsteadily and to refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the referee. Indeed, he went as far as to tear up the red card and throw the pieces in the ref’s face, muttering something about the colour of this card which he said was a blatant manifestation of British imperialism.

That the outcome rests with a referee, Zimbabwe’s High Court, indicates that the idea of an independent arbiter and respect for rules has, at least partly, been inculcated through football. The court, for the time being, has ruled in favor of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. The allegory author, too, seems to feel that the unreliable mechanisms of elections or football matches might prove inconvenient for a leader who has held power for 28 years: “Thus did” Mugabe “pass a temporary, permanent measure banning the use in the future of a soccer match to determine who would win the game, provided that this device might still be used if the opposing team did not pitch up because it had been prevented from doing so.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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