EBENEZER, THUS FAR THE LORD HAS HELPED, AND TAKEN, MHOFU

SHARUKO ON SATURDAY
WHEN I revealed last week that if my life had turned otherwise, I would have ended up being a Baptist preacher, I didn’t know it would torch such a flood of reaction from across the globe.

There’s something about the people of this country that makes them irresistibly unique despite all the challenges we face, and have faced.

And, it’s rooted in our unshakable faith in God.

We are probably the world’s biggest believers and it’s no surprise even the players of our biggest football club, for all its trials and tribulations in the past five years, still kneel and pray just before kick-off.

Probably, that also explains why the Warriors have now spent the last two years or so camping at a hotel owned by a prophet.

Or, maybe, it explains why those closest to this country’s richest man, billionaire businessman Strive Masiyiwa, told Forbes magazine the tycoon never makes any big decision without going down on his knees to pray.

His story about how he fasted and prayed as he fought a five-year legal battle for Econet Wireless to be granted a licence has been documented in many publications.

Well, his battle finally ended in ’98.

Ninety eight was also the age of Ezekiel Chidzambwa, the man who gave us Sunday and Misheck, by the time the old man passed away in June this year.

He should have died a satisfied man — not many people get the privilege of giving their country its first football captain in the era of Independence.

Or, the first coach to take it to the AFCON finals and, if that was not enough, the only coach to do that twice.

Back in the years, Masiyiwa was finally celebrating his landmark High Court success with Econet Wireless in ’98, Ezekiel’s son Sunday was taking his Dynamos on an incredible journey across Africa.

In the context of today’s DeMbare, it now looks more of fantasy than reality, but it’s a fact that in ’98, they reached the CAF Champions League final.

More than two decades later, they remain the only Zimbabwean side to go that far, in a demonstration — if ever any was needed — of the greatness of their mission.

If God had gifted the old man another six months on this planet, he would have witnessed the FOURTEENTH anniversary of the year his son first captained the Warriors.

I never got the chance to meet the old man, but he must have been a religious fellow — after all his name, Ezekiel, had a religious ring to it, his sons’ names — Sunday and Misheck — also have a religious ring to them.

Sunday might be synonymous with the day many Christians go to church, but for all its association with prayers and the like, it’s not a word you find in the Bible.

But, that doesn’t take away the religious link that Sunday has for many Christians – after all, there is Palm Sunday which commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, when palm branches were placed in His path.

It marks the start of the Holy Week and, FOUR days later, on Holy Thursday, Jesus was arrested and the following day, on Good Friday, He was crucified.

What about Misheck?

Well, Meshack was one of the three Hebrew men, including Shadrach and Abednego, who were thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, the then King of Babylon, when they refused to bow to his image.

However, the three were not consumed by the inferno, with the Lord preserving them in a powerful demonstration of His power, and the king ended up seeing FOUR men walking in the flames.

And, keep in mind this number FOUR, it bears a lot of significance in this tale.

IN EGYPT, LIKE SAMUEL BEFORE HIM, MHOFU PROBABLY DIDN’T HEAR THE LORD SPEAK TO HIM

I have spent all my journalism career, a good 27 years at this newspaper in the same newsroom, on the same Sports Desk, working in the shadow of Sunday Chidzambwa and covered some of his finest hours, and lowest points, in the game.

He was 40 — that number FOUR again — when I started this journalism career back in November ’92.

He is a 67-year-old man today, battered and bruised by the challenges that come with walking and working in this tough terrain of coaching.

We have had our spectacular fallouts and our reconciliations, built largely on a foundation of the trust and respect we developed for each other, and I haven’t shied away from the fact that I consider him to be the greatest football coach this country has ever produced.

The statistics are there for everyone to see — when his country needed a coach to finally end more than two decades of waiting for a place at their first AFCON finals, he was there to provide it, walking where angels had feared to tread and delivering when it mattered.

And, that maiden AFCON show had to come in the FOURTH year of the new millennium.

His football might have been boring to some, very defensive to many, without the adventure and free spirit that has made the likes of Jurgen Klopp produce an irresistible revolution at Liverpool, but it delivered results.

However, during the recent AFCON finals in Egypt, I got an impression a powerful supernatural force was speaking to Sunday, now and again, but the coach didn’t seem to be getting the message.

And, now and again, Sunday — like Prophet Samuel on the first three occasions God spoke to him — didn’t appear to either hear, or understand it.

Yes, Samuel, the 13th and last judge of Israel, the child of Hannah, the woman they mocked as barren before her unwavering faith in God and prayers saw her being blessed with a boy who would define the history of the Israelites.

Samuel was only FOUR when he was weaned and brought to the tabernacle to serve under Eli the priest, and would grow to become the last of the ruling judges in the Old Testament, anointing Saul to be the first King of Israel and later also anointing King David.

It was Samuel, who after a great Israel victory over the Philistines, took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, named it Ebenezer, and famously declared, “THUS FAR THE LORD HAS HELPED US.’’

And, for the Philistines, the days of the invasions of Israel were over.

It’s important to note that before this momentous victory, the Israelites had been defeated at Ebenezer by the same opponents and FOUR thousand of them had been killed in that battle.

When he was only FOUR, Samuel was called three times by the Lord and, not aware of the message he was getting, believed it was coming from Eli until the priest told him it was God who was speaking to him.

And, on the FOURTH occasion, he answered.

Watching Sunday in Egypt, especially his still and tortured image at the June 30 Stadium in that final and disastrous group game against the DRC, made me feel a very powerful voice was speaking to him.

And, unfortunately, just like the FOUR-year-old Samuel back then, he wasn’t hearing it.

As if by fate, or design, his Warriors conceded FOUR goals in that match against the Congolese.

For me, the message appeared to suggest that, “THUS FAR THE LORD HAS HELPED AND TAKEN HIM,’’ and — after years of service for his country in the trenches of football coaching — the time had come for him to say goodbye to this national mission.

That, while for Prophet Samuel this was the call to start his religious mission, for Sunday, this was the call for him say goodbye.

EBENEZER, THUS FAR THE LORD HAS HELPED, AND TAKEN, MHOFU

Those of a deeper religious persuasion than me, like Father Karombo of the Roman Catholic Church, will tell you that the number FOUR “indicates that your angels are around you and that you are able to call upon them for help, guidance, and assistance whenever you feel the need.’’

And, if they go deeper, they will tell you all this pointed that Sunday’s mission had come to an end — he had completed the square (FOUR sides).

He had completed the seasons (FOUR seasons), taken his country to its FOURTH Nations Cup finals and, after seeing their adventure end with a FOUR-goal hammering at the hands of the DRC, this was probably the time to move on.

Not because he had failed, but because, from now onwards, he couldn’t succeed with this team.

If he took the Warriors back to the AFCON finals, his critics would say so what, we have been there before — FOUR times.

If he took his team on a good run in the CHAN campaign, the people would say so what, we have reached the last FOUR of this tournament before.

Maybe, qualifying for the World Cup would have been a success, but we know that’s not an easy task from a FOUR-team group likely to have the likes of Senegal, Algeria or any of the top 10 giants.

I never felt comfortable that someone, who just a few weeks ago was trying to come up with a game plan to stop Mohamed Salah and Trezeguet, should now be planning to find a way to stop whoever plays in attack for Mauritius.

That someone, who just a few weeks ago was trying to get his defence to stop OKWI, the brilliant Ugandan forward, should now be dealing with questions over JOEL, as in Josta and Ngodzo, for his omission, or his expired passport, or both.

Then, it dawned on me that the number of letters in the names of both OKWI and JOEL were FOUR and, BOOM, oh yet another FOUR-letter word, and everything pointed to what I have always believed that this was all a powerful message coming from somewhere, and Mhofu should have listened to it earlier:

“THUS FAR THE LORD HAS HELPED AND TAKEN ME.’’

A similar message was also given to him, back in the day when he coached Dynamos in that two-legged CAF Champions League final against ASEC Mimosas in ’98.

But then, just like now, he either didn’t hear it, or probably didn’t understand its meaning.

In that battle against the Ivoirians, his Glamour Boys had, just like in that match against the DRC, suffered a FOUR-goal loss to their opponents.

DeMbare crashed to a 2-4 aggregate defeat in Abidjan, and then just like in Egypt, he should have known that “THIS FAR THE LORD HAD HELPED AND TAKEN ME,’’  especially after somehow taking a lightweight Dynamos team all the way to the final.

And, the time had now come for him to move away.

At least, back then, he quickly got the powerful message, a few months later in the following year, as he left Dynamos and has never been back as a coach at the Glamour Boys.

Was it a coincidence too, that the team that ended his Champions League dreams that night in Abidjan also have an identity that has only FOUR letters, ASEC?

Or was it a coincidence that in the final in Abidjan he lost his first-choice goalkeeper Ernest Chirambadare to a nasty injury after 30 minutes with the score 0-1 in favour of the hosts, to be replaced by Gift Muzadzi.

And, in Cairo, he loses George Chigova during warm-up, to be replaced by Elvis Chipezeze?

That, in Cairo, his best midfielder Marvelous Nakamba was ruled out of that big match because of injury and, in Abidjan, his best midfielder Memory Mucherahowa didn’t play after being head-butted by his opponents during warm-up and ended up in hospital?

Rather than despair, burden himself with questions, spend the rest of his life wondering why and how, he should just buy Reverend Chivaviro’s CD, “Ebenezer — Tiri Munyasha,’’ and sing along:

“Ndinoti Ebenezer, neniwo ndiri munyasha, zvimwe zvairema, zvichirwadza, asi imi Jehovha mandisvitsa pano (I say Ebenezer, I have also been covered by grace, sometimes it was tough, sometimes it was painful, but thus far the Lord has taken me.)

Well, that song was released in 2014 (that FOUR again).

For me, that the final chapter was written in Cairo, not very far from the Nile River where baby Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, before growing up to become the one who would lead his people to the Promised Land after FOUR hundred years of enslavement, simply blew me away.

Maybe, after all, I should have become a Baptist preacher.

To God Be The Glory!

Peace to the GEPA Chief and all the Chakariboys in the struggle!

Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Khamaldinhoooooooooooooooooooo!

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