And they asked, isn’t he that poor boy from Norton, isn’t his mother’s name Janet, isn’t his brother called Walter?
JUST like Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat today, he was 29 when he finally delivered the prize his country had been waiting for more than two decades — a ticket to the AFCON finals.
His was a spiritual mission, a pilgrimage, a relentless pursuit for greatness, an odyssey to deliver for his people by taking them to the Promised Land of the AFCON finals for the very first time.
Along the way, teammates came and went, coaches were hired and fired, but he remained the common denominator, the enduring symbol of the project, its heart and soul, its poster boy, its finest servant.
Such a simple name, such a magical footballer, such a great Warrior, such an amazing leader. The finest footballer to ever emerge in this country, fittingly assuming the responsibility to lead from the front when his nation needed him the most.
The only Elephant, which the football gods transformed into a flying object, with pace to burn and talent to exhibit, finally ending our lengthy stay in the wilderness.
Five goals in six matches in that 2004 AFCON qualifying campaign, as he dragged his Warriors through the gates of the Promised Land for the first time in their history.
Fifteen years later, I still call him the King.
As in King Peter, a man who deserves a statue outside the National Sports Stadium because no other footballer, when it comes to serving this country, has done more than him.
Where there is a king, there has to be a prince. And, when it comes to the Warriors, that honour — especially since the Flying Elephant abdicated the throne to take a deserved rest — belongs to Knowledge Musona.
Yes, there are some who will say what about Billiat?
They will argue he has been the heir to the throne, fair enough, and his two goals in that historic AFCON qualifier against Zambia on Tuesday night provides ammunition to that argument.
It’s hard not to be seduced by Khama.
After all, he is the showman of these Warriors — the poster boy, football’s version of a boy band sweetheart, that magical first touch, skipping past defenders as if they were marking the wrong foot, those goals, representing his country with both distinction and honour,
You just can’t help but fall in love with Khama.
He provides the game’s entertainment value, and we are so blessed as a country he is one of us, the one who plays his football with a swagger, makes everything look easy on the eye, and lures us into his magical world.
He conducts the orchestra with aplomb, and scores goals too — three in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers — including a magical free-kick against Congo-Brazzaville, which broke their resistance.
And, at the Nations Cup finals in Egypt, he was the only Warrior to score for us.
His goal, typically, a product of beauty, the deftest of touches, with his foot presented at an angle to make the deadliest of contacts, just what was needed at that moment, to push the ball past giant goalkeeper Denis Onyango.
But, for me, over the course of the life of this Double-K Generation (Knowledge and Khama), it’s the Smiling Assassin who has made the biggest impact.
I understand this is a very controversial statement to make for someone like me, who is expected to provide harmony in the team without splitting it over who is better or who is the best.
You can forgive me for that because that’s not my intention and, normally, as many of you will testify, I am more concerned with celebrating the mere fact that both Knowledge and Khama play for our Warriors.
That’s what matters to me, instead of spending time on comparisons, since the two are special and are priceless to our team’s cause.
THE MADNESS OF A DEBATE PLUCKED FROM HELL
However, what has made me talk about Knowledge, and celebrate what he has done for his country is this madness which I have seen creeping everywhere, questioning whether he still has any value to the Warriors
With some even going to the extent of insulting him as an imaginary spent force.
It’s something that didn’t start ahead and after that Botswana game.
Its genesis was at the AFCON finals where he was transformed into the fall guy of that poor campaign before Elvis Chipezeze’s shocking performance against the DRC provided the vicious critics with a new target.
If, we really cared for our heroes, and gave them the appreciation they deserve, we should have been rolling the red carpet for Musona.
Giving him the rock-star treatment he deserves because, if you look at the statistics of his adventure with the Warriors, you will find a truly wonderful story of a football artiste.
But, we are a people who believe negativity is what defines us, what makes us who we are, what — in the world of some of our football writers and analysts — gives them their names, and their imaginary fame.
That’s why when Macauley Bonne simply announced he needed to have a life-threatening condition checked for the sake of his health, which is more important than his football career and playing for the Warriors, you can see how much those people turned on him.
Bombarding him with sickening messages, accusing him of betrayal, of turning his back on the Warriors, refusing to believe his story even when he is a professional, accusing him of lying.
Only for them to be confronted by the fact he was telling the truth when his club, Charlton Athletic, released the statement this week confirming he underwent the medical tests and, thank God, he is okay to continue with his professional career.
Now and again I get a lot of criticism, both online and from my friends, with guys asking why I am not as vicious in my criticism of our boys like Musona or Billiat, as they would want. And my answer to them is always the same.
I don’t want to be their fair-weather colleague, who grudgingly celebrate their heroics on the occasions they do well, and then rush to label them a bunch of match-fixers on the occasions they lose.
I tell them these guys are human, not machines, and we tend to forget they are doing their best, most of the time under very difficult circumstances, to further the cause of a team that has only been to the AFCON finals just FOUR times in the last 39 years.
That’s an average of once every 10 years.
THEY AREN’T SUPERHUMAN, BUT NEITHER ARE THEY RUBBISH
I argue that if these guys are absolute rubbish, as some would want to suggest, why then did those, whom they say were the genuine stars, fail to deliver just one appearance at the AFCON finals for us and we had to wait 23 years to qualify for the first time?
Why is it that it has taken this generation, under the able leadership of Musona, to help us enjoy what it means to celebrate an AFCON qualifier victory over Zambia, forget the fact they even had the audacity to deliver one in Lusaka, of all places?
Why is it that it has taken this generation, led by this Smiling Assassin, to help us enjoy what it means to celebrate a win in an AFCON qualifier in Kinshasa?
Why is it that it has taken this generation to help us, at long last, qualify to the Nations Cup finals as group winners, not once, but twice in 2016 and 2018 and, on both occasions, it was Musona who topped the scoring charts for us in those qualifiers?
Why is it that it has taken this generation, with Musona playing the talismanic role, to help us convert our home into a fortress, where since these boys started emerging on the scene, we haven’t lost an AFCON qualifier in our backyard in nine years?
That, coming from a side that never plays friendly internationals, where they can have the freedom to fine-tune their partnerships, a team that only meets just three or so days before an AFCON qualifier, is amazing.
Thirteen straight home Nations Cup qualifying games and no defeat, with only two of the visiting teams — Mali and Tanzania — finding a way to score here?
And the Smiling Assassin has been a huge part of that story.
In his first AFCON assignment, as a raw 21-year-old forward, Musona took just half-an-hour to score in that AFCON qualifier against Liberia in Monrovia on September 5, 2010.
By the end of those 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers in which he missed the game against Liberia at home through injury, Musona had scored four goals and completed his maiden AFCON campaign just two goals behind top-scorer, Tunisia’s Issam Jemma.
Musona scored in three of the four matches he played and his absence, through a shoulder injury, in the away game in Mali — which the Warriors lost 0-1 — proved decisive.
Then, for FOUR years, between 2010 and May 2014, Musona was the only Warrior to score in an away World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers.
The same Musona who topped the scoring for us, as we qualified for the 2017 AFCON finals, the same Smiling Assassin who then, again topped the scoring for us as we qualified for the 2019 Nations Cup finals.
Still, we shockingly abuse him, question if he is still good enough, suggest he is finished and bombard him with insults.
But, worry not gallant Warrior and just take comfort in reading Matthew 13:54, which talks about our Lord Jesus Christ and that prophets have no honour in their home countries
“Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue and they were amazed: ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?
“Isn’t His mother’s name Mary and aren’t His brothers James, Simon and Judas? Aren’t his sisters with us? When then did this Man get all these things?’ And they took offence at Him.
“And then Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and his own home.’ And He didn’t do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.’’
Now, we have a whole army of people who find refuge in false arguments that it has now become easier to qualify for the AFCON finals, somehow conveniently forgetting the Zambians haven’t been to the last two tournaments.
Or, if you are into hip-hop like me, listen to lyrics from the song, “Holy Grail,’’ by Jay Z and Timberlake.
“And baby, it’s amazing I’m in this maze with you,
I just can’t crack your code
One day you’re screaming you love me loud
The next day you’re so cold
One day you’re here, one day you’re there
One day you care, you’re so unfair.’’
The same people, who somehow, choose to deliberately ignore that at the 2017 Nations Cup finals, in Gabon, the Warriors were the only Southern African side there.
The same people who find cold comfort in false narratives that matches have become easy to win on the continent, somehow choosing to ignore that record seven-time AFCON winners, Egypt, were held to a goalless draw by Comoros this week.
And that the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire, featuring English Premiership stars like Tottenham’s Serge Aurier and Arsenal’s record signing Nicola Pepe, somehow were beaten 1-2 by Ethiopia this week.
So, worry not Captain — that’s what we are as a people, a nation allergic to the beauty of its children, which doubted Benjani was good, even though he played for Manchester City.
A constituency which says Moses Chunga was a fluke, even though they are building his statue in Belgium, which says Mhofu was old-fashioned, even though he took us to the AFCON twice.
Which only remembers that Wilfred Mugeyi missed a sitter at the 2004 AFCON finals instead of the beautiful story that King Peter scored three times in two games, against Egypt and Cameroon, at that tournament.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole Ole!
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You can also interact with me on Twitter — @Chakariboy, Facebook, Instagram — sharukor and every Wednesday night, at 9.45pm, when I join the legendary Charles “CNN’’ Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande on the ZBC television magazine programme, “Game Plan”.