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Zimbabwe: Where Fans ‘Kill’, Mock, Hate for the Love of Football

Zimbabwe might be thousands of kilometers from UK, the epicenter of the Premier League, but that does not deter football fans from exhibitin...

Zimbabwe might be thousands of kilometers from UK, the epicenter of the Premier League, but that does not deter football fans from exhibiting their football rivalry while supporting their respective teams.

Known for its voracious soccer followers, the local teams have not been symbiotic to the devotion unveiled by their fan base. 

The Zimbabwe men’s soccer team, The Warriors is lowly ranked at number 123 on the Coca-Cola FIFA rankings.

The team has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup Finals but has qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations. It has won the COSAFA Cup a record six times.

Memories of a stampede that claimed 12 during a World Cup qualifying match in July 2000 between the Warriors of Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2002 at the National Sports Stadium still haunt the football-loving nation. 

The sad episode reminds us of the devotion associated with the local soccer, though it has relatively failed to deliver.

The impossible journey

Alvin Zhakata, a Zimbabwean nurse and soccer fan surprised many when he travelled for thousands of kilometers by road in a bid to watch the Afcon matches in Egypt in July 2019. 
Dynamos and Highlanders Clash During a Match in Zimbabwe
In all, he endured 10,000 km, for the 44-day journey, enduring visa delays, internet blackouts and revolutionary protests all for the love of football. His story buttressed the love for the local game, and affection, with a difference.

Coming home, local matches pitting Dynamos, Caps United and Highlanders have been known to generate a fair share of documented violence. The rivalry is sadly not limited to football but also overlaps to tribal and political differences.

Dynamos aka the club with ‘Seven Million Supporters’ is mainly followed by Shobna speaking national from the capital Harare, while Highlanders draws its backing from Bulawayo, the second capital, also populated by Ndebele speaking people. 

Their confrontations date back to the days of political upheavals ignited by tribal fights of the 80s.

And today that enmity has spilled into the playing field, generating some bloodsheds. During the purge, an estimated 20,000 people lost their lives, and their deaths have built permanent battle lines between the two dominant tribes.

Fiercest derbies

In the UK, opposing team supporters are like oil and water. According to the Mirror, the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United is regarded as the fiercest one. 

“If you don't know why Liverpool vs Man United is a huge game, you don't much about English football,” the Mirror wrote.

“The two most decorated clubs in the land don't just dislike each other. They despise one another, thanks to a regional rivalry that ensures the two sets of supporters love nothing more than getting one over their “friends” down the M62.”

Other notable football battles in the UK include the North London Derby featuring Arsenal vs Tottenham.

El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid is one of the notable football derbies in the world. “El Clásico is one of the most exciting derbies in the world of football. It is contested between the two giants of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona,” according to

“The game is seen by millions worldwide as both clubs have a massive global fanbase. This derby is also known to represent opposing political views; Real Madrid is seen as representing Spanish nationalism while Barcelona is seen as representing Catalan nationalism.”

European football competition has however been exported into the country, with fans jostling to support their teams, even when they are thousands of kilometers away and they do not hope to ever see any match in the future, featuring their football stars. It remains a pipe dream.

‘Killing’ for the game

Fan differences in Zimbabwe are more pronounced between Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool followers. These fans command a huge following, and each match day, fans gather inside sporting clubs to support their teams to the end. 

Confrontation, heated debates and sometimes fights erupt between fans who are urging their respective teams to win, while some fans bet for their teams to win.

Recently, two local Chelsea supports, however, took their affection too far, when they allegedly attempted to murder a man for mocking them after their FA Cup Final loss to Leicester. 

The duo identified as Ezra Kanyawa and Blessing Farai Mhlanga hatched the plan after another man had mocked them for losing the highly contested final.

Appearing before a magistrate, they were not asked to plead and were further remanded into custody until May 31, 2021. If convicted, the two Chelsea fans face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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