That evening in Lyon, what a day it was, for Shonhayi, Gundani, Rambo and Benjie

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The Herald

Sharuko On Saturday

ONE night in Istanbul!

They even made a movie about it — not about Tom and Jerry but about Tommy and Gerry.

Released to worldwide cinemas, on September 15, 2004, it’s a fascinating story about two Liverpool cab drivers, who entered into a deal with a local gangster, to help them finance a trip to Istanbul in 2005.

They were going to watch their beloved Reds take on AC Milan in the Champions League final in May 2005.

Along the way, drama unfolded, they came across a sexy hotel chambermaid, two ruthless thieves and even ended up with a bag of fake bank notes.

And, the match itself, also turned out to be one of unrelenting drama — Liverpool went down 0-3 at the break and, for many, the contest was as good as over.

But, the resilient Reds refused to surrender and, in a stunning six second half minutes, they scored three times to force extra-time, and penalties, which they won for their fifth European crown.

“The only reason Liverpool weren’t fatally wounded by a first half blitz is the fortunate fact immortals can’t be destroyed,” noted the Liverpool Echo in their match report.

“Gerrard and company have rewritten football ‘possibilities’ throughout this campaign.

“It shouldn’t have happened. Some of us aren’t convinced it did. Only the pinch marks confirm it. We thought it was all over. It wasn’t.’’

In more ways than one, it’s a result that came to define the never-die-spirit of Liverpool.

And, even after losing just one game, and being edged by Manchester City to the league title last year, they didn’t let that destroy their passion to fight again.

Even after that infamous Stevie G slip at Anfield, and that 0-3 collapse in Barcelona, they didn’t let those two incidents shatter their extraordinary will power to keep fighting.

Rather, it only inspired them to fight even harder, powered by the belief that, if they did it that night in Istanbul, surely they could do it again.

And, today here they are — champions of Europe, champions of England, champions of the world and everything their hearts have ever desired.

One titanic Battle in Berne!

They also made a movie about it — a German soldier who returned home, after spending 11 years in a Soviet Prison of War camp in Siberia, to find the country, and family he left behind, in turmoil.

World War II had changed everything, his country had lost, it was in ruins, millions had perished and even his family was in chaos.

Then, against all odds, Germany reached the ’54 World Cup final.

It was played in Berne, the Swiss capital, and the Germans were up against the steam-rolling Hungarians, who had humiliated them 3-8 in an earlier group match.

Known as the “Magical Magyars”, the Hungarians had not lost a football match in four years, they had hammered England 7-1 in a friendly international at Wembley.

And, they had humiliated Turkey 7-0, scored eight against the Germans and four against both Brazil, and Uruguay, at the same ’54 World Cup finals.

After just eight minutes, of that World Cup final, the Hungarians were already 2-0 up, and another massacre was on the cards.

But, somehow the Germans, refused to surrender and fought back to tie the score 2-2 and, with just six minutes left on the clock, Helmut Rahn stunned the globe with the goal that handed the underdogs a miraculous 3-2 win.

A country, which had been bombed into ruins during a great war, which had ended just nine years earlier, and had been humiliated in an eight-goal blitz by the same Hungarians in a group game, had become World Champions.

What the military conflict had taken away from the Germans, football had, in a way bigger than anyone had ever imagined, given them back their pride as a nation.

And, for the Prisoner of War, who lived to tell the story and returned to see his country, and family, in turmoil, that landmark triumph provided just the boost which, his nation, and his family needed to repair the cracks inflicted by war.

That indomitable spirit, displayed in the rain in that Swiss city that day in 1954, has come to represent the never-say-die spirit of post-war Germans, in sport, as in their lives.

There are football results, and there are cities, where those results were achieved, which just change everything.

And, they become a big part of the history, of either the countries, or the clubs,

ONE EVENING IN LYON, THAT GAME, THAT CITY, THAT RESULT

One evening in Lyon!

We should have done a movie about it — one about defiance and resilience, about reliance and brilliance and about allegiance and obedience.

About the late Joel Salifu, and how he believed in the destiny of his Warriors, he even flew to Lyon, from Harare, to cheer them in what was then their biggest game in history.

About four of the heroic Warriors, who played on that unforgettable day — Francis Shonhayi, Paul Gundani, Benjamin Nkonjera and Mercedes Sibanda — who are all late.

About their trailblazing coach, Reinhard Fabisch, with a temper of a thunderstorm and the burning passion of a thousand suns, who is also late.

And, about their team manager, Jimmy “Daddy” Finch, who is also late.

The father figure, the one who always provided the calming influence, in those wild days and beautiful nights, when they made their country not only dream but also believe.

The “Double-F”, Fabisch and Finch, worked with each other for three years.

And, as fate would have it, they also died within three years of each other — Finch was the first to die, in 2005, while Fabisch soon followed in 2008.

No one knows what really happens after people die.

But, assuming there is some after-life somewhere, and the six were to meet there, and chat about those wild days, and beautiful nights, when the Dream Team rocked this country, it’s very likely one game would stand out.

That blockbuster 1994 World Cup qualifier, against the Pharaohs of Egypt, on the neutral fields of the French city of Lyon, on April 15, 1993.

The Warriors had lost the original match, 1-2, at the Cairo International Stadium.

But, with Fabisch, and Bruce Grobbelaar, having been hit by flying missiles thrown from the packed stands, housing an estimated 120 000 Egyptians, FIFA decided to nullify the result and order a replay.

For us, that evening in Lyon, where we defiantly refused to be bullied by the Pharaohs, with a defensive masterclass that had to be seen to be believed, was a landmark moment in our football.

Those who lived through the compelling drama of that day in Lyon, where the Pharaohs, knowing that only one goal would be enough for them to go through, unleashed everything at us in a bombardment that was the closest thing to a blitzkrieg that football has ever seen.

But, the more they attacked, the more we repelled them, in a performance of such defensive purity, it also helped us discover our soul, when it comes to football.

After years of trying to play football with an attacking frenzy, as if we had the most gifted of playmakers, it took that evening in Lyon for us to realise, at long last, that we could actually build our campaign on our biggest strengths — our defensive wall,

That’s the template Sunday Chidzambwa, who was an assistant coach during Fabisch’s time, would use, when the baton was finally passed on to him to lead the Warriors, building his teams, on their strong defensive foundations.

Now, and again, his team’s defensive pedigree would suck the life out of the opponents and, with Peter Ndlovu in attack, he knew he had the player with the X-Factor who could, with just one display of magic, help his Warriors find a way to score.

A simple analysis of the Warriors’ 2004 AFCON finals qualifying campaign, the first time we managed to shatter the barriers which had kept us out of the showcase for more than two decades, illustrates that story.

Mali were defeated 0-1 in Harare, Eritrea were defeated 0-1 in Asmara, Seychelles lost 1-3 in Harare but, two of our goals, came in the 90th minute, by Adam Ndlovu, and four minutes into added time, by his brother Peter.

In Bamako, Mali again failed to score against the Warriors, in a 0-0 draw, and Eritrea were beaten 2-0 in Harare, with Peter scoring both goals, including one from the penalty spot.

LYON, THEIR CITY, OUR FOOTBALL CATHEDRAL

That evening in Lyon, Mhofu picked up his lessons, that there was value in our defensive strength, which he used to finally help us clear the final hurdle, and qualify for our maiden AFCON finals.

We should have done a movie, at least for Shonhayi, at least for Gundani, at least for Nkonjera and, at least for Rambo.

The good souls we lost along the way, for the huge part they played, one evening in Lyon, to help us understand ourselves, when it comes to our national game.

Twenty seven years later, we are still finding a way to qualify for the AFCON finals, without a playmaker.

Nine of the Dream Team heroes, who featured on that unforgettable day in Lyon, are still alive — Grobbelaar, Henry McKop, Norman Mapeza, Peter Ndlovu, Rahman Gumbo, Agent Sawu, Ephraim Chawanda, Max Lunga and Madinda Ndlovu.

And, just as well, all of them lived to see the day when the football club from the French city, which gave us a stadium to write one of our greatest sporting tales, return to provide us with one of the finest heart-warming tales in our football history.

Lyon’s decision to use the grand stage of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final battle against Manchester City, to remind the grieving Tino Kadewere, that they were with him, as he mourned his late brother Prince, was as refreshing as it was beautiful.

Twenty seven years since we first landed in Lyon, for that evening which changed our football, changed our Warriors and changed our coaches, the bond we built with this French city, back in ’93, still remains very strong.

They took our boy Tino, a few months ago, and transformed him from a lower league player into someone who now plays in the same league as Neymar and Mbappe.

Someone who is now on the books of a club which knocked out Cristiano Ronaldo, and his All-Star Juventus side, knocked out Kevin De Bruyne, and his All-Star Manchester City side, from this season’s Champions League.

And, someone who now plays in a league which, in the past few weeks, has produced a Champions League semi-finalist and a Champions League finalist.

Of course, we didn’t qualify for the ’94 World Cup finals, after our Cinderella adventure, was eventually ended by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

But, what we did, that night in Lyon, the heroics of our performance, the celebration of our never-say-die spirit, has not faded with the passage of time.

It’s still being discussed, and written, in golden words, around the globe.

“An inspired Grobbelaar put in the finest performance of his international career, making save after save, to deny the Egyptians,’’ wrote Ian Hawkey, in his excellent compilation, of the “World Cup Teams That Never Were.’’

The journalist picked the Dream Team as one of those teams.

And, the Egyptians never forgot, nor forgave, Grobbelaar.

It’s something which the goalkeeper found out, when he decided to go on holiday there.

“I go on holiday to Egypt to see the pyramids and the sphinx with my family,’’ said Grobbelaar. “Coming into Egypt, I give them my passport they say ‘no, no, no, you’re not coming in. get out.’

“They didn’t want me there.”

My colleague, Makomborero Mutimukulu, has been telling me that I should write a book about all this, so that future generations, will be able to read, look back with pride and say, one evening in Lyon, something big happened in the history of our football.

And, my friend, Obert Masvotore, a Manchester United fan like me, has also been on my case.

“Mudhara, our kids should read about all this, long after we are gone,’’ he told me this week, his beer in his hand, as we watched our Red Devils fall in the semi-finals of the Europa Cup.

As I now stagger closer to my retirement, I told him, there will be more time for me to do that.

To write about that evening in Lyon, how it changed our football, to write about Shonhayi, about Gundani, about Nkonjera and about Rambo.

To write about Lyon, and the connection we seemingly have with them, and that the French club turned 70 this year.

To write about Fabisch, and his eternal connection with our football, and that the German coach would have turned 70 this year.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno!

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Email — [email protected], [email protected]

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”

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