BY Tanaka Dzotizei.
Below is my attempt to classify Zimbabwe national soccer team (Warriors) fans into different categories. There are 11 main ones (just like the starting lineup on the picture) and some bonus (sub) ones. Most fans fit somewhere and some belong to more than one category. You are free to add some if you feel a certain category has been left out.
Passionate fans who support the Warriors unconditionally regardless of who is coaching, regardless of the lineup even if their favourite local teams or regions or players are not represented. They support the team regardless of who is at the helm of Zifa.When the Warriors are playing they watch the match, usually from the stands cheering the team. If they can’t watch from the stands, they make efforts to watch on TV or elsewhere. They don’t want to miss a match and are not content with just knowing the result. They celebrate when the team wins and are genuinely hurt when the team loses.
PART TIME FANS:
Their interest in the team as well as the game depends on the Warriors’ form. When the team is winning, they are very much interested and want to be associated with it. They may not know all the players but they have their favourites. Usually the famous ones. When the team is playing at a major tournament or are about to qualify, they just emerge from their hideouts and start talking about the team, attending matches and even buying regalia. When the team is losing, they hibernate
FOREIGN TEAM FANS:
These ones have adopted some foreign teams as their favourite national teams. The Warriors are their second or even third favourite team. They say ‘we’ or ‘us’ referring to their adopted teams. The most common reason they give for supporting foreign teams is to ‘avoid stress’. I’m not sure what they would do if the Warriors play against their adopted teams. Are they Zimbabwean?Yes they are but I don’t know why I even included them in these categories of Warriors fans
These are football resource persons who are mainly from the older generation but have great passion for the game. They have favourite players, coaches and teams. They maybe biased towards players from their time but generally appreciate good football from across the club and generational divide. They can name an all time best 11 team made up of players from 5 generations including some whose names you’ll be hearing for the first time.
Mainly fans of the big 3. Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United. When Warriors are playing, they see clubs. They hype anything good and defend anything bad that comes from a player or coach linked to their teams and downplay anything that comes from a player or coach linked to that other team. When a Dynamos son is coaching the team and a Bosso player passes the ball to a Caps Utd player and the Caps man scores and we win 1-0. Dynamos hardliners will credit the coach for the win. Bosso hardliners will hype the pass and Caps fans will hype the finish. When they attend Warriors matches at the stadium, they sometimes come dressed in their club regalia and occupy the same bays they occupy during their clubs’ matches. When their team is not represented, they wish the team loses. Chances of finding an objective fan amongst them are as futile as trying to find a virgin in a maternity ward. It is not advisable to sit amongst them if you are not one of them.
MODERN FOOTBALL ADVOCATES:
They believe in a certain mythical type of football which they call ‘modern football’. They cannot define exactly what modern football is or provide a cutoff date to demarcate modern and ancient. They are more worried by the number of passes than the number of goals. They are highly computer literate (not sure if they have the same level of football literacy) and they believe their football knowledge acquired through the famous search engine Google beats coaching courses and years of experience in the dugout
They believe good football has already been played and there is nothing that current players can do to equal or surpass what they saw once upon a time. When present day teams win, they are very quick to remind us about some yesteryear memorable victories to dilute the joy. They don’t want past records to be broken and when they are broken, they work overtime downplaying the new record. The most common statement they use to downplay wins is “… it was very difficult back then…”. Any player or coach who threatens to break a record becomes an ‘enemy of the state’. Whenever a present day footballer is compared to a yesteryear footballer, the legend who played back then is ALWAYS better. They will tell you that it is an ‘insult to football’ to mention those footballers in the same sentence. You cannot win such an argument with them because they tailor the benchmarks to suit the legends. The benchmarks are tempered with from time to time.
BOILED EGG AND FRIED EGG FANS:
These ones are born critics.Difficult, if not impossible to please. They are like that nagging husband who gave his wife two eggs and told her to boil one and fry the other one. After a few minutes, she came back with the 2 eggs in a plate, one fried and one boiled together with some slices of bread and a cup of tea in a tray. He looked at the contents of the plate and was very angry at the wife because apparently, the egg that she had fried is the one he wanted her to boil. The one she boiled is the one she should have fried. When the coach names a starting lineup with players A, B and C, they’ll say he should have started with D, E and F. When D, E and F start they’ll say it was better to start A, B and C. Their advantage is that they comment after watching the match.
COACH OUT BRIGADE
These ones want the coach out as soon as he is appointed. Mainly because they have a preferred candidate they want on the job. “Chinhu ndecha X”. X here is their preferred coach. To push their agenda, they’ll criticise everything that the coach does to prove that he doesn’t deserve the job. They criticise the provisional squad, final squad, starting lineup as well as the formation and even the kit used. They criticise the substitutions or lack of. Alternatively, we can call them the someone out brigade because the man they want out might not be the coach. It might be the head of the FA or the team manager they want out. Before every match, they predict a defeat, and when we lose, they say “I told you” when the defeat doesn’t happen, they attribute it to luck. When the Warriors are playing, they are very quick to update the new scoreline when we concede but have some network or ‘data’challenges when Warriors score. I blame cellphone networks for that.
These ones support one generation of Warriors and are religiously loyal to that one generation. They believe football started with the coming of that generation and ended when that generation stopped playing. They downplay everything from other Warriors generations even when other generations achieve what their favourite failed to achieve. To them, it is that ONE GENERATION and nothing else. Everything from that particular generation is better than anything from any other generation. Including the kits.
These ones support players from their region or in some cases, neighborhoods. If their homeboys are left out, they may lose interest in the team. Their behaviour is almost like club fans. They heap more praise on their homeboys than ‘strangers’. We can also call them ethnocentric fans.
They like the coach. If it’s him they follow, if he leaves, they withdraw! If its anyone else, they moan and criticise.
They follow their favourite players! If their favourite players are not the team, they turn their backs on the team. If their favourite player is substituted, the one coming in can be booed. It once happened with Isaac Riyano and Shepherd Muradzikwa.
These are fans who believe in what they saw or what they’re seeing. They include the young generation who never watched some legends play and the diaspora based guys who left Zim before the current generation started playing. The one they watched is better. Seeing is believing.
Some of them are so young that they are not even on the voters roll. They did not watch the older generation play. They dismiss legends for not qualifying for tournaments and winning silverware. They don’t listen to explainations. They are the opposite of conservatives. They are dismissive of the older generations.
They are very influential. Especially mainstream media. They influence public opinion and are capable of making or breaking a player, coach or administrator.
Keyboard and touchscreen fans:
They are very active on social media. Not powerful as individuals but are very dangerous collectively. They can unite to destroy a player, coach or administrator.
Foreign Based Players Advocates:
These believe that local football is dead and only those playing in foreign leagues especially Europe should play for the Warriors. They search high and low for players in Europe and recommend them to the coaches.