Matabeleland is a region in the west and southwest of Zimbabwe, divided into three provinces: Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South. Andisiwe Sibindi, midfield star of the team, took the photos. Andisiwe was unable to play due to a car accident three weeks before the tournament. His photos were taken before and during a match versus Chagos Islands, in which European Cup Winner Bruce Grobbelaar made a much-anticipated appearance in goal for Matabeleland.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
The photos show untold stories of the people of Matabeleland. I took pictures inside the bus on our way to play against Chagos Islands at Aveley FC stadium and at the stadium. I showed happy faces of the players singing songs that had deeper meaning about their past, their current situation and the hopeful future. There were two song highlights of the day: ‘Uyala’ (“He is standing firm”) and ‘We Will Conquer’. The song ‘Uyala’ basically talks about the resistance of the people of Matabele against all forms of deprivation and general life challenges. The song ‘We Will Conquer’ gives hope to the people of Matabeleland that one day they will overcome their situation. The song is based on the Warrior Spirit of the people of Matabeleland.
The team had already lost 6-1 and 5-0 but still everybody sang the songs of victory and hope. The pictures were my first moments with the team in the UK. Two weeks before we travelled I was hit by a car (on my left leg). I had to stay behind. I knew I had lost the chance to play in the UK. Worse, the CONIFA World Football Cup was a rare opportunity in my soccer career that was affected by many factors. When the team left for UK I was lying on bed with no hope of ever travelling overseas, even worse never to play soccer again.
That day in the bus was a reunion with the team. I wanted to take the pictures of a team with warrior spirits. To each one of us, every CONIFA game was more than soccer. The songs, the facial expressions, and the gestures said it all.
Who is in the photos? Can you tell us about these players?
The man with headphones is Mthulisi Mbizo. The man in gold and white top is Busani Sibindi. The man singing with beard and gold and black track top is Bruce Mdlongwa. Mthulisi Mbizo is my former student. He did his Advanced level education in a district where I teach. One player sitting down was my junior at Amakhosi Football Club. When I was playing for the U17 team he was playing for the U13s. We also played together at division 2 level. I was the oldest at 20 and he was the youngest at 16. Now we play together for Matabeleland and we played in midfield in the CONIFA preparation games. We could have played together if I had played in the CONIFA WFC.
Busani Sibindi is the administrator and the major facilitator of the whole project. We played against each other at childhood level. We did our primary education at different schools, but we played together at secondary school. We played together at two different division 2 clubs. He was a striker and I was a defensive or an attacking midfielder. I always enjoyed passing to him from any angle of the field. He made good runs that gave me more options for creativity.
What was the best part of competing at CONIFA?
The best part of competing at CONIFA was carrying our Matabele flag. It gave a sense of belonging and representation. The photos are a lasting memory of our presence in the CONIFA World Football Cup. Being there was a very significant point in our lives in many senses. It was significant that we were able to represent a lost and forgotten nation in a very big international event. It was also significant because it was an opportunity of a lifetime that many of us never even imagined would knock at the door.
Why is football so important for the people of Matabeleland?
Football is important for the people of Matabeleland because it is the only sphere that brings the people together to share moments of joy, sadness, pain of defeat and pride of victories. People also get time to sing their traditional songs and dances. The biggest and oldest club in Matabeleland, Highlanders F.C is the epitome of this. Football unifies people in Matabele society.
Since the establishment of Matabeleland football team, ground, and its initiatives, Matabeleland football has taken a very positive turn on and off the field of play.