Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
A MOTHER, who provides a comprehensive minute-by-minute narration to her blind son during every match at 10-time Brazilian champions Palmeiras, brought the house down at the 2019 FIFA awards on Monday night.
Silvia Grecco gave a rousing speech, after accepting her FIFA Fan Award in the company of her 11-year-old son, Nikollas, with the star-studded audience giving her a standing ovation at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala .
Grecco captured the award ahead of Uruguay’s Justo Sanchez, the man who shifted allegiance to support his late son’s favourite team, the fiercest rivals of the team Sanchez grew up supporting, in honour of his memory after his death in an accident.
The Dutch fans, whose sights and sounds captured the imagination of the globe at the 2019 FIFA Women World Cup finals in France, had also been short-listed for the award.
‘‘The Award rewards the best fan moment between September 2018 and September 2019 regardless of championship or nationality,’’ FIFA said.
‘‘This could be, for example, for a choreographed display, chant or other fan moment which struck a chord with people globally and expressed a special form of commitment and passion for the supported team or football in general.
‘‘The Award is presented for the fan moment that has received the highest number of public votes from fans registered on FIFA.com.’’
Grecco, whose story came to global prominence after she was picked out by a Brazilian TV reporter narrating a game to her blind son, received 58.36 percent of the vote.
Nikollas, who was born five months prematurely and is mildly autistic, joined her mother on the big stage in Milan on Monday night.
Last year, Silvia Grecco was spotted narrating a game to her blind son Nickollas
“Since my childhood, I live football,” Silvia told FIFA.com. “I live Palmeiras, the football in my life, in the life of my son, is life changing. It is a love that transforms; a love for the art of playing football.
“At the stadium is complete freedom, he is transformed, he feels at ease, stands up, cheers and jumps. Nikollas becomes another child. I am the eyes of Nikollas.
‘‘I really try to pass on what I’m feeling to him, with the emotion of a mother who is a fan and a narrator.’’
Ahead of the FIFA awards gala, scores of Zimbabwean football fans, and a sizeable number of their African counterparts, took to Twitter to pour out their frustration that Warriors’ super fan, Alvin ‘‘Aluvah’’ Zhakata, was not even considered among the three short-listed candidates.
Aluvah captured the imagination of the continent when he completed a 10 000km eight-nation Cape to Cairo hitch-hiking adventure to watch the 2019 AFCON finals.
He was then feted by the CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad, who gave him a special invitation to watch the 2019 Nations Cup final, with the continent’s football governing body funding his flight back home.
But, rather than viewing Aluvah’s Cape to Cairo adventure as a snub, what this country’s football community should actually address, in the wake of the decision by FIFA to honour Grecco, is its allergy to celebrate some of its amazing stories while being fixated with negativity.
A community that ignores its beautiful stories and would rather spend weeks, and months, debating any negative stuff that emerges, including circulating the image of its highest profile footballer, and mocking him on various social media groups, for being left sprawling on the ground by his Arsenal opponent.
A community that has spent the last few weeks mocking an image of former Dynamos stars, Henry Chari and Stanley Chirambadare, on social media, rather than appreciating the beauty of Prince Dube’s five goals, in his country’s colours, in his last two CHAN matches.
The same community that seemingly doesn’t care why the Afghanistan and American Samoa national team coaches, and captains, can vote for the 2019 FIFA World Player and Coach of the Year awards while, for some strange reasons, the Warriors’ coach and skipper don’t take part in the same exercise.
Because, if we cared and celebrated our amazing stories, rather than negativity, Etias Machekeche’s story – his love for Highlanders despite his visual impairment – would, just like Grecco’s tale, have been appreciated by the world and possibly won him a FIFA Fan Award before the Brazilian.
“I started following Highlanders when I was still a boy, attending school at Copota School of the Blind here in Masvingo. I was doing Grade 3 by that time but I shudder to think I started supporting the black-and-white striped team when I was still in my mother’s womb,’’ he told our sister newspaper, Sunday News, five years ago.
‘‘I am emotionally attached to this team. I am from a special group and people take it as a ‘misnomer’ to find me at the stadium watching soccer.
“Due to the knowledge of my team’s players that I have, and the way they play, I would give a detailed account of how my team fared.
‘‘This sounds funny but that is how I follow proceedings of a match. I would also be listening to the radio commentary during and after the match. On the build-up of every Bosso match I make sure I listen to Star FM or Sports FM.
“While I do not condone violence at soccer matches, the violence you see happening after we lose to DeMbare is an expression of emotions.’’
And, of course, the world would also have celebrated the amazing life of Obert Sithole of Zvishavane, who defied the blindness caused by a mine accident where he worked, to become a football correspondent for Star FM.
“The loss of my eyesight was tragic,’’ he told the Masvingo Mirror in January this year.
‘‘I, however, have always been an ardent football fan and my eyesight did not go away with this pastime.
‘‘I remained vocal on football issues . . . the depth of my reviews is strengthened by the fact that I was a footballer myself.”