Mujati to star in London Carnival
Harare – London is going to be the sports centre of the world on May 25 and it is remarkable that a Zimbabwean sportsman will be part of the stars that will battle in a sporting fiesta of football and rugby set to illuminate the British capital.
The UEFA Champions League returns to Wembley for a showdown of the Bundesliga heavyweights when Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund clash in the first All-German final for Europe’s premier club prize.
More than a million German football fans are expected to descend on London in the week leading to the UEFA Champions League final even though only 41 500 tickets have been allocated to both Bayern and Dortmund.
Bayern, who have an allocation of 17 500 tickets, revealed that more than a million fans have applied for the tickets to watch the final while Dortmund said more than 500 000 of their supporters have lodged their applications to get one of the 24 000 tickets given to the club.
UEFA is expected to open a fan park next to the Olympic Stadium to host about 150 000 German fans while a worldwide television audience of 220 million is expected to watch the match expected to be screened in more than 100 countries.
The Champions League final will bring a galaxy of football stars, from the Bundesliga, to the home of English football – Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller, Marco Rues, to name but a few.
But while football and its superstars will dominate the day, and bring the curtain down on a European season that has finally seen Sir Alex Ferguson retiring from the game after more than 26 years at Manchester United, there is the small matter of a rugby final, on the same day, in London.
Well, the rugby gods could not have scripted a better farewell parade for departing Zimbabwean pop Brian Mujati – the grand setting of Twickenham and an Aviva Premiership final date for his Northampton Saints.
The 28-year-old leaves the Saints, after four years of dedicated service for the English Midlands side where he became a cult-hero, to join the El Dorado trek of the big money of the French Super 14 where he will play for Racing Metro.
But after an eventful stay, in which his qualities shone like a beacon and where he also courted controversy amid allegations of being racially abused at Leinster two years ago during a pre-season friendly in Dublin, maybe it was impossible for Mujati to leave quietly.
He will be part of the Saints team that will battle for the Aviva Premiership title against Leicester at Twickenham on May 25 after Mujati and his teammates shocked favourites Saracens in their semi-final and revealed, after their surprise triumph, they had been inspired by the heroics of Wigan in winning the FA Cup final a day earlier.
Wigan, rank outsiders to claim their first FA Cup silverware in history against odds-on favourites Manchester City, produced a solid performance of great determination to upstage their fancied opponents 1-0 at Wembley and win the trophy.
A day later, at Allianz Park, the Saints, who finished fourth in the regular season, defied the odds and dethroned favourites Saracens, who had previously been unbeaten in their backyard all season, to win 27-13 and book their Wembley date.
“Saracens finished first in the table and we finished fourth, they were at home and we hadn’t beaten a top-three side this season,” Saints’ coach Jim Mallinder told journalists after the match.
“They were the favourites today, but the favourites don’t always win. I was reminded of that by a lot of people after Wigan won.”
Mujati scored the opening try of the match after 20 minutes.
The Zimbabwean made the most of the big occasion and his right arm sneaked the ball out of the bottom of the ruck and over the whitewash for the first, and decisive, five-pointer.
There was need for television match official, Graham Hughes, to make a decision and after a lengthy delay, the try was given and the Saints never looked back as they powered their way to a memorable victory.
“Tough day at the office,” Mujati tweeted after the game. “Time for a barley wine.”
This Saints team, and their fans who included thousands who travelled to Allianz Park for the semi-final, carry some bitter memories of this tournament after having lost all five of their previous Premiership semi-finals.
But that was pushed into the history books as they powered to a 17-0 lead at the break, thanks to Mujati’s fiver and another try from Jamie Elliot.
Two years ago the Saints had led Leinster 22-6 at half-time, in the Heineken Cup, but suffered a meltdown in the second half to lose the showcase tie 22-33, after being held scoreless in the second period.
Mallinder remembered it all, and maybe did some of his players, but noone talked about it at half time at the Allianz Park.
“At half-time, I made sure I didn’t say to the players what I was thinking — about Cardiff and Leinster. It was never mentioned, but you do think like that.”
Leinster, in Mujaji’s case, also brings a flood of horror memories.
For this was also the club where the Zimbabwean prop claims he was racially abused by white South African players during a pre-season friendly in Dublin.
Mujati made the accusations on his Twitter account, accusing Leinster’s South African players, Heinke van der Merwe and Steven Sykes, of using direct and racially offensive remarks at him during that match.
“Racism is still alive and things don’t change, Steven Sykes and Heinke van der Marwe were calling me a baboon during the scrums last night,” Mujati posted on Twitter
But that is all in the past now as Mujati prepares for a grand farewell at Twickenham, on a red-letter day for sport in the world, and if he wins the Aviva Premiership, the Saints fans will forever remember the Zimbabwean star that, for some time, became a big part of their journey.