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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Mabika: a comment too far
Football and I are inseparable, because that is the only thing I talk, eat and sleep about
Sacked Zimbabwe TV commentator Charles Mabika

The recent decision of Zimbabwe Television to sack commentator Charles Mabika was a shock to viewers that loved his unique perspective on matches.

Known to his fans as "The Voice of Football" and "CNN", Mabika is loved for his fast, high-pitched commentaries interspersed with jokes and humorous tales.

Mabika began radio commentary in the mid 1980s and covered the 2004 Nations Cup finals, Zimbabwe's first appearance, for ZTV.

But his career came to a bizarre end after Zimbabwe's 3-0 home defeat to Nigeria's Super Eagles in September's World Cup qualifier.

Labelled as being "biased and unpatriotic" by ZTV executives for his praise of Nigeria's performance, his sacking was announced on the evening news two days after the 5 September match.

He was accused of paying too much attention to the skills of the Super Eagles and, in particular, midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha.

His excited description of the trademark somersaults of Julius Aghahowa, who scored Nigeria's opening goal, also came under criticism.

But the phone-in programme "This Is Football", formerly presented by Mabika, has had many callers asking for the return of their favourite commentator.

However, ZTV's head of sport, Josephine Zulu, has emphasised that he will not be allowed back.

"We have positioned ourselves as the leader in Zimbabwean sport and this essentially demands unswerving loyalty to the national team, whether it is winning or losing," she said.

"Like any employer, ZTV reserves the right to hire and fire employees, guided by both professional and legal considerations."

Mabika himself has said little in public but emphasised in a statement that he is far from unpatriotic.

"My life starts and ends with football, I love my country very much, and I will always remain the Warriors' number one supporter," he said.

"Football and I are inseparable, because that is the only thing I talk, eat and sleep about."

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