Veteran football commentator, Charles Mabika has announced the death of Mick Poole, the man credited for giving the Zimbabwe national team, The Warriors.
Read Mabika’s Obituary below:
HE gave the Warriors their nickname, soon after Independence, and his passion for the national team continued, long after he left the country.
Mick Poole, a giant of Zimbabwean football, moved to settle in the United States, in the ‘90s.
At the weekend, at the age of 85, he died, in the UK .
He was just like the film character, known as “The Incedible Hulk,” who would be transformed from a soft-spoken, smiling scientist, into a giant creature, bursting with of uncontrollable rage, if something made him angry.
Poole’s reaction, if his players did not follow his instructions during a match, was similar.
He also loved watching action movies.
After watching one such Hollywood blockbuster, titled The Warriors, he came up with the nickname of the country’s senior national football team.
Released in 1979, movie’s plot is about a young African-American gang, called The Warriors, who are framed by a ruthless rival gang, of killing a “nice” gang leader, who is trying to unite the gangs.
The Warriors then find themselves having to use all their skills, and muscle, to prove their innocence, and bring their enemy to book.
They succeeded in their mission.
Three years after the movie’s release, Poole, who was assistant coach to John Rugg in the senior national team, took his players, and coaching staff, to watch the film, on the eve of an international tie against Lesotho, at Rufaro.
Poole then likened his players abilities, to the courageous heroics of the fictional characters in that movie, and handed them the nickname.
And, the newly-named Warriors, triumphed in the match.
In 1985, a bigger task awaited him, and his troops, after he had been appointed the head coach.
Once again, he reminded everyone that his Warriors would deliver.
This time, it was in the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and everyone wondered how the Warriors could accomplish what appeared a virtually impossible feat.
They were up against fancied, and experienced opposition, who included Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia.
These countries were all football heavyweights back then.
The Zimbabweans, as per their coach’s prediction, excelled as they topped their group to head into the final.
In the winner-take-all battle against Kenya, at Rufaro, the Warriors won 2-0, with Shacky “Mr Goals” Tauro and Gift “Ghetto” Mpariwa, on target.
But, long before that, Poole had already established himself as a top player, before venturing into coaching after hanging up his gloves.
He was a keeper, who started his career in the pre-Independence era, starring for police side BSAP, in the top-flight’s inauguration in 1962.
He would continue to have impressive stints at sides like Postals, Triangle United and Chibuku Shumba.
His first huge success, as a club coach, came in 1983 when he led underdogs Arcadia United, to a shock 1-0 victory over favourites Highlanders, in the Chibuku Trophy final at Rufaro.
Poole was one of the most inspirational motivators in the local game and that quality was the biggest ingredient, in the Red Army’s triumph, over their fancied rivals, on the day.
Dribbling wizard, Mike Abrahams, got the solitary goal.
The gaffer later moved to Dynamos, where he also had an impressive stay.
Former Warriors and Dynamos’ forward, David “Broom Boy” George, who was coached by Poole, and also became his assistant at the Glamour Boys, recounted the iconic coach’s character.
“You see, Mick was all about winning and he would go to great lengths to achieve that by getting the best out of his players.
‘‘Yes, sometimes he would be short-tempered but it never got physical . . . not at all.
‘‘He would just want to shake you a bit.
‘‘And, it always worked and, after a win, he would be the first one to crack jokes and laugh at some of the mistakes that one would have made.
‘‘That was what made him such a great character and leader,” said George.
Poole’s husky voice was so infectious that everyone wanted to listen to his story.
And, he would invite any journalist who wanted to listen, to his half-time pep talks.
Of course, no journalist ever took that offer.
I still have to come across other coaches who will invite journalists, into their dressing room, to listen in to the second half’s strategy.
Poole had one peculiar piece of superstition.
If his team scored a goal, sometimes he would get up from the technical bench and head to the dressing room, and splash water on his face.
One day, he told me, it was all about hoping for good fortune.
I watched him do this countless times and, well, sometimes his team won and at times they lost.
Just like The Warriors, in that Hollywood fictional depiction, he had the same heart of a lion.
And, he triumphed, everywhere he coached.