|Now and again the guy operating the PA system played a classic from Lovemore Majaivana — ‘Badlala Njani’|
|Friday, 27 July 2012 20:59|
IT never reached the heights scaled by Shakira, and her Waka Waka 2010 Fifa World Cup soundtrack, but in the City of Kings we danced to a captivating football sound last weekend. There was a distinct rhythm to the dance and it created images so beautiful it could only have been achieved by the incredible power of the most beautiful game the world has ever known.
You felt the fever sweep through the streets and the night spots on Saturday, as Bulawayo braced itself for its big date with a football match that represented everything there was in the game in this country.
It was a script made in heaven.
In one corner we had the country’s oldest football club and in the other corner the capital’s oldest football club, in terms of those still playing in the Premiership, all ready for a blood-and-thunder showdown. The country’s most successful club, since the turn of the millennium, Highlanders, versus the nation’s most successful club of all-time, Dynamos, who in an era spanning close to half-a-century have turned themselves into Zimbabwe’s flagship football team.
The club that has made a flying start, in the new campaign to decide who is the best on the domestic scene, against the club that has the league championship crown in its trophy cabinet after edging FC Platinum, by the smallest of margins, in a riveting race last year. The country’s most supported football club, Dynamos, versus the team with the second biggest following, Highlanders, in a fierce battle right in the stadium that Bosso call their fortress where they plotted their rise to greatness at the turn of the millennium.
That Bosso were unbeaten in 14 league games was a fact, as unquestionable as the reality that the colours of their kit is black and white, but the Dynamos shadow loomed large because the Glamour Boys had not yet played Highlanders. Until that frontier was tamed, it felt like Bosso were dressing themselves in borrowed robes, it felt like there was something big missing to complete the puzzle and one could be forgiven to believe that the mice were merely playing simply because the big cat was away.
But where we had a tame Bosso last year, we now have a bullish Highlanders this year, where we had a Bosso that was being snubbed by its fans last year, we now have a Highlanders that is loved so much by its supporters this year. Where we had a Bosso that surrendered easily last year, we now have one that fights right to the end, believing that they are too good to be beaten, and you only needed to see the positive body language of the players, when they fell to that early Takesure Chinyama goal, to realise things have changed.
All this contributed to the wave of optimism that swept through the city on Saturday and by Sunday morning it was clear that the City of Kings was not only ready but also bullish about their prospects of repelling the invasion of the Glamour Boys.
Thousands of Dynamos fans poured into the city and by the time the match kicked off, Barbourfields was alive, had fought its way back from the days when it was nothing more than a yawning shell, where a linesman’s flag could produce an echo, into the theatre of this city’s football dreams.
In an era where our football has been confronted by some of its greatest challenges and our Warriors have lost their box-office appeal they now attract just 12 000 fans to their home matches, it was refreshing to be in a stadium where you would be reminded our national game wasn’t dying.
In an era where there is so much negativity in our football, where the difference in being labeled a sellout and a patriot can be so thin and largely dependent on the volatility of the mood of our administrators, it felt so comforting to see that there was still life in our national game.
In an era where even SuperSport have snubbed us simply because of fears that their brand could fall victim to the vicious circle of negativity in our football, leaving us stranded while their financial muscle transform the leagues in Zambia, Angola, Kenya you name it, it felt good to see that our national game refuses to be buried.
The fans, who have borne the brunt of the madness associated with our kamikaze approach to football administration, took matters into their hands and, in their little but very effective contributions last weekend, helped their national game send a loud and clear message that it deserves its life.
Some didn’t need to come from afar, walking from the nearby suburbs to come to Barbourfields, others came from very far, with quite a number who traveled from Botswana for this showpiece event, and thousands who made the trip from Harare all in the name of supporting their beloved team.
Now and again the guy operating the Public Address system played a classic from Lovemore Majaivana, Badlala Njani, and you could feel being taken down memory lane to an era when our football meant so much.
Just the names — Peter Nkomo, Netsai “Super” Moyo, Madinda Ndlovu, Tito Paketh, Titus Majola, Dumisani Ngulube, Richard Ndlovu, Nhamo Shambira, Fanuel Ncube, Douglas Mloyi, Alexander Maseko, Morgan Phiri, Josiah Nxumalo, Lawrence Phiri, Barry Daka, Willard Khumalo, Ernest Mapepa, Abby Madondo — represented greatness.
Then there was the response from the Mpilo Stand, pregnant with life and colour, as the DeMbare voices responded:
“DeMbare iteam yedu,
Zora Butter usekerere
DeMbare iteam yedu
Toenda tega baba”
Scenes so beautiful, sounds so inspiring and so representative of life, of pride, of hope, of everything good in this world, became the story of that unforgettable afternoon at Barbourfields last Sunday where football, instead of football politics, ruled supreme.
Savanna, Fans And That Referee
Savanna Tobacco have been one of the biggest partners of domestic football but you get a feeling that the big part they have played, since the turn of the millennium, hasn’t been given its due credit. They were there in the trenches, as the flagship sponsors of Dynamos and Highlanders, when most of the local companies were starting to have a negative attitude towards the national game.
A dozen years later, they are still there in the trenches but, this time, with a revolutionary supporters’ package where they provide free transport to ferry fans to and from football matches. They started with Dynamos and then, as they usually do when their dry run with the Glamour Boys becomes a success, they spread it to Highlanders and then to the Warriors. They didn’t demand space on the teams’ shirts to run their company logo but, running on the popular Zora Butter theme, they even invested a little fortune in T-shirts, distributed free to the fans, to wear during matches.
Last weekend was a big one for Savanna Tobacco and their fan initiative as the big game pitted the two teams that have been their focus, so far, and we had buses ferrying fans from Harare for free and buses carrying supporters from the City of Kings’ suburbs for free. That Savanna contributed immensely to the full-house we had at Barbourfields last Sunday can’t be questioned and you have to give Adam Molai and his crew kudos for their refreshing initiative.
What a show that was!
Both sets of fans deserve to be praised for the way they conducted themselves and, given the ugly things that have happened in the past in and outside this stadium during the two giants’ clashes, you can only give them 100 percent for being exemplary. That only two fans were arrested by police, for public disorder, in a game that had plus 25 000 supporters, was a public relations’ coup for both sets of supporters and showed that the hooligans, in our midst, are far fewer than those who genuinely love this game.
Some will say the result, a draw which meant there was no winner or loser, played a part in keeping the temperatures in the low zone. But, in days gone by, that penalty awarded by Hwange referee, Hardly Ndazi against Dynamos, right in front of the Mpilo Stand, would have torched serious trouble.
Given the way the majority of DeMbare players violently reacted to the decision by the referee to point to the spot, which was the correct decision given that Partson Jaure was clearly guilt of bringing down Bevan Chikaka, it could have triggered mayhem in the stands.
Missiles would have rained onto the pitch and everything could easily have spiraled out of control. But, to their eternal credit, the DeMbare fans accepted the referee’s decision, maybe because they had the best vantage point to see that this was a clear penalty, and did not join their players in the protests.
Instead, they seemed more concerned with giving ‘keeper George Chigova the inspiration that he needed at this key moment and when the giant goalie dived to his left to stop Mthulisi Maphosa’s penalty, the crowd’s reaction said so much about their belief that they had played a big part in it.
The Bosso fans in Soweto also deserve to be praised because there were times, during the first half, when Ndazi’s close calls, against their team, cranked the heat and, on another day, especially when they were a goal down against DeMbare, the reaction could have been violent. But, to their credit, they just let it end in whistles and songs of frustration and let the game flow on the pitch without the intervention of missiles, as usually happens, when they rebel against decisions in matches against Dynamos.
Maybe we should have picked it during warm-up when a Dynamos ball flew into Soweto and the fans grabbed it and refused to throw it back onto the field.
Goalkeeper’s coach, Tichaona Diya, went to plead with the Bosso supporters to release the ball but they asked him to first cross his arms, in the Ghost’s salute that is the club’s trademark, before they could release it. It’s like asking a Manchester United fan to sing You Will Never Walk Alone, it just doesn’t sound right, but Tich saw the light-hearted part of the story and, rather than cross his arms, he did the Zora Butter dance.
Surprisingly, and as if to confirm that this was all light-hearted stuff, the Bosso fans in Soweto loved it and, soon, the ball was back on the field.
Referee Ndazi received a lot of praises for his handling of the big match and The Chronicle ran a story on Tuesday in which they quoted the vice-president of the Dynamos National Supporters’ Association, Nicholas Mapanzure, the vice-president of the Zimbabwe Women’s Soccer League, Cecilia Malunga and former Bosso coach, Mkhupali Masuku, all saluting the ref. Given the intensity of the occasion, I believe Ndazi did well and will get a mark of between 50 and 60 percent, on my marking, for his performance.
He got the big decisions, including the penalty, right but, for the better part of the second half, his performance also faded together with the drop in the standards on the pitch. Just as well Chigova saved that penalty because it would have been a shame, if it had gone in, and provided the moment that separated the winners and losers of this contest.
For the throw-in, which directly led to the Bosso attack that freed Chikaka to close in on goal before he was brought down, should never have been given to the home side. David Kutyauripo’s throw never went into the field, and we have seen many such cases in this game, and how a technically dead ball could cause offence, resulting in the opposition being given the throw, needs to be explained.
If the referee felt Diva had offended, possibly trying to buy time, he should have punished him with a yellow card and that he didn’t defied the reasoning for his big decision. Chikaka was one-on-one with Chigova when he was brought down by Jaure and what was supposed to be a clear professional foul, leading to the expulsion of the young defender, was lost on our good referee, probably in the excitement of the moment.
And there was one more twist to the tale, where Ndazi was found wanting, when Martin Vengesai was fouled in the penalty area late on and, given the courage he showed in pointing to the spot on the other end, right in front of the DeMbare fans, he should have summoned as much courage for the incident that happened in front of Soweto.
The Harare Derby Comes Alive
Today, the domestic Premiership will again flex its muscle and show its drawing power when it stages the 69th edition of the Harare Derby. It should be another full-house with more fans likely to be at Rufaro this afternoon than those who were at Barbourfields as the CAPS/Dynamos game has become the flagship fixture of the PSL in the past few years.
The Green Machine’s form has slumped in recent weeks after a period of stability but this is that one game that pulls a lot of CAPS United fans, even during a period when their team isn’t playing well, back to the stadium.
Just the prospect of being witnesses to the moment when CAPS United floors Dynamos, that ultimate representative of everything that should be opposed in football, is so enticing that there are some Green Machine fans who only come to the stadium twice a year only for this showcase.
Nothing brings more satisfaction.
The Green Machine’s performance against the heavyweights has been good, and that should encourage their fans, because they were destructive in the 3-1 win over FC Platinum at the National Sports Stadium and gave Bosso a good run in the 0-1 loss at Barbourfields. The arrival of Shingi Kawondera has fuelled expectations and, although he hasn’t scored in the two full games that he has played, that he was outstanding in both of them, has bought the wave of promise.
If Shingi is a big-game player, like the old Shingi we used to know and love as a true Warrior during the days when his career was exploding in offshore lands, then this should be his moment to produce the big bang.
Evans Gwekwerere scored against Dynamos last year, although his team lost that match, and it’s sad that he has been haunted by injury this week because these are the sort of games tailor-made for the Earthquake. But while CAPS United have individuals, who can leave a mark on a big game with Rahman Kutsanzira the weapon that destroyed FC Platinum, you feel Dynamos are more of a collective unit than their rivals.
Their defence was awesome in Bulawayo, Chigova recovered from his ball of nerves in the first half to become a good goalie in the second, thanks to the support he received from the Mpilo Stand, young Tichaona Mabvura is turning into an ace as his confidence rises and, suddenly, Tawanda Muparati has found a way to play the game again.
Cliff Sekete was the best player, on either side, during the second half and, given the poor first half he had, he also has to thank the patience of the fans in the Mpilo Stand who gave him time to find his range. When you go to Barbourfields, you are touched by the outpouring of love given to the Dynamos players by their fans and that is what helped Chigova and Sekete to settle down and come alive in the second half.
It would have been a totally different story, in the melting pot of Rufaro, where Vietnam, spoiled by years of vantage point view of the best that came from magicians like Moses Chunga, Vitalis Takawira, Memory Mucherahowa and Tauya Murewa, week-in-and-week-out, have very little tolerance for what they believe is mediocrity. Tineyi Chitora, for all the goals that he scored for Blue Rangers last year, never lasted once Vietnam turned its back on him.
Vietnam also loves good players and if Sekete can reproduce his second half show, he can become their darling, and the return of Denver Mukamba, the rise of Mabvura and the arrival of Farai Mupasiri give Dynamos this crew of dangerous young turks, upfront, who can tear a team apart on their day. But you feel they will miss Takesure Chinyama and how Callisto Pasuwa sorts this out will be key, not only for today’s game, but also for their campaign to retain their league title.
Where Do I Belong Really?
This week someone highlighted to me that I was a subject of an intense debate on one of the groups on Facebook after a certain guy challenged something I wrote about Zambian striker, Derrick Kabwe.
I’m pretty used to being the centre of discussions on the social media sites and I have always taken it as part of the job and you take the good with the bad, no matter how it hurts, because that’s the price you pay for being a public servant.
What was interesting about the debate, as contributions poured in, was that there was an accusation that I had deliberately timed my criticism of Kabwe with the Harare Derby so as to deflate the striker and promote the interests of CAPS United.
There were quite a few contributors who said I was a CAPS United fan.
After years of being labeled a Dynamos fan, it felt so refreshing to read all that stuff, on a Facebook group with a direct DeMbare interest, and it’s a pity the guys didn’t see the joy their accusations brought in me.
Then, a Highlanders’ fan decided to post on my Facebook wall saying I should declare my Dynamos allegiance while, just across the other pages, there were scores of DeMbare fans who were calling me all sorts of names for being a CAPS United guy.
That’s exactly what I have always wanted, for one group to say I’m CAPS, for the other to say I’m Dynamos, for one to say I’m whatever, but never for all to say I’m this and it becomes final.
That’s not healthy for an analyst and it feels good like guys like Nodumo Nyathi (Bosso), Lazzie Hacha (CAPS), William Mpaso (Bosso) and Gondai Mazhuwa (Dynamos) appear to understand the dynamics better.
Anyway, in the week that our football refused to die, with those incredible sights and sounds in Bulawayo, which will all culminate in the Mother of All Matches at Rufaro today, who cares really about being branded a CAPS, Dynamos or Bosso fan?
It’s our game, isn’t it, so let’s love it.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The only people mad at you for saying the truth are those living a lie. Keep saying it
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