|In the last 10 years, only one Harare Derby showdown has been won by a margin that is more than one goal|
|Friday, 03 August 2012 21:29|
After the City of Kings finally woke up from its slumber to stage a spectacular show, in hosting its biggest football match in years, the challenge was inevitably thrown to the capital to respond.
As Highlanders wandered in the wilderness, in the past six years, and its brand lost its magnetic appeal to woo fans to Barbourfields, football lost its soul in Bulawayo.
Harare became the Mecca of the domestic game, where the biggest Premiership matches were staged, and last year the league’s leaders even took all the CAPS United/Dynamos games to the National Sports Stadium.
Everything was happening in the capital and even all the league champions were coming from Harare — Dynamos (2007), Monomotapa (2008), Gunners (2009), Motor Action (2010) and Dynamos (2011).
The City of Kings was quickly turning into a city that domestic football forgot, left behind by the passage of time, and unable to readjust itself to face the challenges of the post-2006 era.
As the domestic Premiership thrived in the capital, with even the small teams like Gunners and Monoz being crowned champions, it was all bleak in Bulawayo.
Njube Sundowns collapsed, Bantu Rovers were relegated and Zimbabwe Saints continued to be such a sick joke the late goalkeeper John Sibanda, one of the club’s legends, must be turning in his grave right now.
But something good has been happening in the City of Kings and the arrival of a club like Chicken Inn, backed by solid sponsors, and the resurgence of Bosso, under the guidance of Kelvin Kaindu, has sparked interest in the game.
Highlanders’ unbeaten run has matched the good run by the all-conquering CAPS United team of 2004, which was unbeaten in the 15 games of the first half of the season, and closed that first segment with a thrilling 3-3 draw against Bosso at Barbourfields on July 17.
Although that game was abandoned in the final minute, because of crowd trouble after Leonard Tsipa had converted a last-minute penalty to level the tie, the result stood.
Two weeks later Bosso ended the Green Machine’s unbeaten run at the National Sports Stadium, in the only defeat suffered by Charles Mhlauri and his CAPS United team, with a stunning 4-3 victory in a game that will live in the memory of all those privileged to see it.
If Bosso avoid defeat against basement club Quelaton at Barbourfields tomorrow, they will eclipse CAPS United’s great unbeaten run in 2004.
However, there is a huge points difference because while CAPS United had won 13 games and drawn only two, after 15 games in 2004, for a total of 41 out of 45 points, Bosso have won 10 and drawn five and, at 33 points, are eight short of the Green Machine’s mark.
To the Bosso fans, though, what matters is that their team remains unbeaten, halfway through the campaign, and enjoys a four-point cushion at the top of the table, and that is why more supporters are coming from their shell to support Highlanders.
But if Bosso staged a spectacular show two weeks ago in the Battle of Zimbabwe, it’s still very clear that the real deal remains the Harare Derby and it’s hard for someone not to fall in love with images of such striking beauty like the pretty pictures inside Rufaro that turned into the enduring sight of the latest derby.
How is it possible to resist such beauty, such a colossus of a game, to dismiss it as a non-event, to even try and suggest that it should play second fiddle to a youth international, to even try and force it to be moved to another day, to keep it hanging by a thread until the eleventh hour?
There were, officially, slightly more than 23 000 paying fans at Rufaro for the Harare Derby, and that is about 2000 less than those who came to Barbourfields for the Battle of Zimbabwe, but that just tells half the story.
The cheapest ticket for the Harare Derby was US$5 and the cheapest ticket at Barbourfields was US$3 and, in an economy where every dollar now counts, the fact that the Harare Derby still attracted more than 23 000 paying fans tells a big story.
And, all his, on a Saturday!
The game was supposed to start at 3pm but only got underway 30 minutes later at Rufaro because there were thousands of fans still trapped outside the stadium, battling to get into the ground, at around 2.45pm.
One of the untold stories of the Harare Derby, all week, was that it was officially delayed for a good half-an-hour, to allow the thousands of fans trapped outside the stadium to gain access into the ground.
There were fears that getting the game underway, as scheduled at 3pm, could trigger a mass movement, and a possible stampede outside Rufaro, and delaying the game bought some time to ease the pressure at the gates.
The Dynamos and CAPS United officials, working closely with match commissioner Tendai Bwanya, were spot-on, in making a very good decision to delay the game by another 30 minutes, and in doing so they helped avert a possible disaster at Rufaro.
It’s sad that Charles Mabika wasn’t doing his Master of Ceremony duties, with no public address system in place at Rufaro last Saturday, to relay information to the fans, those inside the stadium and those still outside the ground, to help them understand what was happening.
The Derby That Rocked
The 69th edition of the Harare Derby rocked, not only from the sights and sounds in the stands, but also the quality of the game that unfolded on the pitch.
It wasn’t certainly the best game between the two clubs but, after the poor shows of last year, this one had life and it’s a shame that the decisive moment came from a wayward clearance by a CAPS United defence that had stood tall.
The Green Machine, with Shingi Kawondera a big influence and Marvel Samaneka turning back the hands of time with a blinder in midfield that reminded us of his vintage years at Eiffel Wildcats, played with a rhythm that was a joy to watch.
They kept their shape intact, all the time, and played according to plan, to use Shingi as the catalyst of all their forward moves, and — during the hour that his back allowed him to play — the Zimbabwe international performed at a level that was, technically, higher than everyone on the pitch.
His ball control, his sudden twists and acceleration, the vision he displayed to pick out his teammates and feed them again and again with balls that needed to be put to better use, was the work of a master at ease with a game that he knows very well.
If there was a weakness, in the CAPS United formation, then it was the vast gap that Sean Connor maintained between Shingi and Leonard Fiyado, which left the young forward isolated upfront, and having to contend with the towering presence of Guthrie Zhokinyi and the impressive Partson Jaure.
Why Connor, too, chose to use Shingi as a midfielder, given all the concerns about his fitness and playing against younger opponents, leaving the lightweight Fiyado in a battle that he was never going to win against the tough DeMbare centrebacks, defies logic.
One would have expected Shingi to be thrown right into the heart of the attack, where his physical presence would be useful, and where he could guaranteed time to recover unlike in the midfield tussles where the battles are endless and relentless.
But while I expected Shingi to shine, I was impressed by Samaneka’s contribution, the artistry that he brought to the game, the magic his every touch oozed and how he imposed himself in that midfield.
For a man who has suffered so much, in terms of injuries, it was refreshing to see him, at long last, enjoying the fruits of all the hard work that he has put into his game, all the hours he spends in the gym as he refuses to be swallowed by his injury curse.
One move stood out, the slightest touch to kill the ball’s movement, a tap with his right foot as if he was caressing this round object, a sudden twist of his frame, which freed him from his marker, including the one who was coming in to support, and the beauty of it all as he wriggled free and stormed forward.
It’s a pity he was brought down in that move but, in the mood that Samaneka was last Saturday, it was the only way to contain him.
A number of analysts have said CAPS United were unlucky to lose the Harare Derby, given what they put into their shift, and feel the fairest result should have been a draw.
In terms of performance, it was the best that I have seen CAPS United play this season, far better than their 3-1 victory over FC Platinum at the giant stadium, and even their fans, as much as this defeat hurt, appeared to acknowledge that their men had given it all.
But it’s also true that CAPS United’s best moments came when Shingi was still in the game and they can’t blame anyone for not utilising the great opportunity that flew into the face of Fiyado, with an open goal in front of him, only to direct his effort against the crossbar.
In such big games, if you can’t take your chances, you pay a huge price.
The irony of it all is that, with Shingi departing and CAPS United losing their leader, Dynamos got their leader on the field, in the form of Murape Murape, and it immediately sparked life in the stands and lifted the spirits of the players.
DeMbare Have Hearts of Steel
It would be unfair not to give the Dynamos players credit for the hearty way they performed, against an inspired opponent, and never allowed the superiority of their rivals, for that hour or so, to overwhelm them.
That is the mark of a good team, to weather a storm, and still find a way to hit back.
They never did anything special but stuck to the basics and, even after they had lost their pillar of strength in defence, with the withdrawal of the injured Guthrie Zhokinyi, their body language didn’t tell the story of a group of players who were ready to give in.
Even on an afternoon where their highly-rated teenage winger, Tichaona Mabvura, had a rare off-day, Dynamos still found a way to be competitive and, once they had survived that Fiyado scare, they were untroubled again.
Interestingly, they had the better chances in the first half and the returning Denver Mukamba should have done better, when through on goal, after exposing an ill-conceived CAPS United offside trap, but shot weakly from a very good position.
Cliff Sekete was virtually unplayable in the first half, weaving his magic down the right wing he made life very difficult for a seasoned defender like Douglas Walaza with his trickery and clever running off the ball.
But while the forwards like Mukamba and Takesure Chinyama continue to grab the limelight at DeMbare, the team’s true heroes in this campaign have been at the back and it isn’t a coincidence that it’s very difficult to score against the Glamour Boys.
Zhokinyi has been playing at a very high level, putting his body on the line for the cause of his team, and even earning the respect of his coach who has given him the captain’s armband with regular skipper, George Magariro, unable to nail a first team jersey and Washington Arubi in South Africa.
But it’s Jaure who impresses me a lot with his coolness, his timing, his athleticism, his toughness, his alertness and how he takes no prisoners once he makes a decision to go into the tackle.
Given his height, you always fear he will be exposed when high balls are flown in but, now and again, he proves you wrong with his athleticism and this boy is set to go places with his game.
Question marks remain about how Dynamos can plot a very successful championship defence without Chinyama who was providing the bulk of their goals and Rodrick Mutuma, who is trying his best, but continues to battle to find his range this season.
But one thing that you can’t take away from this Dynamos team is their indomitable spirit and it was there for everyone to see on Sunday and, when they got their chance, they took it well.
DeMbare have now won the last three editions of the Harare Derby, all by single goal margins, to show how tough it is out there, to bring their overall number of victories, since the turn of the millennium, to eight.
CAPS United have, overally, 10 wins since the turn of the millennium, while seven games have been drawn.
In the last 10 years, only one Harare Derby tie has been won by a goal margin that is more than one goal, when CAPS United beat DeMbare 2-0 at Rufaro in 2009 with Nyasha Mushekwi scoring twice.
Only two games, in the past 12 years, have seen one of the giants score more than two goals — in 2000 when Dynamos thrashed CAPS United 3-0 and in 2001 when CAPS crushed DeMbare 4-2.
Of the 25 league matches they have played since the turn of the millennium, only two games have ended goalless — the first league tie in 2007 and the second league game in 2010.
Shooting From the Hip
Moses Chunga opened his mouth this week, in Victoria Falls, to express his disappointment and criticise the tribal differences that are pushing us apart in our national game.
Chunga is one of those guys who always believe the truth shall set them free and is not afraid to say out his mind, even though it might cost him the friendship of certain people in high football offices and, of course, keep him isolated from the national teams’ technical fold.
And noone can say he is only being frank because he is out of the system because he was also frank, when he was in the system, and famously used Charles Mabika’s “This is Football”, when he was the Warriors’ assistant coach, to tell the country that the national team was being compromised by a bankrupt Zifa.
Of course, Chunga was quickly pushed out of the system, when he refused to apologise to Rafik Khan and his Zifa board, and the Dream Team coaching set-up, which featured Bambo and Mhlauri, which had picked a point in Algeria, was disbanded.
Ironically, the same Zifa that pushed Chunga out, for saying it was broke, pulled out their begging bowl, the following week, appealing to the Government and companies to come forward and help them.
I have always liked Bambo, if not for his frankness then for the mere fact that he is a true football man, a genius on the pitch who was as good as they come and who went to Europe at a time when only the very best in African talent was taken there.
Bambo cares about our football because that is the only industry he knows — it has been part of his life since the very first day he earned his first pay cheque as an Afro-haired forward at Dynamos.
That’s all he has done in his life — play football, coach football, you name it, with the round ball being the common denominator.
Chunga does not treat football as a secondary industry because that is all he has in life and he is not like others, who make their living elsewhere, and are only in this game on a part-time basis.
That is why he isn’t afraid to say out his mind when he believes things are moving off the rails and this week he got it right when he said we don’t need the tribal madness that is plaguing our national game.
Bambo said he can’t understand how a game, which was allergic to all this tribal nonsense when he was running the midfield and Peter and Adam Ndlovu were causing havoc upfront in the Warriors’ destruction of Malawi, has suddenly become so toxic.
You are right Moze, the problem isn’t on guys like you and Peter and the rest who built a lasting bond while playing for your country.
The problem is those guys, who didn’t make a contribution on the field, who will never know the camaraderie that you developed in those dressing rooms, who will never understand the bond that you shared when you lost and the excitement that came with victory, who are the problem.
The good thing is that this will all last, sooner rather than later, and we will relive the good old days eternally symbolised by that image Bambo, captured by a Herald photographer, when you sat side by side with King Peter in the dressing room, your heads down, your souls tortured by the pain of that draw against Congo.
Rahman Gets the Big Job
Rahman, as largely expected, was given the job by Zifa to take charge of the Warriors in the remaining qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup and 2013 Nations Cup finals.
With the World Cup campaign already in tatters and the Nations Cup campaign getting underway next month, maybe it wouldn’t have made sense to bring in another new guy.
I think we all have to support Rahman, even if some of us have reservations about his ability to steer the Warriors to greatness, because we can’t turn our backs on our team simply because we disagree with the choice of the coach.
Zifa have their reasons for sticking with Rahman and if they get the success that they hope for, we will all rejoice because we have to toast our national success stories.
If things don’t go well, as is largely feared, at least we will have the courtesy to remind the Zifa leadership that they should have listened to some of the little voices that questioned their decision.
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!
Text Feedback: — 0772545199
Email: — email@example.com
Skype: — robson.sharuko10
You can also interact with ROBSON SHARUKO on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp Messenger and Viber.