IS IT OVER FOR LION KING?

lion kingSharuko on Saturday
IN the feel-good environment of the rains that came down on Wednesday, and all the joy and hope that they brought, celebrations were expected to explode in Zvishavane and the City of Kings, marking the fall of a football empire.

For four years, they had been subjects of that empire, ruled by a 62-year-old football institution whose logo features a triumphant dominant Lion King, at peace with itself, the undisputed master of its kingdom.

Some of the scars — both emotional and physical — from that famous Battle at Mandava, four years ago, when a rebellion by FC Platinum almost came to pass, only for them to be vanquished in the place that they call home, as the dominant Lion King ruthlessly flexed its muscles and imposed its authority, had not yet healed.

The pain of coming so close, yet so far, from becoming kings, at least just for a year, was still being felt by the people of Mandava and, for four years, they had waited for this day when fate would smile at them and the dominant Lion King would fall with its pride getting a taste of the suffering they endured when Daniel Vheremu spoiled their party.

And, given the events at the Battle of Mandava that unforgettable afternoon, FC Platinum knew that, as long as the dominant Lion King still had a chance, no matter how slim, the battle was far from over and the sooner it was eliminated from the equation, the better for those vying to take over as the rulers.

While the Gamecocks didn’t have such a harrowing tale, to fire their revenge buds against the all-conquering Lion King, they had been concerned, for some time now, that they were being ruled by a single and ruthless lion, allergic to all forms of challenges, and they feared for their future in this kingdom.

And, now that it had finally fallen, eliminated from a race where it was seeking the immortality that would have come with a fifth year in charge of this kingdom, something that had never been done in the 53-year history of this kingdom, there was reason for the celebrations to begin.

Now, all they needed was to fight the platinum miners, in a two-horse duel for the right to the crown, at least for a year, for them to enjoy everything that comes with royalty, with being addressed as Igweeeeee, enjoying the warmth of kingship which, until now, had been a fantasy restricted to those Nigerian movies.

The Gamecocks also knew that, as long as the old dominant Lion King still had a chance, the battle was not over.

After all, they had been presented with a golden chance to eliminate the old Lion King from this race, when they hosted a battle in their backyard just a few weeks ago, but even in the fortress of their home City of Kings, whose name Bulawayo means “the place of slaughter”, they were defeated.

On that Wednesday, in that driving rain, the platinum miners and the Gamecocks should have united in song and dance that, at long last, they had ended the dominance of the old and dominant Lion King.

Like Old Major in Animal Farm, in George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm, this was their moment to sing a song of triumph, the end an era where they had all suffered under the exploitation, and dominance, of those who had ruled over them — in the past four years — and this was their finest hour.

And, like George Orwell before me, I have penned a song, a version of “Beasts of England”, which the animals sang that day as they fantasised a future where they will be celebrating their freedom from mankind, to suit the circumstances where both FC Platinum and Chicken Inn would have been singing, celebrating the fall of the dominant Lion King that had ruled them for four years.

 

“Beasts of Gamecocks, Beasts of Platinum

Beasts of this beautiful land of ours

Hear the sounds of our hoofs while we drink our rum

As we celebrate our finest hour

 

How tough our life was, in the past four years

When the dominant lion from Harare ruled our land

All that time, when all we did was shed our tears

And we counted our losses in the sand

 

Beasts of Gamecocks, Beasts of Platinum

Beasts of this beautiful land of ours

Hear the sounds of our hoofs while we drink our rum

As we celebrate our finest hour

 

Now that the day of the beasts has come,

The dominant Glamour Boys have lost their throne

And the shining football fields of our beautiful land

Are now being trod by us beasts alone

 

We have pulled the rings from out of noses

And torn the saddles from our back

Bit and spur will now rust forever

And their cruel whips no more shall crack

 

Beasts of Gamecocks, Beasts of Platinum

We have now seized the big prize from the biggest city

Wheat, barley, oats, clover, beans and hay

Are now ours on this golden day”

But, on Wednesday, amid the pouring rain, the old dominant Lion King refused to be buried, lived to fight another day, another weekend, its cause boosted by the failings of those who had been presented with the golden chance to bury it forever, to eliminate it from this race and to end its four-year stranglehold on this kingdom.

A small window of hope was opened for it, in its battle for immortality, on a day when the curtains should have been drawn on its quest for greatness and, as Rahman Gumbo knows, from a certain famous battle four years ago, that could have fatal consequences on those who are fighting to take over its crown.

Of course, the odds are still heavily stacked against the old Lion King, this contest could end for the champion this afternoon, should the Gamecocks win against the Sunshine City Boys, irrespective of what happens when the dominant bull hosts the airmen from Gweru at Rufaro today.

It was the penultimate game of the 2011 season, when the old Lion King went to Mandava and won a key battle that began this four-year cycle of dominance, and — as fate might have it — the end of its dominance might be confirmed in the penultimate game of this year’s campaign today.

And, should the Gamecocks and platinum miners blow another chance this afternoon, to eliminate the old Lion King from the contest, they won’t have anyone but themselves to blame should the dominant beast, in the event that they chance fate and give it a chance to take this battle into the final day of the season, once again emerge triumphant.

WILL MANGWIRO AND CAPS BE THE KINGMAKERS ONCE AGAIN?

TWO years ago, all that the Sunshine Boys needed to be crowned kings was a victory, just a win, something they had done on 14 occasions that season, half their number of games, on the final day, against a Green Machine — under the guidance of Taurai Mangwiro — who only had their pride to fight for.

But CAPS United turned on the style, at the National Sports Stadium that afternoon, leading their opponents for large parts of the game before Harare City got an equaliser which, in the context of their quest for the greatness provided with being league champions, was irrelevant.

A team that had their fate in their hands, standing only 90 minutes away from greatness, had destroyed Highlanders 4-0 in their previous match on a day when Silas Songani ran riot with a vintage display of devastating wing play, last seen when our game was graced by magicians like Stanley Ndunduma, suddenly saw all their hopes collapse in that duel against the Green Machine.

And, when referee Nomore Musundire blew to end the contest, everything they had done, in their quest for greatness, was over as — across town in Mbare — the celebrations started with the old lion being crowned the champion once again, something that had looked very unlikely at the start of the game.

At around this time last year, Mangwiro and his Green Machine was all that stood between ZPC Kariba and glory, their finest hour when they would be crowned champions in their first season in the domestic Premiership.

A team that was about to make history, in the world, as the first club to win a major league championship, in their debut season in that top-flight, after they had played all their home games away from home, in the city that houses their major rivals, including the one that was battling them for greatness.

And, to show that they were worthy contenders for the throne, they had beaten the champions themselves, in the same stadium, in the penultimate match of the campaign, just a week earlier.

But, just as they had done 12 months earlier, Mangwiro and his Green Machine turned on their magic, even when some of their fans were hostile to their quest for a victory that would give bitter rivals Dynamos the league championship, and by the end of the showdown, they had won the game 3-2 and ended ZPC Kariba’s quest for the championship.

Today, Mangwiro is no longer with CAPS United, but once again he finds himself playing the role of kingmaker, with his Harare City, when they plunge into battle against Chicken Inn where a draw could have serious repercussions on the Gamecocks’ bid to become the first team, outside Harare, to be crowned champions in nine years.

And also become the first team, from outside the capital, other than Highlanders, to be crowned champions in a dozen years since Amazulu ruled the domestic scene in 2003.

As fate will have it, the Green Machine, the team that Mangwiro left behind, can also have a huge impact in this championship race in the event that they beat, or even hold, Chicken Inn at Mandava today.

Is this fate playing its hand once again, all in favour of the dominant old Lion King, as has been the case in the past two years, with Mangwiro and the Green Machine — even in the season when they parted ways — playing the role of kingmakers?

No one can accuse him of being a pro-DeMbare strategist anymore, not after he plotted the Glamour Boys’ downfall in the Chibuku Super Cup final, as Harare City celebrated their finest hour since their formation.

Neutrals would love to see what has been a riveting championship race spilling into the final weekend, even if it means that only two teams will still be in the picture, but those who support the Gamecocks and the platinum miners, would like to see the old dominant Lion King being eliminated from the race today.

Because they know that, as long as the old beast is still in the race, nothing can be taken for granted and, in the case of the platinum miners, they still have scars from the last time they were in a straight duel with the dominant Lion King, four years ago, in that Battle in Mandava.

WHEN CAPS UNITED TOOK FOOTBALL TO A NEW LEVEL

The second half performance by CAPS United, in their game against How Mine at the National Sports Stadium on Wednesday, took the standards of domestic football to another level.

It was a privilege, that day, to be witnesses to a vintage performance that was a throwback to a golden past when our football teams were so good, you didn’t only watch your favourite team but could go and see other teams because you were guaranteed that there will be something special in virtually most of the games.

Simple football, with play spread on the ground, supporting the man on the ball, opening spaces for the man with the ball, defending as a team, attacking as a team, the midfield working as a unit with Dominic Mukandi outstanding once again, Joel Ngodzo impressive once again, and Hardlife Zvirekwi brilliant once again, it felt good just to watch them turn on the show.

That they won the game 3-0, all the goals coming in the first half, was something that their dominance, and stylish performance, in that segment of that battle, fully deserved.

The second goal was a piece of art that was made in heaven, the ball being threaded into space with the outside of the foot to roll into a channel that freed Moses Muchenje, on the left side, the CAPS United skipper complementing the quality of that pass by easing his way past the ‘keeper and then, from the byline, threading the ball into the path of Dominic Chungwa, who rifled it high into the roof of the nets.

Cuthbert Chitima, who bankrolled Gunners as they won the league championship in 2009, was so charmed by what he saw that afternoon, he picked up his phone and told the person on the other end that this was football at its very, very best.

And the CAPS fans, whose love affair with their club has been revived, went into delirium as they watched their men finally deliver the quality they have been crying for.

Credit should be given to Lloyd Chitembwe, for the impact that he has made since his return, and those that believed in him that he could make a difference if they gave him another chance.

One loss, in just eight league and cup matches, since he returned, and making his men play football with the kind of style that we saw on Wednesday, respecting them for who they are and making them feel special, a part of a very promising project, has endeared Chitembwe to his players and the fans.

Something, too, appears to have changed in Chitembwe.

He is no longer the fiery character that we knew in the past, when something goes wrong he is quick to forgive his player and urge him to carry on and do better and, crucially, he is a man who appears to be at peace with himself.

To God Be The Glory

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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