JUST three days earlier, the beautiful package had been delivered straight into my living room by the power of television — the dynamism of the DStv Explorer decoder providing me with the freedom to rewind the vintage moments and analyse them over and over again. If it was not the beauty of the completed passes, then it was the grace of the movement of their players who somehow kept drifting into the right places, as if they were ballerina dancers with the calmness of their touches and the authority of their build-ups providing an oasis of elegance in that ocean of attrition.
At one time I counted the passes, a dozen of them sprayed within a short distance and on the ground, the choreography as beautiful as it was intoxicating to anyone who values the art of good football. Throughout the show, there was never any hint of panic, even when they were a goal down, their belief in their qualities to find a breakthrough, a response, to erase the deficit and turn this game on its head, embedded in the values of their never-say-die spirit and the swagger of their movements.
That they could produce such a show pregnant with both style and substance in the fortress of this giant called Bosso, which in its previous battle had destroyed Chicken Inn in a four-goal demolition that had lit this City of Kings, was as remarkable as it was commendable. The kind of performance which makes everyone stand and take notice, the kind of show on which a season of triumph can be built upon, the kind of display which provoked not only a wave of eternal hope for their constituency, but sent shivers into the spines of their rivals.
If it wasn’t the quality of their game that was so easy on the eye, then it was the sheer beauty of their goals. If it wasn’t their bravery to refuse to be crushed by the force of this beast in its backyard, as had happened to the Gamecocks, which caught the eye, then it was the excellent way they went about their business in a performance which ticked all the boxes. For about an hour at Barbourfields on Sunday, FC Platinum took their game to another level of excellence and, at times, in a league where the ball is usually kicked aimlessly around or hoofed to the forwards at every given moment in the hope that one of them will find a breakthrough or the defenders will make a mistake, the superb show which Norman Mapeza’s men turned on that afternoon was as good as it can ever get.
Maybe that’s the very reason even the DStv chiefs, for a refreshing change, decided there was enough beautiful material in that match at Barbourfields to include it on their Catch Up bouquet, where the best of action from around the world is compressed into either 10-minute or five-minute highlight shows for their Premium subscribers to catch up on what they would probably have missed.
Then on Wednesday afternoon, I went to the National Sports Stadium to watch the team which was leading the race for the league championship, serial champions Dynamos, who were hoping to feast on relegation-threatened Tsholotsho just days after seeing their biggest rivals cut the gap between them to just a single point.
Having been charmed by the beauty of the FC Platinum show, which I have been repeatedly watching on DStv, I found myself dashing for the giant stadium expecting a very strong response from a Dynamos side desperate to keep themselves in pole position amid sustained pressure from a chasing pack sensing blood. Denver Mukamba had scored in Kariba, on one of the few occasions this year in which he had chosen to play football rather than be devoured by the psychological demons which have left him resembling the shell of the player he used to be in the past, and that alone was reason to provide hope for a good day of football at the giant stadium on Wednesday.
Ocean Mushure, the leader of these Glamour Boys, had not only recovered to take his place in the team, but in a rare television interview on ZTV’s authoritative Monday night live football magazine programme, “Game Plan”, had even declared that the championship was going nowhere but into the trophy cabinet of his team. The Glamour Boys always respond, they always do, I heard some of their fans chatting as I made my way into the parking lot of the VVIP Lounge and even though the turnout for such a massive game was disappointing, at a time when Lloyd Mutasa and his men badly needed their 12th man to play a part in pushing them that extra mile,
I felt there were great expectations that this would be a day when they would make a mark.
A NO-SHOW IN THE HEATWAVE OF HARARE THAT WAS AN INSULT TO FOOTBALL
Of course, I wasn’t one of those who believed this would be an easy game for these Glamour Boys who have perfected the art of choking every time they are presented with a golden chance to move themselves clear of the chasing pack, because I considered the visitors tricky opponents who were coming to town with very little to lose. And I told my colleague on the drive to the giant stadium that, man for man, if you take out Mushure, Christian Epoupa Ntouba and, to some extent, Mukamba, on the isolated occasions he remembers he is a footballer, Tsholotsho probably had better talented individuals than this average DeMbare outfit.
After all, the same Godfrey Mukambi, who was now running the Dynamos midfield used to play for Tsholotsho and others have been recruited from clubs whose profile was no bigger than these Homeless Boys. The only difference why the other side was at the top of the table ahead of Wednesday’s match and the other one was second from the bottom, I argued, was because Tsholotsho didn’t have an army of fans to keep them on their toes, the comfort of a home where they can try to win the majority of their matches, a tradition of success to push them all the time, a relentless media scrutiny that pushes them to punch above their weight and the big-boy profile that forces some match officials to give them benefits of doubts in key matches.
To their eternal credit, it was Tsholotsho who came on a mission to try and play football on Wednesday afternoon, the Homeless Boys played with both authority and style in this encounter. At times, in a period where Dynamos have repeatedly turned to their white away kit for use in their home matches, and fled from their traditional Rufaro home because of superstitious reasons, a visitor to this country would have been forgiven for thinking that the Homeless Boys — in their white jerseys and dark shorts — were probably the home team fighting for the championship.
And those in the dominant blue strip, the clueless ones who were running around the field like a bunch of confused individuals either unaware of what was at stake or simply not good enough to respond to the challenge, a the side which was battling to retain their place in the top-flight league. There have been some poor Dynamos performances this season, which was probably expected for a team put together at the beginning of the season to carry the massive weight of expectations that comes with representing this brand, but this one has to be the poorest.
Atrocious, awful, ugly, lousy, pathetic, terrible, vile, wretched, horrible, mediocre, you can think of any of those words to try and describe such a poor performance on Wednesday and chances are that you would be right, you would not have dramatised what unfolded on Wednesday as DeMbare produced a no-show in the heat wave that was engulfing the capital. Without any leader on the field, someone like Murape Murape to rally his troops for one final charge, and crippled by some questionable choices by the coaching staff, the Glamour Boys barely moved into second gear, decided to abandon simple passes to a teammate, with the balls being aimlessly hoofed into the opponents half — by-passing the midfield in what was probably the closest demonstration of ping pong on a football field in history — this was as bad as it can ever get.
Yes, there was pressure, but that’s when real men separate themselves from the boys and FC Platinum were under even more pressure at Barbourfields on Sunday, but they refused to abandon their values — the passing football that they spend hours trying to execute at their training sessions — and they were rewarded with maximum points which they clearly deserved. DeMbare deserved nothing on Wednesday and that they even got something, a point to add to their tally, was largely because of a hugely questionable call by the match officials to deny Tsholotsho the three points their lively performance thoroughly deserved.
Wednesday’s performance was an aberration, an insult to the good name of the Glamour Boys, but it would be unfair to judge his entire season on just one poor game against a Tsholotsho side that recently picked a point in Ngezi Platinum in Mhondoro and beat Bosso at Barbourfields, while ignoring the heights his Glamour Boys scaled in that 3-2 win over Ndiraya’s men and the four-goal demolition of Chapungu at Ascot, which could have possibly gone into double figures.
IT’S FOR MAPEZA TO LOSE, BUT STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED IN THIS GAME
Moses Chunga marked his 52nd birthday on Tuesday and to fully appreciate what either Norman Mapeza or Tonderai Ndiraya are on the verge of achieving — becoming the first coaches in more than half a century to guide a club from outside Harare and Bulawayo to the league championship title — you have to consider this as virtually a celebration of Bambo’s entire life story.
Bambo was only one year old, unaware of the Father Davis Babes and the St Paul’s Musami side which won the championship when this last happened in 1966, and reflecting on the length of his life adventure from Faison to Belgium and back to Zimbabwe, captaining his national team in between provides a good understanding of the extraordinary period which has elapsed with many trying and failing, to break this jinx.
FC Platinum came as close as any team will ever do half-a-dozen years ago, needing just a point in Week 29 and at home for that matter, against Dynamos to virtually seal the deal and end this curse in 2011. But their poor decision to organise an elaborate party before they had tamed the dominant beast from the capital, including, but not limited to inviting all the area chiefs for a grand feast and running a 10-page supplement in a Bulawayo Sunday newspaper congratulating themselves as champions before they had even secured that point, was ill-advised.
And in the place where the elaborate coronation was supposed to be held, the gods of football punished them in a brutal way for rushing to count their chickens before they had been hatched and an own goal by Daniel Veremu sealed a priceless win for the Glamour Boys, who went on to be champions seven days later. The events on that sunny afternoon at Mandava still provide a reminder that in this game, it’s never over until it’s over and while Mapeza and his men have their fate in their hands again this year, the threat of the old dominant beast can never be dismissed and anyone who is telling them they have already won it is an enemy to their cause.
There will be some serious twists and some surprising turns and, as they have shown in the past two years, the fear of self-destruction is still a major issue at FC Platinum, the scars from the psychological demons inflicted by that monumental failure six years ago are still to heal and it’s in these final five games when they seemingly feel it more than at any part of the season. It was the same two years ago when they appeared marching to the Promised Land until this paralysis struck and Chicken Inn ran clear. It was the same last year when they just could not shake off the challenge of a CAPS United team which transformed itself into 1-0 winning specialists in their last three games, to be crowned champions. I have heard some of my superstitious colleagues from Zvishavane even foolishly claiming some wicked people within the community have burdened this club to a lifetime of being bridesmaids and they even argue if this wasn’t the case, then Patrick Khumbula’s late header at Ascot in the final game last season would not have missed the target by inches to spoil the CAPS party and hand the crown to FC Platinum.
But for me, whoever wins — whether it’s Mapeza, Ndiraya or Mutasa — it doesn’t matter and it should be a cause for celebrations because it would have proved that, for all the brutality that this game represents, shattered limbs and shattered dreams, hooligans and n’angas, rituals and all the superstition stuff that make those Nigerian African movies look like child’s play, good guys can also come first sometimes. Mapeza needs to be rewarded for his commitment to our football cause in an era where some of his compatriots have long turned their back on their country. He refused the lure to use the connections he established in Turkey to settle in Europe and chose to grind it out in the trenches of the domestic game — including working at a mining town — to try and make a difference to the sport.
He doesn’t get any credit for his technical input in 2004, as part of Charles Mhlauri’s backroom staff, in laying a strong foundation on which CAPS United built their back-to-back championship-winning side and neither does he get any credit for defeating a very strong side — Edward Sadomba and company, which reached the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League in 2008 — to the domestic league title with Monomotapa that same year.
Even when the domestic football leaders conspired to ruin his initial promotion to take charge of his country by smuggling Tom Saintfiet into the coaching staff, and didn’t pay him his $280 000 for his services, he still didn’t turn his back on his nation in its hour of need and returned to take charge of the Warriors at the start of the 2019 AFCON qualifiers. Mutasa is another very good chap, one never to carry the grudges of that humiliation he suffered when the Dynamos family rejected him in 2011 when he had built a strong side from nothing — with some of the fans even targeting him with missiles — and he is back in the trenches for the cause of his beloved Glamour Boys.
Ndiraya is also a cool-headed fellow, a fine coach in the making who didn’t let the pain of being abused and dumped by his old club DeMbare to either shatter his confidence or derail his progress and, like Mapeza, agreed to leave the bright lights of the capital for a life in a rural setting just to play his part in the development of Zimbabwe football.
Whoever wins will be worth his stripes and given us a reason to celebrate because they all represent a clan of jolly good fellows and it will be good to see one of the them come first in this brutal game.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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