Senior Sports Editor
IT’S such a unique phenomenon, something that has only happened once in the 133-year history, of the world’s top-flight football leagues.
The top teams, under the same coaches, finishing with the same number of points, and occupying the same positions, at the end of two successive seasons.
And on both occasions, the championship being decided by goal difference, with only one of the two clubs, emerging triumphant.
It happened in this country, during the classic turf wars between Callisto Pasuwa and Kelvin Kaindu, as Dynamos and Highlanders went toe-to-toe in feisty battles for supremacy.
Ten years ago, the seeds for that battle royale were planted when Dynamos turned to Pasuwa to replace Lloyd Mutasa as the Glamour Boys struggled to salvage their season.
With FC Platinum seemingly galloping away in what appeared to be a procession to glory, DeMbare brought in Pasuwa, in what looked like a short-term recruitment, to help them finish in a respectable position.
However, it turned into the magical move as Pasuwa inspired his men to 10 wins in their last 11 matches, including a priceless 1-0 victory over FC Platinum at Mandava, to win the championship.
Their only defeat, a 0-1 loss at Mucheke to Masvingo United, was a controversial one, after they were forced to fulfil the match despite the absence of Washington Arubi and Cuthbert Malajila, away on national duty.
In the end, both DeMbare and FC Platinum ended with the same number of points (58), with the Glamour Boys edging their rivals on goal difference to be crowned champions.
Where Rahman Gumbo and his platinum miners had endured the pain in 2011, the disappointment shifted to Kaindu, and his gallant warriors at Bosso, the following year, as they came so near, yet so far, from league championship glory.
Kaindu, who was bidding to become the first coach, since Methembe Ndlovu in 2006, to lead Bosso to the league championship, saw his challenge come short, on two occasions, in a campaign despite also picking the highest number of points.
His club’s record-breaking 23-match unbeaten run, in the league championship race in 2012, provided cold comfort, in a year in which they failed to win the league title, as they lost the big prize, to Dynamos, because of an inferior goal difference.
Both sides ended with the same number of points (69).
It was also the same story, the following season, as they again the championship race, to the Glamour Boys, because of an inferior goal difference, after both teams ended with the same number of points (54).
Where his Zambian colleague, the late Keegan Mumba had failed, in the colours of Dynamos in 2003, Kaindu was the one who was now feeling that pain, in 2012 and 2013.
And, boy oh boy, his men battled, with blood, sweat and tears and came close, very, close, only for them to keep running into the immovable force, which Pasuwa had built at the Glamour Boys.
For the neutrals, it was as thrilling as it was heartbreaking watching that Bosso side do just about everything, including losing just one game all season, yet fail to be champions.
And, somehow, they found themselves sharing the illustrious company of Liverpool, Celtic and Rangers — clubs which lost just once, all season, but ended up not being crowned champions in that campaign.
In a game, which has seen some clubs complete the season, without defeat, but still fail to win the championship, maybe that shouldn’t be considered a very bad, or special, record, at all.
After all, Italian side Perugia went unbeaten during the 1978/1979 season, but still finished second to AC Milan, and Spartak Sofia were also unbeaten, in 1951, but still finished a point adrift of CDNV Sofia in Bulgaria.
Portuguese giants Benfica didn’t lose a game, in 1977/1978 season, but were beaten to the title by Porto, on goal difference.
Turkish side Galatasaray also went unbeaten, in the 1985/1986 season, but lost to Besiktas on goal difference.
In 2008, Red Star Belgrade completed the season unbeaten but, somehow, finished five points adrift of eventual champions Partizan Belgrade, in the Serbian Superliga. But, there’s also a reason why the tales of those who lost just once — like Highlanders, Liverpool, Celtic and Rangers — but didn’t win the championship, are also very special.
Take Kaindu’s heartbreak of 2012, in particular.
It’s something that remains difficult to swallow for the coach, and his Bosso family, because:
They remain the only side to have lost only one match, all season, in the era of the domestic Premiership, yet fail to land the title.
They are the only club in the world’s top-flight leagues who have lost the championship rac, twice in successive years by goal difference and to the same opponents.
Such was their special effort in 2012, their 69 points would have been enough to win them the championship in, all the 30-game seasons, since the domestic Premiership was unveiled in 1993.
The quest, for Kaindu, to become the first foreign coach, from an African country, to win the domestic league title, in the era of the Premiership, also failed.
But, no one can ever accuse him, or his men, for trying.
Let’s also take Liverpool’s case, two years ago, for example.
The Reds lost just once, all season, in the league, with their defeat coming at the hands of eventual champions Manchester City. Remarkably, that loss also came in the game when John Stones, somehow, managed to clear from the line with goal line technology showing the ball had not crossed the line by a mere 11 millimetres.
City won that game 2-1, the only match Liverpool lost all season, and it proved crucial, as the Citizens took the championship by just a mere point.
Rangers were unbeaten, throughout the season, until their final match of the season, which they lost 2-3 at home to Aberdeen on April 27, 1968.
Three days later, city rivals Celtic, beat Dunfermline 2-1, in their final league game, to be crowned champions, two points clear of Rangers.