Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
FATE, at times, has a cruel way of hitting back at us and, for Lloyd Mutasa, the football gods decided to punish him in the worst manner possible when the player he drove out of Dynamos somehow found a way to produce the defining moment of a Harare Derby that was short on quality, but long on drama at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
If this gets to be Mutasa’s final day in charge of these misfiring Glamour Boys at this turbulent club where nothing can be taken for granted, then it will be one script which only the football devils could have come up with given the events at the giant stadium yesterday.
On an afternoon blessed with light showers, which virtually came from nowhere, as if to wipe away the tears of these Glamour Boys whose team plunged into joint bottom-of-the-table with ZPC Kariba on three points, the irony of it all was that the dagger which felled them yesterday was plunged into their hearts by one of their own.
The boy who has stubbornly refused to become a man and who, even in his hour of glory, exhibited some worrying traits about psychological demons which some say continue to devour his inner soul, even as Lloyd Chitembwe battles very hard to ensure his rehabilitation would yield fruits.
At times he appeared to be lost in his own world, divorced from everything that was unfolding on the pitch, oblivious of the intensity of the mission or the size of the stage and there were moments when his show-boating appeared to betray the spirited efforts which his teammates were putting into this task.
Twice, beyond even the belief of his teammates, he pumped his efforts from corner kicks right out of play as he stretched the boundaries of trying to find the perfection, in terms of the swerve he needed to give to the ball — his mind telling him it could be done but his execution, which has taken a battering in recent times when he has hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons, betraying him.
But, for all that, he still remained the one player, in the show, who seemed to have the kind of talent to illuminate an occasion like this, which some will consider an insult to the good shift which the excellent Joel Ngodzo put in yesterday, in a midfield show where there was a hint of some class on a day in which there was an abundance of misfits on either side.
Denver Mukamba, in his first Derby battle wearing the green colours of the Green Machine, clearly came on a mission to use the big stage to provide evidence that he isn’t the player who has lost both his touch and discipline which some people have labelled him since he lost his way, and even forgot Mbuya Kawinga existed, in the bright lights of Johannesburg.
Chitembwe, uncharacteristic for a coach who always wants his players to put the interests of the team ahead of their own, appeared to have handed him the freedom to express himself from the word go and, in that ocean of liberty, Denver found a way to thrive as he cast aside some of the demons which have stalked him for some time.
Playing down the left channel of the attack, he showed he wanted to use the skills, which some claimed had long deserted him, to entertain and from the word go he went about trying to put up a show, to the delight of CAPS United fans and to the disappointment of their Dynamos rivals.
There were moments when he looked the real deal, the Denver we had known back in the years before a combination of indiscipline and substance abuse reduced him into the shell that staggered back to our shores, when the South Africans finally lost patience with him and asked him to go back home.
And there were moments when he looked confused, if not by the colours that he was wearing then by some of the taunts that came from some of the fans on whose patronage he has built his profile, but to his credit, he didn’t let that destroy him.
Instead, he kept pushing hard, which in itself was a good sign, including running back to try and reinforce his defence, something that he never used to do in the past.
Then, just after the hour mark, he pounced to make the difference to this contest in which the Glamour Boys, for everything that has been written about them as being a bunch of misfits, found a way to give as much as they got even though the overall lack of quality, on either side, was clearly evident.
On a day pregnant with controversy, the ball that was drilled back into the penalty area from the right channel appeared to have marginally gone over the line but the near assistant referee, who was closer to the action than those in the stands, felt the entire ball had not gone out and gave CAPS United the benefit of doubt to continue with their attack.
Denver, arriving from the left, as he has so often done in Dynamos colours, made the connection — as sweet as he could have dreamt about — and the ball was drilled back towards the direction it had come from and past the goalkeeper and into the nets.
What followed was delirium!
Normally, players who would have scored against their former teams, let alone those that still hold their licence, don’t celebrate, as a mark of respect to those institutions and the fans.
But not Denver!
Not after how he was hounded out of Dynamos and he sped towards the CAPS United fans and, in their celebrations, found the love which Mutasa had denied him when he needed it most.
He could have scored a double, only for the goalkeeper and the frame of the goal to deny him a spectacular goal, far better than he scored to decide this match, a game which ended under a cloud of controversy when Dynamos thought they had found the equaliser in the dying moments only for the referee and his assistant to decide otherwise.
It’s something that will be debated for some time, that close call when the ball appeared to have crossed the line from a distance, and Mutasa can only curse his luck.
He will tell himself, these are things that he can’t control, and that’s very true. But he also knows he could have controlled the Denver saga better and, given the chances his men created yesterday, who knows, maybe all they needed was a Denver to make a difference.
Or a Nyakanyaka, as in Cristian Epoupa, and pity he didn’t have either man — the one he chased away and the one his leadership couldn’t get for him. Four goals in seven games — only ZPC Kariba and Herentals have scored less.