Epic Battle at the Baobab
Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
NOT many years ago, Denver Mukamba was making waves in Dynamos’ famous blue shirt.
Gifted with some incredible dribbling skills, sound technique and a knack for scoring beautiful goals, he endeared himself to the multitudes of DeMbare fans.
On many occasions he has turned the game upside down with one fine moment. But this is one game that many DeMbare fans will not be too happy to see Mukamba in his best form as Ngezi Platinum Stars host the Glamour Boys in a Castle Lager Premiership football match at Baobab this afternoon.
Some Dynamos fans do not like him for his truancy, which led to the agonising collapse of his marriage with the Glamour Boys, and his seemingly unrepentant behaviour.
But Mukamba has presented himself as someone who has reformed both in word and deed, and giving most of the credit to previous coach, Rodwell Dhlakama, who brought him from Chapungu in 2020.
“I know a lot has been said about me, some true, some false issues to do with me but I am one person who chooses to remain focused,” said Mukamba in a recent interview with The Herald.
“This is my time to shine in the league for Ngezi Platinum who invested their faith in me.”
True to his word, Mukamba has not shown signs of slowing down yet despite having a quiet outing in the league so far. His contributions during the season-opening Chibuku Super Cup were massive.
He scored six goals, some of them top-drawer efforts, and led Ngezi Platinum Stars to the final which they lost to FC Platinum in a penalty shootout.
Mukamba is not the only former DeMbare player who is likely to pose challenge to his paymasters this afternoon. Ngezi Platinum Stars have also boosted their squad over the last few seasons with ex-DeMbare players like Valentine Kadonzvo, Marvelous Mukumba and Qadr Amini.
In fact, Ngezi Platinum Stars have built a formidable outfit and boast of such fine players as 2019 Soccer Star of the Year finalist, Wellington Taderera, pacy forward Bruno Mtigo, defender Kudzai Chigwida and former Zimbabwe youth internationals Anelka Chivandire and Delic Murimba.
Baobab has always been a difficult hunting ground for DeMbare. They have never won a league match against the platinum miners ever since Ngezi Platinum arrived in the top-flight football league in 2016.
But DeMbare have vowed to end the winless streak, which now spans six years. They drew two and lost as many games in their league duels at Baobab.
Dynamos coach, Tonderai Ndiraya, is buoyed by his team’s dominant run after winning games on the trot, which has catapulted them to second place on the log standings.
They have 22 points from 10 games, one behind log leaders Chicken Inn, who travel to Ascot this afternoon for a clash against bottom of the table side Whawha.
Ngezi Platinum Stars are currently in fifth place and have 16 points from 10 games. The team is now under the tutelage of former Zimbabwe captain Benjani Mwaruwari, who kicked-off his tenure with a 1-1 draw away to Bulawayo Chiefs last weekend.
Mwaruwari needs to make an instant impact, moreso by defending the home records against Dynamos.
The UEFA-trained coach got his first senior team coaching appointment at Ngezi Platinum recently and faces giants Dynamos in his second game.
His opposite number, Ndiraya, who coached Ngezi Platinum Stars between 2016 and 2018, said he had so much respect for him.
“This one is difficult in the sense that Ngezi Platinum Stars recently appointed Benjani Mwaruwari, who I respect, and is a good friend of mine.
“It is really going to be an interesting battle. The team has a new coach and you all know what happens when the team has a new coach, the players tend to have more energy fighting for positions.
“So that is really going to make our life a little bit difficult. But, of course, we are prepared for all those things and then, of course, the record against Ngezi Platinum. Dynamos haven’t won in a long time against them at Baobab. “We are looking to break that jinx, if we really put up a solid performance. This is what we are looking for and we are hoping to come out with a good result.
“It’s going to be an interesting match so we can’t wait. Everyone is ready except for Sylvester Appiah who got an injury in training. But I’m glad that he is back and doing light training.
“I’m also excited that we are going to have a headache towards team selection and that the competition in the team now is very encouraging. Everyone is fighting for a place.
“If you don’t play well you risk dropping out of the first 11 so that is really giving us hope that we can compete at Baobab on Saturday,” said Ndiraya. Dynamos have thrived more on their defensive capabilities and have conceded the least number of goals — four — after the first 10 games this season.
Teenage winger Bill Antoni and Ghanaian Emmanuel Paga have provided the spark upfront and are expected to continue with their good understanding
Castle Lager Premiership Fixtures
Today: Ngezi Platinum v Dynamos (Baobab); Herentals v Triangle (NSS); Black Rhinos v ZPC Kariba (Sakubva); Bulawayo City v FC Platinum (Barbourfields); Whawha v Chicken Inn (Ascot).
Tomorrow: CAPS United v Yadah (NSS); Highlanders v Cranborne Bullets (Barbourfields); Manica Diamonds v Bulawayo Chiefs (Sakubva).