Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
FITTINGLY, it was the National Sports Stadium that provided the theatre, on a moonlit October night, for the fulfilment of their dreams as the Glamour Boys celebrated heroism crafted from the wreckage of a home defeat before a partying colourful crowd celebrating their team’s coming of age.
The result that night on November 7, 1998, a 0-1 defeat for their heroes at the hands of Ghanaian football powerhouse Hearts of Oak was in the grand scheme of these Glamour Boys’ mission, as meaningless as dreams about Zimbabwe possibly topping the medals’ table at the Winter Olympics.
As the giant stadium reverberated into song and dance and the wily old fox who had masterminded this success story started his lap of honour, running with that familiar limp as his legs carry the burden of that vicious leg-breaking injury which ended his stellar career, time appeared to stand still.
Eight months of an adventure across the continent, which had taken them to Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana and Tunisia, in search of the Holy Grail and powered by their determination to go further than any other Zimbabwean representative had done in the CAF Champions League, had all combined to produce this golden moment.
A place in the final of Africa’s premier inter-club tournament had been secured, fittingly in the year that marked the 35th anniversary of the founding of these Glamour Boys way back in 1963 by a group of men, who in their wildest of dreams, never imagined they were creating such a football giant which would, with the passage of time, scale such grand heights.
Where 40 clubs from across the continent had lined up in the beginning of this race, all carrying hopes of winning this tournament, there were only two that were still standing after the events of that night while others, including some heavyweights, had fallen by the wayside.
Al Ahly of Egypt, soon to be named the CAF Club of the Century, had been blown away on the away goals rule by Coffee FC of Ethiopia after their first round battle ended 3-3 on aggregate. Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, another giant, fell in the group stages where these Glamour Boys emerged top — against all expectations — as they won in Nigeria by beating Eagle Cement and held Hearts of Oak to a draw in Accra.
Their namesake, Power Dynamos of Zambia, never made it beyond the second round after a 0-4 aggregate mauling at the hands of Manning Rangers of South Africa while Congolese giants AS Vita were at the receiving end of a 1-4 thumping in Nigeria by Eagle Cement in the very stadium where these Glamour Boys would go and win.
Victories in Lilongwe, where they beat Telecom Wanderers 2-1 in Maputo, where they beat Ferroviario Maputo 1-0 after the Mozambican giants had come here and pinched a draw in the first leg and in Nigeria where they beat Eagle Cement 1-0 showed these Glamour Boys were as good on the road as they were at home.
Having done all the hard work in a group that featured the Nigeria, Ghanaian and Tunisian champions, with only a 0-1 loss in Tunisia, the sole defeat to their impressive campaign, Sunday Chidzambwa and his men laid the blue carpet for an outdoor party in their last final group game against Hearts of Oak ,where they only needed to avoid defeat by a two-goal margin to make the final.
And, amid scenes of delirium inside the giant stadium, the 0-1 loss they suffered that night could not stop their rolling train from crashing its way into the final of the Champions League on an historic night for Zimbabwean football.
Twenty years later, images from that night remain fresh in the minds of those who had the privilege to get a front-row seat to the events ,which for these Glamour Boys and millions of their fans, represented their finest hour. Time, indeed, flies. As another CAF Champions League campaign gets underway this weekend, with FC Platinum having duly earned the rights to represent this country after they made a mockery of the history books by becoming the first club from outside Harare and Bulawayo to be crowned domestic kings, it’s hard to imagine 20 years have passed since DeMbare touched the heavens.
“We went through a lot to reach the 1998 CAF Champions League final,’’ Memory Mucherahowa, who captained the team, said in his autobiography, ‘’Soul Of Seven Million Dreams. In the money-spinning league, we were in the same group as Ghana’s Hearts of Oak, Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel and Eagle Cement of Nigeria.
“Though we were tied on 10 points with Hearts of Oak of Ghana, we went through to the final because we had a plus three goal difference. Of the six games we played, we won three, drew one and lost two and scored six goals.
“Because of our watertight defence, we only conceded three goals. I always believed that the only person who could take Dynamos FC to the top is Sunday Chidzambwa and his firing in 1991 was wrong. In my view, Sunday is the greatest coach to have emerged from Zimbabwe.
“He had many formations which mesmerised the opposition and (he) also possessed an eye for talent. Once Sunday Chidzambwa agreed to return to Dynamos as the team’s head coach during the 1993 off-season, I had no doubt in my mind that glory days were beckoning.
“He is the one who turned me into an anchorman. Previously, I used to play behind Max Makanza, the number nine. He made stars out of ordinary players. He had a passionate love for the club. Blue DeMbare blood flowed through his veins no doubt. He was the King.’’
And they were his subjects, players who were prepared to go the extra mile serving their beloved club and in that glorious campaign in 1998, their grand efforts were rewarded as they did something which no Zimbabwean football club had done before.
And has done since then!
A lot might have happened since then but the Dynamos Class of ’98 set the benchmark for domestic football and, 20 years down the line, it’s only fitting that their achievements should not be wiped away by the passage of time.
Critics say they are a symbol of turmoil, and to some extent, they are very right — they have their disagreements, of course, troublemakers like Denver Mukamba come and go, but before they reach out for hate, they always, always, remember, like ‘The Titans’ in that blockbuster high school American football movie, that they are Glamour Boys. And on one November night in 1998 they celebrated their finest hour.