Sharuko on Saturday
THE striking irony of it all was found in Farai Jere’s beaming smile on Wednesday as CAPS United rolled the red carpet for Denver Mukamba when this Dynamos outcast, some even now call him a reject, a zitye or a bhero, arrived for his first training session as the newest recruit to the Green Machine family.
That Rodreck Mutuma, the self-styled Prince, and Simba Nhivi, who in a bygone era carried the surname of Sithole before rebranding his identity, were also on the field, in CAPS United colours, amplified the irony of the events that day.
Times change, they always do, but there are some rare moments when the changing of the seasons, the passing of the years, present us with a trip down memory lane and drag us back to some place, back in time, when things looked so familiar yet the circumstances were so different.
And, there we were on Wednesday morning, at the National Sports Stadium, for a CAPS United training session that was more than just a routine exercise for the Green Machine, with scores of journalists having come to bear witness, to the day when bad boy Denver would be provided with his initiation rites into the Green Machine family.
Jere, the club president, was also there and for some of us, with knowledge of the drama of one November night in the City of Kings six years ago, that beaming smile — coupled with the presence of Denver, Mutuma and Simba on the field as teammates — provided a trip down memory lane to the events of that day.
That Jere was now smiling was in sharp contrast to the chaos and tears of that night in Bulawayo on November 11, 2012, when the combination of Denver, Simba and Roddie on the neutral stage of Barbourfields destroyed CAPS United and sparked an upheaval which, hours later, would see the Harare businessman stepping down from his post as club vice-president.
Mbada Diamonds had taken the high-profile semi-final showdown between the two Harare giants to Barbourfields in what was an historical battle between the eternal rivals in the arena and fortress that is the spiritual home of Highlanders.
The stakes couldn’t be higher because, three months earlier, Makepekepe had been pummelled into submission by these Glamour Boys in a 0-3 mauling in a league match at the National Sports Stadium — their worst defeat at the hands of their biggest city rivals in 12 years, with Farai Mupasiri, Guthrie Zhokinyi and Cliff Sekete on target for DeMbare.
Such was the pain inflicted by that result that scores of Makepekepe fans were seen burning the CAPS United flags as they struggled to come to terms with how their club had been reduced into a pathetic clone of the Green Machine which used to fight for them with both honour and pride in such epic battles.
And, for some, probably a change of venue could help reverse their fortunes, but at Barbourfields that day, Callisto Pasuwa’s DeMbare, with a League and Cup Double in sight, were simply irresistible and outplayed Makepekepe off the park with a vintage show that was both a credit to their collection of talented individuals and a powerful reminder of the gap that now existed between the two clubs.
Denver, just weeks from being crowned Soccer Star of the Year and Dynamos Player of the Year, was the conductor of that orchestra with a blinding individual show, which some feel was his finest on a football field — even better than his performance in that Champions League destruction of MC Alger of Algeria — as DeMbare ran riot and won that semi-final 3-0.
The scorers for the Glamour Boys that day were Denver, Roddie and Simba and, humbled by the defeat and devoured by the pain of the humiliation, Jere retreated to the privacy of his hotel room and, as tears dropped down his cheeks, announced he couldn’t bear this turmoil anymore and had quit his post as the club vice-president.
They say time is a healer and, six years down the line, with a lot having changed and — as club president — having his led his team to the championship and their first adventure in the Champions League group stages, there he was on Wednesday morning, beaming with a smile, as CAPS United rolled the red carpet for Denver and, crucially, with both Simba and Roddie now part of his stable.
A DEEPLY FLAWED REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
Just six years ago, when he was starring in that DeMbare team whose demolition of CAPS United in Bulawayo sent Jere into premature retirement from the game’s management, before his comeback, Denver appeared someone destined to reach the stars even King Peter Ndlovu spoke highly of his talent.
“I would not want to mention names of players who could be like me, but let me say Denver can become better than me,” Ndlovu said at the function where Denver was crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 2012.
“When I look at his age, I see a bright future ahead. I would love to see him play overseas. I have spoken to Denver and I told him that the challenge for him now is to maintain that level and the next six months would be crucial for him.
“I know how Denver is feeling right now because I once experienced it. The boy should be well taken care of. I will tell him that he should not make some of the mistakes that I made in my career. Fame, women and jealousy are some of the impediments that you encounter when you become a football star.’’
It was as if King Peter knew, it was as if he had, for a moment, transformed himself into Prophet Peter because all his fears — the dangers associated with fame, women, alcohol and drugs — came to pass as Denver was devoured by demons that stripped him of his talent, deflected his focus and turned him into a footballer so average he could barely make it at Jomo Cosmos.
Maybe, we should have seen it earlier, long before he was crowned Soccer Star of the Year, when the signs first emerged that there was a possibility there could be a detachment between his senses and his head when, in a moment of madness, he switched off and powered by a raft of emotions, chose to celebrate a DeMbare goal under the bay housing the CAPS United fans at the National Sports Stadium.
He even raised his finger and planted it on his lips, in a mock rendition of silence, to tell the Green Machine fans to shut up with his act provoking a shower of missiles which could have led to the abandonment of the game.
Or that outrageous charge at the referee in Botswana that earned him a red card and a five-match ban from CAF, and a lot of other antics — inconsistent with professionalism for someone who wanted to be considered a serious athlete — which became the order of his days.
Jere said all that Denver needs, right now, is love and he might be right, but the real test will come when this flawed genius again slips into his comfort zone, when he starts dominating the newspaper headlines with his artistry on the field and he begins to feel he is heaven’s ultimate gift to football.
His vulnerability, somehow, has coincided with phases in his football when he appears to be doing well, when everyone is talking about him in the positive, when the fans are worshipping him as a genius and he forgets the value of responsibility and wanders back into the darkness where he becomes a pain to the coaches through his indiscipline.
When the ladies in the stands start singing his name, because he has done something wonderful with his feet on the pitch, and when the winning bonuses start streaming into his bank account, that’s when he begins to lose it, finding cold comfort in the arms of strangers and refugee in alcohol, believing that in his drunken state, he gets an escape valve from the brutal realities of this world.
They say old habits die hard and the challenge is for Denver to assume responsibility because, for someone who turns 26 this year, he is not a young man by any means and he should be seen to be showing love and respect to football, because that is the only thing he knows and can give him a life, rather than expect the game to worship him.
He should respect himself and the talent that God gave him and use it to better his life rather than expect us to love him when, as he has been doing in recent years, he regularly slips off the rails and becomes a mockery to the professionalism that is expected from those who are good enough to play at his level.
For goodness sake, he isn’t a boy anymore, after all Mark Zuckerberg was a mere 22-year-old when Facebook, the company he founded as a Harvard student, went global in 2006 and today he is worth an estimated net worth $72.5 billion as of March 5, this year.
Yes, Denver needs love, everyone does, but the responsibility to sort out his mess rests entirely upon himself, and no one else, and the sooner he embraces the reality he has plunged himself into a quagmire and needs to lift himself out of that hole then the better chances he has at redemption so that he won’t be cast away as a rebel without a cause.
IN CASE HE DOESN’T KNOW
IT, GEORGE BEST’S CAREER
WAS OVER AT 27 YEARS
Both Jere and Gibson Mahachi, a very good man who has stuck with this flawed genius in the darkness in which he has been wandering for some time now, can probably help Denver by ensuring he reads a lot of literature on the life and times of George Best.
The Irish genius was a mere 15-year-old when he was signed by Manchester United, made his first team appearance at 17 and scored in only his second match for the Red Devils on his way to helping them winning two league titles, a European Cup by the age of 22, being honoured with the Ballon d’Or and becoming the youngest winner of the Footballer of the Year award.
But George, who some even argue was better than Pele and Maradona through that song, “MARADONA GOOD, PELE BETTER AND GEORGE BEST,” was a ruined soul by the time he left Manchester United after his career had faded fast, and was effectively over, at 27 years, having been battered by a combination of his love of alcohol, women, partying, drugs and other excesses.
“If you’d given me the choice of going out and beating four men and smashing a goal in from thirty yards against Liverpool or going to bed with Miss World, it would have been a difficult choice. Luckily, I had both,’’ he famously said.
“I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered. In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol — it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.’’
That he ended up playing for such obscure clubs like Stockport County and Cork Celtic after he left Man United probably provided a graphic illustration of his spectacular fall from grace.
Best, who revealed he dated three Miss World winners, died on November 25, 2005 aged 59, with his battle against alcohol having seen him undergo two liver transplants.
“At 19, four years into his career at Old Trafford, Best belonged to everyone. And everyone he wanted to belong to him,” Kevin Mitchell, of The Guardian newspaper, wrote in a moving obituary which Denver should be forced to read.
“They were often blonde, always pretty and forever young. Sooner than George or anyone else realised, though, it would be over.
“Those who had worshipped him in print would not match the ardour of the women who continued to pursue him into middle-age and his booze-wrinkled decline, every ugly minute of it chronicled with what was, sometimes, unseemly glee.
“The moralists were never far away when Best slipped into one of his physical collapses. Few people of fame can have inspired more premature obituaries. In recent weeks, the opinion formers poured over the final moments of his turbulent life.
“HE DRANK TOO MUCH. HE LOVED TOO MUCH. HE SPENT TOO MUCH. HE WASTED HIS GENIUS. HE WAS EVERY GOOD THING GONE WRONG, A RELIC FROM THE DEFINING AGE OF EXCESS.
“And, with his beautiful face and his four-letter name, he was a gift to Fleet Street. Few footballers — few public properties, for that is what he was from the day he signed for United — had more chemistry. It was Best’s misfortune to mix it with alcohol and naivety.
“Best knew his worth. But he always put fun first. Certainly, he destroyed himself, and let down many others for his charming stupidity as he descended unapologetically into alcoholism. The lies that did him the most were the ones he told himself, yet he had the maddening knack of getting people to forgive him, and love him again, before slipping into the shadows again for more shenanigans.’’
Kevin could have been writing for Denver and the only difference is that, unlike George Best, Mukamba has a chance to save himself, learn from history and find redemption again.
And it’s ironic it might come in a team owned by a man who — at the peak of his powers — was forced by his sheer brilliance, back in the days when his football did the talking, to momentarily quit this Green Machine’s leadership.
It could be one of the best football, and life, stories ever told.
To God Be The Glory
Come on Chevrons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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