Made in Victoria Falls
Sharuko on Saturday
I NOW even have a romantic attachment with Dynamos and I owe it to my daughter Mimi, the beautiful rose in our garden of thorns.
The one I lost, in terms of physical presence, the one I will never lose, in terms of the special bond of our spiritual, and emotional, connection.
A calming blue influence, in a home of hostile Red Devils, the dove which would always sing, when we the dogs, represented by every male member of our family, started to bark.
The girl of my dreams, my golden gift from the Lord, the one who would never walk alone and, for two decades, we walked together, our bond growing stronger by each passing day, week, month and year.
More than being my daughter, she was something very special, a part of me always carried her wherever I went and a part of me always stayed with her, wherever she was.
Five years have now passed since I lost her but it’s just amazing how it feels like she is around, the power of her spiritual presence, during her physical absence, such an overwhelming feeling.
I will never know why she chose DeMbare, as the football club of her choice, on the domestic scene.
I probably have a very faint idea as to why she chose Chelsea, as the football club of her choice, on the international scene.
Of course, it’s just mere speculation, but the likelihood of her teenage fantasies being blown away by the irresistible image of a Didier Drogba, in full flight, has always been difficult to dismiss.
After all, she wasn’t the only one, among her friends, and a generation of girls, who I know ended up singing in the corner of the Blues of London, simply because of the Drogba factor.
My friend Maxwell’s daughter was her age mate, her name is Rutendo, they went to the same school and they both ended up being very loyal fans of Roman Abramovich’s pet football project.
My friend Prince’s daughter was also her age mate, her name is Primrose, they didn’t go to the same school but, somehow, they both ended up being proud fans of the Blues of London.
Of course, it’s impossible for me to even consider the possibility of having a soft spot for Chelsea even though, in terms of the real enemy, they are miles adrift of the ultimate rivals, which Liverpool represent.
But, somehow, for the sake of my daughter, in the past five years,I ended up developing a soft spot for Dynamos.
Incredibly, it’s the same soft spot I had already developed for Highlanders.
That romantic attachment with Highlanders actually came first, sometime at the turn of the millennium, when I found myself being seduced by the sights and sounds of the Bosso Roadshow.
Back in the days when Liqhwa Gama, and his marching band of black-and-white royal fans, turned the act of supporting Bosso into something of a fine piece of vintage art.
Of course, it also helped that Highlanders were winning championships, including four in a row, back in the days when the likes of Zenzo Moyo transformed themselves into merchants of destruction, and agents of pain, to an opposition, which simply could not resist their raw power and amazing precision.
Inevitably, Zemura, as Zenzo is also known, became my good friend and, away from the madding crowd, I would tell him of my Ngoni roots.
I would tell him of a time, and era, when his great grandfather, and my great grandfather, probably fought on the same side, during the wars which dominated KwaZulu Natal, when Shaka was King.
That history taught us that, in the grand rebellion which followed, his people came into this country, under the leadership of Mzilikazi, and that my people crossed this country, under Zwangendaba, before settling in Eastern Zambia.
That Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo would probably have played for Zambia, instead of our beloved Warriors, and it would not have been out of order.
After Kalusha Bwalya left for Europe, in 1985, to join Belgian club Cercle Brugge, the late President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, even sent a delegation to Bulawayo, on a special mission.
The envoys were sent to try and convince Mawiiiii’s father to let his son to come and fill the big void, in domestic football in Zambia, which had been created by the departure of King Kalu.
Someone had tipped the late Kaunda of this precocious talent, emerging in the City of Kings, whose extended family still lived in Zambia.
But, for Mawiii, born to an immigrant father who had come to Zimbabwe to work in the railway industry of this country, the City of Kings was the only home he knew.
And, this was the only country he wanted to serve, when it comes to football.
Today, Mashinkila-Khumalo’s place, as a hero of Bulawayo, and an icon of Bosso, is unquestionable.
A SOFT SPOT FOR THE GREEN MACHINE
Somehow, I have also developed a soft spot for CAPS United and the story of Steve Kwashi, a tale of tragedy and remarkable defiance, spread over two decades, drew me closer to the Green Machine.
And, so did the cruel fate which befell Blessing Makunike, Gary Mashoko and Shingi Arlon, when their young lives were destroyed, in a fireball, when the car they were travelling in, crashed.
To imagine that Shingi’s nickname was “Madhimoni” tends to, now and again, send a shiver down my spine, provoking so many questions and providing so few answers.
Why did, of all names and of all players, domestic football choose that this nickname, about demons, was the one which was the right one for Shingi?
As if to curse him, as if to associate him with the scary world of demons, in a big way, as if to suggest his was a life whose ending would be scripted by tragic events of a demonic persuasion.
And, as CAPS United mourned their fallen sons, in a way which could have even drawn tears, and sympathy, from Satan himself, it was hard to resist the temptation of being drawn into the Green Machine camp.
To feel being part of them, to cry with them, to develop a soft spot for them, to wonder why fate was now being so cruel to them, given what had happened to Kwashi, just three years earlier.
That, just eight months later, the same grieving CAPS United would explode into ecstasy, celebrating winning the championship, was the stuff of dreams which made it irresistible, for one not to develop a soft spot for them.
It also helped, too, that the intoxicating beauty of their football, during that memorable campaign, at times, appeared to be the colour of heaven, making it easier for one to develop a soft spot for them.
Even the football gods could not resist, falling in love with the Green Machine and, for the only time in their history, they won back-to-back league titles, in 2004 and 2005.
To the casual observer, it’s easy to say they were the best team and that their success, in those two years, were simply a product of having the best players and the best coach, in Charles Mhlauri.
That is until one factors in the relentless drama of the 2005 championship race, especially on the final day of the contest, when fate intervened, and left the Green Machine celebrating the championship.
For goodness sake, how does it happen that, after a meltdown, in which CAPS United crashed to a 0-3 humbling defeat, at the hands of Black Rhinos, in the final match of the season, the helping hand would come from Dynamos?
The same Glamour Boys, who had arrived in Masvingo facing the real possibility of relegation, should they lose, as was widely expected, now found themselves playing the role of kingmakers.
Somehow, it rained in Masvingo, which changed everything because, on that waterlogged pitch, form flew out of the window and it became a battle of guts, more than a battle of style.
By the time the match in Harare had ended, and confirmation swept through Mucheke that CAPS United had been hammered 0-3, there were nine more minutes of additional time left to play, in Masvingo.
In another cruel twist of fate, confirmation also came through that Njube Sundowns had conceded five goals, in their final game against Motor Action, which meant that, even if DeMbare lost against Masvingo, they would still be safe.
The only remaining big issue, now, was whether Masvingo United would score the winning goal, within that huge chunk of time added on, for them to be crowned champions.
Some of the travelling army of DeMbare fans, now fully aware of the permutations, suddenly switched sides, throwing their support behind Yuna Yuna.
To them, the prospect of Masvingo United being crowned champions, was now a far better option, given their club’s survival was now guaranteed, compared to the possibility of CAPS United being champions, for the second year in a row.
Especially this scenario, where the Green Machine success story would now get a helping hand, in the final minutes of their campaign, from their Glamour Boys.
But, to their eternal credit, the DeMbare players chose professionalism, instead of being swept away by the tidal wave of emotions, which were now exploding among their fans, in the stands.
And, when a long ball was pumped forward, it was trapped in one of the pools which the downpour had created, on the Mucheke turf, and Elliot Matsika took full advantage, running through on goal, and scoring the winner for the Glamour Boys.
The silence, which greeted Mucheke, was deafening while, in Harare, depending on how fast news of that goal had travelled to the capital, a big green party was about to start.
IN A WAY, I MISSED CAPS UNITED, IN VIC FALLS
I spent the better part of this week, in the company of Dynamos and Highlanders representatives, who included players and coaches, in Victoria Falls.
The occasion was a strategic retreat workshop, sponsored by the club’s principal sponsors, which the two giants attended, in the country’s premier tourist destination.
Hour after hour and day after day, the delegates were taught by some consultants, hired by Sakunda Holdings, of the potential of their brands, of the power of their institutions and how they could convert that into real value.
The lessons were tough.
There were times when the consultants were brutal, in their analysis of the challenges, which were choking the two giants, and didn’t shy away from blaming the leaders of the two clubs, for letting down their constituencies.
Why were they not yet at a stage where they could compare themselves with Orlando Pirates, in terms of the financial and asset base, which the Buccaneers now boast of, they were asked?
Why were they not yet at a stage where they could compare themselves with Kaizer Chiefs, in terms of the success stories, which the Amakhosi have written, when it comes to their commercial wing?
Why were they seemingly comfortable with mediocrity, with using Stone Age methods to try and fix millennium challenges, two giants which were, in a way, allergic to both change and progress?
Why is it they still believed the majority of their income would still come from gate receipts, as was the case in the ‘80s, when they were huge franchises, and when European football was not accessible to the local fans, as it is today?
It was refreshing to listen to these tough questions, and also hearing the two camps respond, coming up with their answers, the challenges they face and what they want to do in future.
And, I kept telling myself, this is what our football has been missing.
A corporate partner, like Sakunda Holdings, who would come, not only with the cash to keep these big clubs going, but with the vision, where they would try to guide them into a prosperous future.
It wasn’t lost on me that we were probably witnessing a moment, in the history of these two giants, when everything changed.
This was an amazing transformation and suddenly the Bosso officials, who were at the risk of losing most of their best players earlier this year because they barely could afford to pay them, were now tenants in one of the most expensive hotels in this country.
The one forever associated with British Royalty, where a room, for a single night, costs in excess of US$800.
But, every minute which passed, kept reminding me that there was one missing club, at this retreat, which also probably deserved to be given similar support, if not by Sakunda Holdings, but by another corporate partner.
The absence of CAPS United kept nagging me because this is a club in desperate need of a helping hand.
The Green Machine are an establishment crying out for help right now.
It’s not about them getting a helping hand, to the levels of the investment, which has been poured into the coffers of DeMbare and Bosso.
It’s about them finding a partner, which can bankroll the salaries of their players, and coaching staff, so that the club owners, who have spent a fortune trying to ensure their ship stays afloat, can get a breather.
They have done their best, in very tough conditions, and the reality is that they cannot keep underwriting the huge losses, without being declared bankrupt.
It’s easy, watching from a distance, to mock Farai Jere, for the challenges which he now faces, in trying to ensure his Green Machine doesn’t collapse.
It’s also easy to forget he is the only man standing, among those who were pouring money into club football in 2004 and 2004.
And, if that doesn’t reiterate his commitment to our national game, then nothing else will.
This isn’t the time to mock the Green Machine, for all the challenges they face, in trying to oil their operations and also ensure they can extinguish the fire in their camp, which has been hit by another round of protest by the players.
It’s the time to fight in their corner so that they can also get the rescue packages, which breathed life into Dynamos and Highlanders, and ensured the two giants can now concentrate on trying to grow their brands.
I feel for CAPS United, even though it wasn’t my daughter’s favourite team, because anyone who wants to see this huge franchise collapse, is not a true friend of Zimbabwean football.
How I wish, in one way or the other, I had the money to invest in them and, this week, I would have taken them to Victoria Falls, for a strategic retreat workshop.
Their players would have returned home pumped up to try and match the success of the Classes of 2004 and 2005, rather than making headlines because they staged the latest round of protests.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys still in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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