Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
FATE has somehow ensured that a stadium that has been associated with tragedy for Dynamos could provide the setting for the probable choking of their only rivals, and a sensational triumph for the Glamour Boys, as the marathon to decide the champions of domestic football reaches a climax this afternoon.
Exactly 12 months to this day, this very stadium in the Midlands capital also provided the stage for the coronation of DeMbare’s biggest city rivals CAPS United as champions of this country with the Green Machine securing the title on the final day of the season.
A solitary goal by Simba Sithole proved priceless for Makepekepe, who went into the fixture under pressure from FC Platinum, as the Green Machine celebrated their first league title in more than a decade.
There were some nervy moments, along the way, with a header by Chapungu striker Patrick Kumbula, himself a former DeMbare forward, just flying wide in the closing stages of that showdown which CAPS United needed to win at all costs to be champions.
Anything save for a victory for the Green Machine would have been disastrous and FC Platinum would have been crowned champions on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the last triumph, in this marathon, by a club from outside Harare and Bulawayo.
A year later, the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same. Once again, FC Platinum are in the race for the league championship, something they have done with regularity in their seven-year dance in the top-flight league in which they have transformed themselves into one of the giants of the game in the country.
Once again, Chapungu are part of the equation in a title race with the Gweru airmen carrying the hopes of the Glamour Boys family to deflate their opponents today and, should DeMbare beat Chicken Inn at the National Sports Stadium, ensure the championship remains in the capital.
And once again, Ascot will provide the stage for the deciding drama with the Zvishavane miners, who hold a two-point advantage over Dynamos going into the final round of matches, knowing that a victory there will be enough for them to be champions irrespective of what happens in the capital.
The gods, surely, must be crazy. How is it possible that a football stadium, which just one-and-half years ago, was associated with tragedy for the Glamour Boys family now provide so much hope for their triumph in the league championship marathon?
For in June last year, tragedy struck when some DeMbare fans perished in an accident on their way to Ascot to cheer their team in a league match against Chapungu. Seven fans died that day, two others succumbed to their wounds later to bring the number of those who died in that accident, when their vehicle veered off the road, to nine.
Five months later, the Dynamos family watched from a distance as the same stadium provided the stage for the crowning of their biggest city rivals, CAPS United, as the champions of this country. This year, on the first anniversary of the accident that claimed the lives of nine of their fans, DeMbare found themselves heading back to Ascot for another duel against Chapungu.
The Airforce side had not conceded a goal in 632 minutes of action, having found a way to compete again after initially struggling at the start of the season, by the time DeMbare arrived in town for a showdown that would be pregnant with a lot of drama.
The Chapungu rearguard, which had been the rock on which this team had built their resurgence, crumbled on that afternoon as a sleek Glamour Boys machine, coming into the game on a four-game winning streak, made a complete mockery of that defence.
By the time the game was abandoned, just before the hour mark after a freak accident, Dynamos had scored four goals through a brace by Emmanuel Mandiranga and further strikes from Christian Epoupa and Denver Mukamba, back in the days when he not yet been captured by his wayward lifestyle and was a committed warrior for the cause of these Glamour Boys.
Leading 4-0, DeMbare were on their way to an impressive win when a speculative effort by midfielder Tichaona Chipunza forced the Chapungu goalkeeper, Talbert Shumba, into a retreat that ended with him colliding with the goal-post.
And, in a bizzare incident, the goal-post collapsed under the weight of the goalminder and repeated efforts by the Gweru municipal workers to repair it failed leading to the abandonment of the match. A replay was then ordered, from the minute the match was stopped, and neither side was able to score with the Glamour Boys eventually winning the game 4-0.
Today, as much as many DeMbare fans will be at the National Sports Stadium where their team is set to host Chicken Inn in their final match of the season, they are likely to be also following events at Ascot hoping that Chapungu can stop their fellow Midlanders FC Platinum for them to be champions in the event they also beat the Gamecocks.
Should Lloyd Mutasa and his rag-tag team win this championship, which is still possible, it would complete a remarkable triumph for a side that was created from scratch at the beginning of the year after a number of established players had left for greener pastures.
Many believed this was just supposed to be a transitional phase for these Glamour Boys but they have punched above their weight, refusing to be bullied from the equation, and now and again emerging from a crisis to find a way to compete for the biggest prize of them all.
It’s likely that many neutrals will be praying for an FC Platinum win, if not for the love of an underdog then for the romance of just seeing a club from outside the country’s two biggest cities finally winning a league title in more than half-a-century.
In a week in which the country bad farewell to its long-serving President and welcomed another one yesterday, amid pomp, fanfare and great expectations, there are some who believe that fate has already decided already that winds of change should also blow in domestic football.
After all, even Arsene Wenger, who has spent more than two decades as the manager of Arsenal, has been speaking about his possible successors, indicating he will leave when his current contract expires.
And, just in case people have forgotten, there is also the Spencer Maguwa theory in which this Dynamos and Liverpool-supporting business executive predicted, seven games ago, that FC Platinum will be crowned champions this year.
So far, every FC Platinum result he predicted has come true and, for goodness sake, he even predicted they will finish the season with 72 points and DeMbare will be second.
The gods must surely be crazy.