Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
AMID the seismic events that have shaken the country’s political landscape in the past two weeks, which will culminate in the swearing in of President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the National Sports Stadium this morning, the winds of change also appear to be blowing across domestic football as the dramatic season reaches a fitting climax tomorrow.
It appears the domestic national game is poised to crown its first league champions, from outside Harare and Bulawayo, in more than half-a-century should FC Platinum hold their nerve and complete the mission in the capital of their home province of the Midlands.
All that Norman Mapeza and his men need is victory to exorcise the ghost that has stalked many like them in the past — from the great Mhangura sides of the ‘70s, the vintage Hwange teams of that era, the superb Rio Tinto sides just after the turn of the millennium to others like ZPC Kariba and FC Platinum themselves, in recent years.
A draw might not be enough, with the old dominant beast from the capital waiting in ambush in case of a slip-up but, remarkably, a loss for the Zvishavane miners could still see them being crowned champions in the event Dynamos fail to beat Chicken Inn at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow.
The scriptwriter for this year’s battle for the Castle Lager Premiership title could not have scripted this drama any better with a repeat of the battle between the two teams, as was the case half-a-dozen years ago, when they entered the final round of the campaign with a chance to be kings.
Of course, back then, DeMbare had their destiny in their hands, having changed the whole game with a priceless victory at Mandava in the penultimate match of the season, and their routine 2-0 win over Kiglon at Rufaro provided the happy ending and crushed the platinum dreams.
Fast forward to this week and it’s FC Platinum who hold all the aces, after their impressive 2-1 win over Ngezi Platinum in the penultimate weekend of the campaign, powered them into pole position and a two-point cushion with just one hurdle to clear against Chapungu at Ascot.
Now, they need to complete the mission, which is easier said than done, and there are many Dynamos fans who believe there is another final twist to this intriguing tale and when the dust has settled tomorrow, the tears will be streaming from the FC Platinum fans with the Glamour Boys celebrating another title.
There are some analysts who feel Lloyd Mutasa, the unassuming Dynamos coach who has moved mountains just to ensure he keeps his team in the run for the title at this late stage, considering the quality, or lack of quality, of the players in his ranks, deserves this success for the sake of the grand efforts he has put into his work this year.
After all, they have said, as cruel as football is, it also needs to ensure that, once in a while, it’s a game where the good guys — and they don’t come any better than the guy called Samaita who has been transformed into a fashion icon by his friends at Four May shops — also win.
One image of Mutasa from this campaign stands out, refusing to be lost in the drama of the twists and turns that have characterised this crazy season, and it’s not his trendy designer suits which have given a new meaning to coaches going to work on any given Sunday in our football.
Instead, it is the image of that afternoon at the National Sports Stadium when he humbled himself, bending his frame in a show of great respect to his mentor Sunday Chidzambwa just before Dynamos hosted ZPC Kariba and handed them a three-goal mauling.
In a world of some big-headed characters who feel they suddenly are God’s gift to the sport, Mutasa is a model of both professionalism and humility and, after building the foundation for the Glamour Boys team that went on to win four straight league titles under Callisto Pasuwa, there are many who will celebrate with him should he finally land the big prize.
But, then, there are also others who also feel this game should also reward the finest and in Mapeza they believe they have the perfect specimen of their great coach when it comes to the game on the local scene. By May last year, Mapeza had knitted one of domestic football’s finest success stories, which had gone largely unnoticed, with his FC Platinum having gone exactly a year without losing a match in the Castle Lager Premiership — in a remarkable record-breaking feat in the country’s top-flight league.
And, as fate might have it, Dynamos had been the last team to beat them. After that, FC Platinum began a 26-match unbeaten run in the Castle Lager Premiership with a 3-2 win over Triangle at Mandava and defeat became something that was allergic to their ambitions.
They had won 16 of their matches and drawing 10, scoring 44 goals and conceding 14 to accumulate 58 points out of a possible 78 for an impressive 74.35 percent success rate.
But all that counted for nothing without a league title, because this is the prize that matters above any other, and Mapeza – who won it with Monomotapa in 2008 – now faces one hurdle at Ascot tomorrow knowing that, should they clear it and, interestingly, even if they fail to clear it, they could be champions.
Not since 1966 has this country seen anything as close to this when the late Father Anthony Davis and his St Paul’s Musami team took the league title to Murewa.
The letter M has since featured prominently among those who have been kings – Marimo before he became Chidzambwa, Masomere before he turned into farming in the Midlands, Mhlauri before he left for the United States, Methembe before he decided to spend his time developing the young players, Mandigora before they pushed him out of DeMbare for absolutely no reason at all.
Mapeza, before he suddenly quit Monoz, Moses (Chunga) before he decided to spend more time with the juniors, Manabhundu, also known as Callisto Pasuwa, before they terminated his contract at the Glamour Boys for no reason at all, all come to the fore.
Now, another coach with a name where the letter M features prominently, Mapeza or Mutasa, will be crowned king tomorrow. For the people of Chitungwiza it will mean six of the last seven league championships have been won by their sons – quite an amazing achievement indeed.