When DeMbare dined with angels . . . Twenty five years ago, the Glamour Boys reached the gates of heaven

Robson Sharuko

H-Metro Editor

WHAT were you doing during the summer of ‘98?

If you ask Alex MacAllister or Lisandro Martinez, they will probably tell you they don’t know, which is pretty fine, because they had just been born during that year.

Now, they are proud winners of the FIFA World Cup.

In ’98, I covered my first AFCON finals, in February that year, in the West African heartland of Burkina Faso.

But, it was my final major assignment, 10 months down the line that year, just across the Burkinabe border, in Cote d’Ivoire, which was quite defining.

In December ’98, in the cauldron of Abidjan, a Zimbabwean football club stood on the threshold of greatness.

On Monday, the clock marked 25 years to the day the Glamour Boys adventure started in Blantyre, Malawi, and ended on the gates of paradise, in Abidjan.

After nine months of some of the most bruising battles football could throw, Dynamos found themselves with a glorious chance of winning the ultimate prize in African football.

Of course, history has recorded that they failed to clear the final hurdle.

ASEC Mimosas, with a helping hand from just about everyone – including the CAF leadership and their partisan, if not rotten referees – won the big game 4-2, to be crowned African champions.

It’s a game which has already gone into football’s Hall of Shame as the only final, of a flagship continental club tournament, in the history of this game, played while the captain of one of the teams was fighting for his life in history.

Tunisian referee Mourad Daami ignored the savage attack, inflicted by the ASEC players on Memory Mucherahowa, during warm-up, which left him battling a concussion, and being sent to hospital.

Two years later, Daami travelled to Accra, Ghana, as an official member of the delegation of Tunisian giants, Esperance, for the second leg of their 2000 Champions League game against Hearts of Oak.

Trailing on aggregate, Esperance tried to have the game abandoned, with goalkeeper Chokri el-Ouaer even cutting his own head, in an attempt to deceive South African referee Robbie Williams that he had been struck by a missile tossed by the crowd.

Incredibly, Daami entered Williams’s room, during the chaos, and tried to persuade the referee to call off the game, which would have favoured Esperance.

The same referee, who had ignored the blatant attack on Mucherahowa, two years earlier, in the CAF Champions League final, had now been banned for 12 months, for trying to influence the outcome of another final of the same tournament.

Twenty five years after those Glamour Boys came so near, yet so far, from being crowned champions of Africa, the purity, and special nature of their adventure, has been questioned by some.

These armchair critics have been saying that football’s brutality means there is no honour in finishing second.

But, if one factors all the hurdles, which were erected in their path, including a referee which the CAF leadership of Issa Hayatou had seemingly picked, if not ordered, to ensure a home win in the final, it’s diabolical not to appreciate the significance of their achievements.

In another country, they would have been lining up events to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the start of the Cinderella adventure, in which those Dynamos heroes pitched up in heaven and touched the stars.

They would be honouring each of the supermen who, in just nine extraordinary months, came tantalisingly close to football sainthood in one of the game’s greatest tales of brotherhood.

A crusade, which was as spiritual as it was sensational, in which they gallantly fought for their badge and, in the process, became golden sporting ambassadors for their country.

For them, and the millions of fans at home, and on the sub-continent who were seduced by their fairy-tale, these were surely the days of their lives.

Fittingly Sunday Chidzambwa, the most decorated and greatest Dynamos son of all-time, provided the captaincy of the ship which battled the storms but found a way to dock at their destination.

They won in Blantyre, won in Maputo, won in Lagos, fought for a draw in Accra and were only beaten twice on the road, in Tunis and, in Abidjan, in that final game.

The Glamour Boys have not featured in the Champions League for nine years but such is their powerful legacy, on the continent, they are still ranked number 18 on the CAF All-Time Top 25 clubs.

Twenty five years after their Cinderella adventure, which culminated with them knocking on the gates of paradise, the standards they set are yet to be matched.

For a game staggering in the darkness of the wilderness of suspension from international football, one would have thought we would cherish, and celebrate, such iconic moments.

These fine memories which remind us of a place, and time, when our national game was in good health.

And, what could be better than the Silver Jubilee of an adventure, when a group of daredevils, representing a club without even a bicycle to boast of as an asset, captured the imagination of the continent?

Maybe, we deserve to be in the international football wilderness.

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