30 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Giants' Battle Rages

HIGHLANDERS entered the lion's den on Sunday and, after a tough battle that wasn't spectacular, escaped with their life to battle another day in an epic Premiership duel that is turning into a classic. Favourites Dynamos had a golden chance to put day light between them and the Bulawayo giants but blew away good chances and were punished for a goalkeeping howler in a 1-1 draw that didn't change anything.

After 180 minutes of two epic battles fought in Bulawayo and Harare, there was nothing to separate the two giants who drew both matches with identical scores of 1-1. Last year, when DeMbare won the league title on goal difference, they took six points from FC Platinum and the Zvishavane side's president, Nathan Shoko, always points to that as the hurdle that stood between his team and success.

Bosso coach, Kevin Kaindu, pushed into a swim-or-sink challenge, said the biggest match in the 2012 Castle Lager Premiership campaign did not live up to expectations.

Given what was at stake, and the tension created by the biggest crowd to watch a league match this season, it was probably expected that quality would be sacrificed for results.

But, as the dust begins to settle, questions emerge. Is it fair for those who manned the gates to report that 28 868 fans paid to watch the big match on a day when Rufaro was brimming with life and packed to the rafters?

Surely, does it need an expert to see that we had, at conservative estimates, between 35 to 40 000 fans inside the stadium on Sunday?

Isn't it fair to suggest that there were a lot of leakages at the gates and Dynamos, as usually is the case at such big games, might have lost a huge chunk of their earnings with a lot of potential revenue from gate receipts disappearing? It's an insult to the fans, who pay their hard-earned cash to try and help boost their coffers, and that supporters paid US$5 for the cheapest ticket on Sunday, put into context the levels they were ready to sacrifice to see their teams in action.

On face value, the sights and sounds of what we were seeing at Rufaro represented our Premiership at its best.

But hidden behind all this beauty are serious questions of exactly what is happening in terms of accounting for every individual who pays to enter the stadium? It's a cancer that has been there, in our game, for some time now but, after the reconciliation of gate receipts for this big match, Dynamos will need to have another look at how they are running their gates.

There were clashes among the rival fans on the northern and southern terraces, which turned the area into a mini war zone, and PSL chief executive, Kenny Ndebele, said they will wait for a report from the police.

A win for Dynamos could have pushed them closer to a record 19th Premiership title while a victory for Bosso would have seen them reclaiming the top spot on the log.

A fine early goal from Dynamos striker Simba Sithole, who turned to fire past Ariel Sibanda in 11th minute, gave the hosts the lead. Dynamos have not lost a league match to Highlanders since 2006.

Highlanders were on the back-foot for much of the first half but they re-organised themselves after the break and created chances until their resilience was rewarded, albeit through a fluke goal, in the 83rd minute.

Bruce Kangwa intended to cross into the box but somehow Dynamos goalkeeper George Chigova, for all his height, failed to retrieve the high ball that hit the back of the nets for Bosso to snatch a point from the jaws of a defeat. Kaindu said while the game had been a good advertisement for the Castle Lager Premiership, he believed the players failed to rise to the occasion.

"It's was a big game a good for the Premiership. The crowd was good and even the atmosphere was good," said Kaindu. "But, I believe we did not give the fans what they wanted to see. Maybe, it was because of the tension of the game. I believe we could have offered much better than what we did today," said Kaindu.

The match failed to flow as players failed to rise to the occasion although DeMbare players like Denver Mukamba, Cliff Sekete, Devon Chafa, Ocean Mushure, Patson Jaure and Gift Bello tried but lacked consistency.

Bosso had Bekhi Ncube, Mthulisi Maphosa and Innocent Mapuranga looking good.

However, Kaindu is content with the one point gained. "There are still 12 points to play for and the one that we got today is very vital," said Kaindu.

Dynamos assistant coach, Tonderayi Ndiraya, said the reverse fixture in Bulawayo gave the fans a better value for their money.

"I thought the game in Bulawayo was tough and more exciting," said Ndiraya.

"There was some tension in the game but I think our guys handled the pressure very well.

"We are on top with two points and we are happy with that."

Dynamos will play Black Mambas at Morris Depot tomorrow and Ndiraya is hopeful that they will get a positive result while Highlanders play Buffaloes at home.

"We will keep on pushing hard. Our aim to maintain the two-point cushion until the end.

"We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel," said Ndiraya. The high-profile match was a victim of a fallout between the league sponsors Delta and the clubs' sponsors BancABC in the build-up to the encounter. Castle Lager and the PSL had lined up a number of activities including their Super Fan promotion while BancABC on the other hand, organised a musical show and a match featuring retired players.

At the end of the day, the sponsors reached a compromise and there was a challenge match between the two clubs' former players.

Laban Kandi, Stanley Chirambadare, Angirayi Chapo, Nkululeko Dhlamini, Eric Aisam, Masimba Dinyero, Pio Mhizha, Henry Chari, David Mandigora and Misheck Marimo were some of the players who featured for Dynamos. David George acted as coach.

Cosmos Zulu and Peter Ndlovu were the coaches for the Bosso legends' team that included Adam Ndlovu, Douglas Mloyi, Tito Paketh, Tabani Masawi, Zenzo Moyo, Melusi Sibanda and Alex Phiri.

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