The Herald (Harare)

23 November 2012

Zimbabwe: So It Came to Pass, in the Year of the Final Season Before Their Golden Jubilee Celebrations, That the Special One Appeared On the Scene.

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SO it came to pass, in the year that a religious man from across the Zambezi came back to preach his gospel to the oldest football club in the country, that an epic marathon to decide the league champions unfolded.

It was the year that God finally healed the emotional wounds of this coach's people, just across the banks of the Zambezi, by giving their footballers the strength of David to slay the Goliaths in Gabon.

That the healing process happened in the very city where the Zambians had suffered their greatest sporting tragedy, on that black day on April 27, 1993, when a chartered military plane carrying their footballers crashed shortly after take-off in Libreville, made it a true miracle.

For 19 years, they had battled the demons, asking questions that would never bring answers, wondering why this tragedy could happen to them, too many whys along the way and nothing coming in the form of a "because" to provide the basis of a response.

They had suffered quietly, as a nation, cursing fate that struck such a cruel blow and robbed them of Derby Mankinka and David Mutale, who had scored a hattrick in his last match for Chipolopolo in Mauritius, and 16 other football stars who were as good as they will ever come.

They had grieved quietly, as a nation in tears that would never go away no matter how much they tried to comfort themselves, crying for Godfrey "Ucar" Chitalu and Alex Chola, two of their greatest ever footballers, who perished in that crash wearing the hats of coaching staff on national duty.

On the eve of the Nations Cup final against favourites Cote d'Ivoire, the Zambian players had remembered those who perished in the crash of '93 by visiting the site where the plane went down into the Atlantic.

They all laid flowers on the Libreville beach, approximately 500m from where the ill-fated plane crashed into the ocean, and where, 19 years ago, divers had brought to shore the remains of the victims of the crash, the 2012 generation decorated that part with flowers.

Kalusha Bwalya would have been one of the victims but, playing his football in Holland then, he could connect directly to Senegal, without coming home first, and in that arrangement, his life was spared.

Now, 19 years later, as leader of his country's football community, not its national football team as was the case back then, he led the Generation of 2012 on this double mission to remember their fallen heroes and also win the Nations Cup for their country.

"I am convinced that our dearly departed brothers who lost their lives here 19 years ago have lent us a helping hand," said Kalusha.

"In 1993, the Copper Bullets came here to fulfil a promise, they did not succeed, but instead gave up their lives for a gallant cause.

"Their dream to bring glory to our country, mother Zambia, is the same cause that brings us here today, the only difference is that we are alive and our former teammates are no longer here. On behalf of all of us involved in Zambian football, I say here that their dreams are our dreams, they are smiling down on heaven as we take part in this tournament in Gabon.

"I pray that their souls may forever rest in peace and that God will give us the strength and the courage to fulfil our dreams and theirs.

"I'm sure the boys up there will be watching on Sunday." The fallen boys, it appears, were watching as the Zambians defied the odds to beat Cote d'Ivoire, who even missed a penalty in regulation time to win the contest, in a marathon penalty shootout lottery.

Coach, Harve Renard said it was something that was meant to happen. "We know what we wanted to honour this evening. It was a sign of destiny, written in the stars. There was a force with us. I think

God has helped us and given us strength," said the Frenchman.

So it came to pass, in the year that the Zambians finally came of age and had their emotional wounds healed by the Almighty, in the most incredible way possible, that one of their footballers, a deeply religious man, crossed the Zambezi, and came here to preach his football gospel. His initials KK were a throwback to the years when we knew the Zambian national team as the KK XI, the years before Chipolopolo came along, the years before the Gabon plane crash turned them into the football team the globe sympathised with.

Brother Kevin had been here before, as a player for the big team from the City of Kings, and had distinguished himself on the field but here he was now, on his second coming, wearing the same coaching robes that Webster Chikabala had worn before. The same coaching robes that Keegan Mumba had worn before, during his time in the capital where he made a huge impact, trying to pull Dynamos from the quagmire of mediocrity, brought about by years of terminal decline, itself inflicted by in-house fights and a wicked Zifa that tried to take control of the people's team.

The same coaching robes that had been worn by Fordson Kabole, who was so old when he arrived at CAPS United he looked like a black clone of Rudi Gutendorf, a German coach who was parachuted from retirement for a dance with the Warriors in the '90s, in a deal which never worked.

The main difference was that Brother Kevin was young, and very religious, and he used the Bible to drive home his teachings, to try and perfect his football project and to try and turn this sleeping giant of Zimbabwe football into a powerful force once again. He found inspiration in one of the most comforting verses in the Bible, Romans 8 verse 28, one of the pillars of the true believers in God and, as he told us, "if all things work together for good, then it follows that God must control all things."

Now and again, at his post-match media conferences, in good and bad times, he put the Bible in front of everything else and, repeatedly assured us, with a quote that became iconic, that "it shall be well." Recently, he wrote on his Facebook page: "A righteous man will fall but will rise. My Father, My Father, the more the enemies, the bigger the table, it shall be well."

Brother Kevin And His Midas Touch

So it came to pass that Brother Kevin's gospel was well received in the City of Kings and a football franchise, which had won just 43 out of 90 points last season, suddenly exploded into life and added 26 points more, a minimum of eight more victories, to complete their marathon on 69 points.

Where Bosso had finished the season in the failure zone, with less than half the 90 points last season, now they were not only in the green zone for those who had passed but had done so well that, given the tough nature of the examination, they deserved a distinction. Under Brother Kevin, Bosso had converted what was a 47,77 percent failure rate in 2011 into a 76,66 percent success rate this season, an impressive 28 percent swing for the better in their fortunes, and, in the language used by the stockbrokers, their share price had sky-rocketed.

Brother Kevin didn't bring in any of his disciples from his old church in Zambia but he just helped Bosso to believe in themselves, to believe that it was their destiny as a massive football franchise to always do well, that it was engrained in their DNA to always challenge for honours. He knew from the Zambian experience, especially their triumph in Gabon, that football didn't exclusively honour only those who were the most gifted because, if that was the case, then the Yaya Toures and Didier Drogbas of our world, collectively battling under the national flag of Cote d'Ivoire, would have been crowned champions.

Brother Kevin knew the power of faith and he ordered his team to pray together, every time just before they plunged into battle, and for 29 games in the league, they did not lose.

In the end it wasn't enough to win Bosso their first league championship in six years, the pain of failure even worsened by the fact that they lost the marathon on goal difference, after having finished with the same number of points as Dynamos in a photo-finish.

But, sometimes, it's not only in victory that sporting teams and individuals can show their true quality. The Zambian team which lost in the final of the '94 Nations Cup final to Nigeria, just a few months after the majority of their first team players had perished in the Atlantic, was hailed around the globe as a group of outstanding footballers. It didn't matter, did it, that they had come second and the Super Eagles were the champions.

What mattered was how they had crafted their incredible journey, rising from the ashes of a national disaster that drew the sympathy of a grieving globe, to assemble a competitive team that would, in a few months' time, challenge for the Nations Cup in the final.

Winning the Nations Cup final that year would have been a bonus, in all fairness, but that they failed, given their shattered background, didn't make them less heroes to the world that fell in love with their fairy-tale adventure. Brother Kevin inherited a Bosso team that had finished seventh last year, lost 11 of their 30 games, which means a third of the matches they played, and were 15 points adrift of the winners, Dynamos.

The previous year they had lost seven league games and ended nine points shy of the winners, in 2009 they had lost nine games and finished 18 points adrift of the champions, in 2008 they had lost seven games and finished 21 points of the champions.

From finishing second in 2007, the year that followed their championship success story under Methembe Ndlovu, Bosso had gradually drifted further and further away from the circle of greatness and had turned into an ordinary team, with very few people caring to come and watch them, last year. Incredibly, Brother Kevin changed all that and a team that had lost an average of seven games every season, this season lost only one league match, and although the draws finally destroyed their mission to be champions, that they made a huge leap forward was there for everyone to see.

No wonder, Brother Kevin was being tossed into the air by his followers, at Gwanzura on Sunday, after it dawned on them that their brave fight had not produced the ultimate prize that they wanted but, all the same, it had restored pride in their institution. Yes, Brother Kevin, everything stays the same because Dynamos are still the champions and the dominant bull in the kraal, but everything changes because there is fire in the belly of the beast called Bosso and, in this championship battle, they took it to the final kick of the season.

The Priest Who Could Be Sunday's Heir-Apparent

It was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who told us that a prophet has no honour in his own country. We read it in Mark 6 verse 4: "Only in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own house, is a prophet without honour."

So it came to pass that earlier this year, in the Church of the Glamour Boys, some powerful elders sat down and decided, after a humiliation in the Land of the Arabs in Tunisia, not very far from the River Nile where Pharaoh's daughter plucked Moses from his floating basket, that it was time to change the priest.

For the first time in the history of this proud institution, spanning over 49 years, or two-score-and-nine as they used to say back then, they had leaked six goals in one match, as embarrassing a defeat as will ever come to this establishment and its followers.

Even Brother Elvis, also known as Chuchu, who became a born-again Christian in 1998, in the year that the Church of the Glamour Boys came close to spreading its influence across the entire continent, was riled by what happened in Tunisia and went into a trance.

Brother Elvis questioned if the priest in charge of the church was the right one and, with pressure rising from all angles, the elders sharpened their swords and it was now a matter of time before he was gone. "I am a Christian, a born-again man since 1998, and I read the bible from morning to sunset, from Genesis to Revelations," Chuchu told us.

"I feel they should bring in Mandigora or Bambo to help Pasuwa, you can tell that Dynamos need an experienced hand right now."

But, somehow, they didn't bring Mandigora or Bambo.

And, somehow, Pasuwa survived, and a man who was humiliated by being asked to apply for a job he held, even after he had won the championship the previous year to end four years of waiting, gradually turned it around, and on Sunday guided the institution to another championship.

For the record, it's the first time, in 17 years, that Dynamos have defended their league title and you have to go back to the '94/'95 group of Memory Mucherahowa, Vitalis Takawira and Tauya Murewa, to find a group that was good enough to retain their crown.

You have to go back to Sunday Chidzambwa to find a coach who was good enough to retain the league crown at the Glamour Boys.

He needed to avoid defeat, in his team's final match against Hardbody at Ascot on Sunday, and did just that.

The Hardbody Football Club logo features a raging lion, which is about to attack, and that's what Pasuwa and his men needed to survive, in their last match, to be crowned champions.

Maybe that explains the biblical song posted by one delirious DeMbare fan on his Facebook, soon after Pasuwa and his troops had come out of the lion's den unscathed.

"Sa Daniere mugomba reshumba

"Hallelujah!

"Vakatanga kunamata

"Ngirozi dzichobva Kudenga

"Tichanofarawo kumusha."

Today, that media-shy priest, who never quotes controversy, is very religious but keeps his beliefs a secret rather than something to flaunt in public, is never seen in a bar or at a musical show and is either at the training ground, at home or praying with his pastors, is on the verge of something great.

When Dynamos run onto the field at Rufaro today, for their Mbada Diamonds Cup final showdown against Monomotapa, 90 minutes, or 120 minutes in the event it goes into extra-time or the penalty shootout lottery, will be standing between them and something special.

When Pasuwa, the priest whose credentials were questioned by his own constituency not so long ago, takes his place on the technical bench, he will be on the threshold of achieving something very, very special.

He could become the first DeMbare coach, in 26 years, to win back-to-back League and Cup honours, and that you have to go back to 1986, to find the last time it happened, puts into context the significance of such an achievement if he can pull it through.

It's a long time back if you consider that back in '86, Vincent Kompany, now the Manchester City captain, Sergio Ramos, Edin Dzeko and David Silva were all not yet one-year-old and, for the first time, we heard the hit song, "Sing Our Own Song", by UB40.

For the first time, too, we heard Whitney Houston sing "The Greatest Love Of All", Dionne Warwick sing "That's What Friends Are For", and Mike and the Mechanics blast their hit song "All I Need Is A Miracle".

Maybe Pasuwa, just like Zambia earlier this year, has needed a miracle to get to where he is today, leading such a turbulent boat, but you have to give him his credit because, with every challenge that he faces and conquers, he is showing quality that many of his critics didn't give him credit for.

Like Sunday, he has perfected the art of building his team from the back using the old philosophy, so successful at DeMbare, of defend, defend, defend and defend.

Try and remember a day when Dynamos conceded two goals this season and you are certain to scratch your head and, after quite some time, you will realise it happened against Hwange at Rufaro in that ill-fated game.

Think of another game it happened, and you will draw blanks.

That's the mark of a good coach, who knows where his strength is, and any average coach --after the banishment of Guthrie Zhokinyi -- would have struggled to keep that central defence in shape but not Pasuwa. How he solved that problem, trusting Gift Bello to play that role, and now investing the leadership role, which was with Guthrie back then, with young Partson Jaure, is the mark of a good coach.

After a number of pretenders came onto the scene, when the old priest Sunday decided to walk away and even crossed the Limpopo to work in the Rainbow Nation, where religious beliefs run deep among sportspeople that cricketer Hashim Amla never wears the Castle logo on his Proteas' kit, one gets a feeling the Glamour Boys have found the successor.

So it came to pass, in the year of the final season before their Golden Jubilee Celebrations, that the Special One appeared on the scene and changed their world for good.

The guys in the City of Kings, who believe in Bosso, feel their world has been changed for the good, thanks to the Midas Touch of a preacher coach from Zambia who made a big difference.

What this can only guarantee us is a very competitive 2013 domestic football season and, given all the fireworks we are seeing on the local front, a game that is in very good shape, you wonder where we are losing it at national level.

Maybe, Brother Kevin, has the final say: "A righteous man will fall but will rise. My Father, My Father, the more the enemies, the bigger the table, it shall be well."

Maybe, just maybe, it shall be well!

Lighter Stuff Of The Week -- Tsumo Dzebhora

By Muku C Hlomayi

DeMbare/CAPS United

Kuzora kunoda kwe DeMbare kwe CAPS United kunonyungudutsa butter.

Highlanders' Fans

Kuvaraidza nguva kutarisirira trophy ye league championship kana Mbada kuti ichauya ku Barbourfields.

Chelsea/Man United

Chawana Chelsea pa West Brom hachisekanwe, especially kana yakundwa ne team inezita rinopera na "which", Man U yakazochiona pa Norwich.

Liverpool

Aive madziva eLiverpool ave majacuzzi okuvaraidza nguva unchinwa zvako whisky uchirohwa nemvura.

Man City/Arsenal

Chinoziva iMan City kuti kuArsenal kwakutengeswa maplayers, angave Nasri, Clichy, nevachatevera.

To God Be The Glory!

Come on United!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chicaritoooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

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