30 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Farai Jere Didn't Succeed in His Mission to Knock Dembare Off Their Perch and This Will Hurt Him More Than the Controversy Over the Shares

FARAI Jere was a mere five-year-old, certainly unaware of the monumental political changes that were happening in this country then, when CAPS United won their first league championship in 1979.

A few months later, Zimbabwe gained its Independence and the Green Machine were the team of choice, in terms of bragging rights, as Bob Marley and his Wailers helped the new nation toast its nationhood.

Back then Jere lived with his parents in Chitungwiza, a town he has always called home, which in due course would be converted into a productive hub, for one of the biggest and most successful football academies this country has ever seen, run by Wieslaw Grabowski.

Too young to be interested in issues, which had very little to do with mum and dad, sister and brother and food on the plate, Jere might have missed the fact that Shacky Tauro was also crowned Soccer Star of the Year in '79 to crown a red-letter season for the Green Machine. It would be another 17 years before CAPS United won the league championship again and, this time aged 22, Jere soaked in all the joy that came with being crowned league champions.

That a number of lads from his hometown of Chitungwiza, notably Stewart Murisa, Alois Bunjira and Lloyd Chitembwe, played a huge role in that championship-winning CAPS United team, created a personal touch to this triumph and brought this achievement home. By the time CAPS United won the championship again, in 2004, Jere would be stuck in the trenches of the club's leadership structures, first as team manager and later as a director who owned a considerable shareholding in the Green Machine.

Jere grew up in the '80s and '90s when Dynamos' dominance of the domestic football scene was so unrivalled it virtually bordered on ruthlessness. He had heard all the insults and taunts that kept coming from the Glamour Boys' camp and, by the time he moved into the corridors of club leadership, he was driven by that passion to knock DeMbare off their perch.

Alex Ferguson had started it all by saying he wanted to knock Liverpool off their perch and by 2004, the wily old Scot was making a pretty good job of his mission, which would eventually be fulfilled in 2011 when his Red Devils won their 19th league crown. The CAPS United foundation boosted optimism because when you get a team, which hasn't won the league title in eight years, suddenly losing only one game throughout the season and winning the league title by a record points margin, then you know this is something special.

That such a strong and competitive team would defend their crown, the following year, was largely expected and they could have done it easily, without subjecting their fans to all that last day drama, had they not lost six of their best players on that farcical tour of England.

The Green Machine haven't won the championship since the final Sunday of the 2005 season when Masvingo United blew their golden chance to be crowned champions, losing at home to Dynamos, when a victory would have taken Yuna Yuna to the Promised Land and given their sponsor, Tanda Tavaruva, a dividend for his investment.

In those seven years CAPS United have flirted between greatness, as was the case last season when they started the season with a bang with Simba Sithole running riot, and mediocrity, as was the case this year, when they swam closer to relegation waters. They haven't had a player crowned Soccer Star of the Year, within those seven years, and that is a bad return for a club that had three Soccer Stars of the Year in 2003 (Energy Murambadoro), 2004 (Cephas Chimedza) and 2005 (Joseph Kamwendo), the only foreigner to win this award of excellence in this country.

In seven seasons since being crowned champions, CAPS United have never finished as high as second place, only once, in 2009, did they finish third, while they have finished fourth, seventh, 12th, sixth (twice) and 10th for a combined total of 303 points out of a possible 630 points. That's a failure rate of 48.09 percent in those seven seasons.

Compare that to their biggest rivals, Dynamos, and you can see the difference.

DeMbare have finished sixth, which was their worst position in 2006, first, second, second, second, first and first for a combined total of 417 points out of a possible 630 points which gives them an impressive success rate of 66.19 percent during the last seven seasons.

The difference, in points accrued, is 114 points.

That CAPS United have been poor, in the past seven years, is something that is widely acknowledged across the entire football family and that has been very bad for a Premiership that needs the Green Machine to be strong so as to give a competitive edge to the championship race. That the Premiership needs a competitive Green Machine is not even debatable because, when they are doing well, they bring a buzz to the scene and the Harare Derby becomes a special contest not the one-sided events, disguised as the real showdown of the capital, which we saw this season.

When you have one team scoring seven goals, as was the case this season, and the other not scoring even one goal, then you can see that something has gone terribly wrong with the Harare Derby. When, even on neutral soil, CAPS United can surrender so meekly, as was the case during the Mbada Diamonds Cup semi-final and be blown out of the contest without even offering a fight, then you know that something has gone terribly wrong with this special contest.

When you have, at least, 30 outfield players of the Green Machine, failing to score even one goal in 270 minutes of League and Cup action against their biggest rivals, on home, away and neutral turf, then you know that something has gone horribly wrong with what is supposed to be a grand showdown.

It was after the last contest, which was itself a one-sided show at Barbourfields, that Jere decided to throw in the towel, stepping down from his role as club vice-president and waving goodbye to a project that has been very close to his heart.

After Jere, What's Next For CAPS United?

Farai Jere didn't succeed in his mission to knock DeMbare off their perch and, while there was reason for optimism in 2004 and 2005, at a time when the Glamour Boys were going through a period of turmoil torched by in-house battles, all that hope has now faded.

Jere leaves CAPS United at a time when the gulf between them and their biggest rivals, forever the team that the Green Machine fans will compare themselves with, has grown as big as the Sahara Desert. And that the Glamour Boys have completed back-to-back League and Cup doubles, in the past two seasons, at a time when the Green Machine have won nothing, puts the difference into perspective.

The difference, in points harvested in the league championship race this year alone, was 30 points, the biggest blowout between the two teams, in the era of the modern Premiership, in the season where DeMbare were the ones who were champions. While Dynamos were winning the league title this year, CAPS United were finishing a distant 10th place.

Last year, the points difference between the two teams was 15 and where Dynamos were champions, CAPS United could only finish seventh, which means that this season the Green Machine ended three places worse off than in their previous campaign.

For CAPS United fans looking for some comfort, they will look back to 2004, when they were champions, when they finished 36 points better off than the Glamour Boys. But all that now looks like something plucked from a distant past, something that is beginning to fade from the memory, not because it wasn't special, but because it's being pushed into the shade by the shadow of failure that has followed this team in the past seven years.

And, to make it worse, Dynamos have been doing well, not only in the last two seasons, but since finding their way back into the light, after a prolonged period of decay in which their in-house fights nearly brought their house down, by winning the championship in 2007.

Since that breakthrough triumph, their first in the new millennium, DeMbare have finished either FIRST or SECOND in the championship. That Jere was passionate about turning CAPS United into the best team in the country is not even questionable and that is why he invested huge sums of money into his project and brought in players, just about every year, hoping to find that championship winning spark.

It's not easy, in these tough economic times, for someone to invest more than US$1 million into a football club, especially one that doesn't provide you with the dividends you are looking for when your main rivals, who appear considerably poorer, somehow keep finding the magic to succeed.

Jere is unhappy right now because he feels betrayed by a system he trusted, especially in the way documents related to his 25 percent shareholding disappeared in their offices, and how the promised 40 percent offer kept on being delayed. You feel for him because he acted in good faith and, even after realising that the documents were missing as early as May, kept funding the club, running bills of around US$30 00 a month that financed the salary bill, bonuses and transport costs.

You could see Jere dreaming of shaping his club, around his beloved Arsenal and while he knew that it would take some time to get closer to such professionalism, you could never fault him for trying and he looks like a guy who was prepared for the long haul. That is why he invested in that house in Eastlea, which he turned into a club house for the Green Machine, so as to give his team a professional outlook consistent with other football clubs of the new millennium.

That is why he spent so much, in return for so little, for his club.

But everything has to come to an end one day and while Jere never imagined that it could end in such controversy, it's clear that this is the closing chapter.

The bond, which kept Jere and his partner Twine Phiri for the past seven-or-so years, has now been shattered and, as much as we can try to heal the wounds, something has changed and things will never be the same again.

Jere's critics will say that, for all the investment that he did at CAPS United, there wasn't anything in return in terms of silverware, especially in the past seven years. But, for a club that has won four league titles in the past 33 years, at an average of one championship every eight years, this can't be viewed as a disaster by statisticians and the challenge is for CAPS United to begin to live life after Jere.

How will that will shape out, especially given that the club had revolved around him for the past eight years, will be interesting. What can't be disputed is that CAPS United have to do, on the field, better than what they have been doing in the past seven years -- for the sake of their fans who look at this team as more than just a football club, the sake of the Premiership that needs a competitive Green Machine and the sake of the capital that needs a lively Harare Derby.

It won't be easy, and the road ahead could be tougher than where they are coming from, but this is an institution that should have by now learnt how to survive.

Denver Wins Player Of The Year

While it's very unlikely that CAPS United will be holding an end-of-year party to honour their best performing players this season, if there were any, their bitter rivals Dynamos held a function in the capital last night where they toasted their League and Cup double and saluted the men who made it possible.

Dazzling Denver Mukamba, the 20-year-old midfield magician who took his game to another level this season and provided the inspiration for the Glamour Boys to complete their League and Cup double, was predictably honoured with the Player of the Year award.

It was so obvious, wasn't it, that Denver would win the big award that all the mainstream newspapers said it long before the function was held and, true to the predictions, he came out tops. There comes a time when it becomes impossible not to see the obvious, even if you have your bias, and this was one of those seasons when it was clear, to all and sundry, that the boy Denver was the outstanding player in the DeMbare line-up.

I have been trying to figure out the last player, who made such a huge impact at Dynamos at 20, carrying the full weight of the club and delivering week in and week out, the way Denver did, and I had to go back some 26 years ago when Moses Chunga was crowned Soccer Star of the Year.

You know you are walking in great company when, as a football player, your name begins to be mentioned alongside legends like Chunga.

I'm not trying to flatter Denver that he is anywhere near Bambo and those who saw Chunga play will tell you that, at 20, he was miles ahead of Mukamba.

There is no guarantee, too, that Denver will scale half the heights that Bambo touched on the field because the Razorman, just like Peter Ndlovu, was from another planet.

But Denver has a right to dream and, crucially, he has a talent that makes him such a unique prospect in this game and who are we, mere mortals, to suggest that he won't do this and that and he won't scale these and those heights. He is not the finished product yet and you see it, week in and week out, that his performance levels are not maintained over 90 minutes -- there is usually that explosion when he gets into his groove, a slump somewhere down the middle and then the battle to try and sparkle again.

But that is expected from a 20-year-old, especially one who has to do it week-in-and-week-out for such a huge constituency, carrying them on his shoulders, knowing that he is the one who needs to provide the difference and that they don't expect him to fail.

That Denver has delivered for Dynamos isn't something that can be debated and while the Glamour Boys' defence was outstanding all season, it's magicians in the forwardline who make the difference between champions and pretenders. We have seen it even in world football that the team with the best forward, Barcelona, and not the team with the best defender, whichever it is, is the one likely to be champions of Europe.

Some will say Chelsea proved that wrong last season, building their Champions League success story on the back of a punishing defence, but that was a one-off which might never happen again. After all, Chelsea also depended on their big forward, Didier Drogba, making a big difference as and when they needed him, as was the case that day in Munich.

Denver was a class act this season and the main player at Dynamos and he knows that he needs to do more for him to break into the foreign leagues because, at first sight, he doesn't inspire confidence as a football magician.

When he arrives at foreign clubs, he has this disadvantage of starting at a minus because the coaches, at first glance, won't believe that he could be the magician who could be their difference in attack. He has the height but he is rather skinny and, in a game that is getting more and more physical, that is a disadvantage, which means he has to do more to impress them.

It's something that he has to work on because there is no doubting that he is a good player and, after winning the Player of the Year at his club, he must be the favourite to win the Player of the Year, for the domestic Premiership, when the awards are handed out next weekend.

Dynamos players, in the post-Independence era, have won the Soccer Star of the Year only in the season when their club has been crowned champions and we haven't had a DeMbare player, winning the big award after '80, when the Glamour Boys lost the championship. We have had seasons where DeMbare have been champions but a player from another club won the Soccer Star of the Year.

In the last two seasons that DeMbare have been champions, they have also produced the Soccer Star of the Year -- Murape in 2007 and Arubi last year and it's very likely that Denver could continue that trend this year.

He could fail to win it, which is possible in our football today, but you can feel for whoever who will get it, in the event that he is denied the crown that, like borrowed robe, it will not look very nice on him.

Welcome To Our World Pagels

So, life has come full circle for us and we have switched back to a German coach, Klaus Pagels, to take charge of the Warriors and that usually takes fans down a nostalgic journey to a time when a certain Reinhard Fabisch came here and changed our world.

I can't judge Pagels because I don't know his track record in Africa while I could write acres about Fabisch, when he was appointed, because he had done well in Kenya.

It's not an easy job to be Warriors' coach, with all the distractions that come along, but after we conspired to hand Angola the ticket to be in South Africa next year, thanks to a football leadership that didn't listen when we said Rahman wasn't good enough, you feel we couldn't get any worse.

So, good luck to Mr Pagels, who knows the politics in our football, having been here for the last two years and being a regular visitor to Rufaro, and he will get a lot of insight from Nelson Matongorere, as they have been working closely. We are back to square one, and that is sad, because there was a day, when we beat Mali at Rufaro not so long ago, when one could feel we were about to fly.

Of course, as so often happens in our national game, we didn't.

Maybe, the best way is to leave it to Pastor Kevin Kaindu who said:

"A righteous man will fall but will rise. My Father, My Father, the more the enemies, the bigger the table, it shall be well."

Yes, it shall be well!

To God Be The Glory!

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


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