5 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Tragedy and Triumph


THE Warriors somehow failed to clear the final hurdle, when everything appeared set for them to return to the Nations Cup finals, and that loss in Luanda, Angola, was the defining moment of a year that promised so much, but delivered very little for Zimbabwe football.

By the end of the year, we had a new Warriors' coach after Rahman Gumbo became the latest to vacate the post, but the Mission To Brazil, whose journey resumes in March, looks virtually impossible.

Dynamos came short again, in the Champions League, and the quest for a place in the group stages of the tournament, something which the Glamour Boys used to take for granted in the first three seasons of their participation in this tournament, became Mission Impossible the day they were massacred 0-6 in Tunisia by Esperance.

There was the shadow of Asiagate and tragedy, right towards the end of the year, with Adam Ndlovu being killed in a car crash while his brother Peter miraculously escaped with his life.

So how did the 2012 Zimbabwe football scene play out in alphabetical order?

A is for Adam Ndlovu, the predatory goalscorer who perished in a car accident on 16 December, near Victoria Falls. The world came to a standstill as news of his death sent a chilling wave in every Zimbabwean household.

Taken away at the young age of 42, the nation will, however, remain tattooed with the memories of "Adamski's" swashbuckling and pin-point instincts on the pitch and his infectious smile off it. Rest in peace, my good, ol' pal . . .

B is for the "Beautiful Game". Aptly branded so by the legendary Pele, football continued to dominate around the country to cement its position as the "Nation's No.1 sport".

C is for Callisto "Manabhun" Pasuwa, the Dynamos coach who confounded his critics with a sweltering leadership style that motivated "The Glamour Boys" to a successive League and Cup double. With this feat, the soft-spoken gaffer also joined his mentor, Sunday "Mhofu" Chidzambwa, as the only coaches to win back-to-back titles in "De Mbare's" 49-year history. Pasuwa also won the 2012 Castle Coach of the Year award.

D is for Denver Mukamba and his side Dynamos. The lanky midfielder's imperious vision and tenacious finishes led the DeMbare juggernaut to the Castle Lager league championship and the lucrative Mbada Diamonds Cup.

Mundikumbuke might be headed for Bidvest Wits' fans in Super Diski, with his amazing pace and hypnotic change of direction . . . oh, how the DeMbare fans will miss this young genius if he treks Down South!

E is for Excitement. The 2012 season had lots of it as fans thronged stadiums to be enthralled by some spectacular shows, e.g. Dynamos' 1-1 draw against Highlanders at Rufaro in a Castle Lager league match; Monomotapa's 3-2 victory over Hardbody at Dulibadzimu in the Mbada Diamonds Cup first round clash and FC Platinum's 2-2 draw with Sudanese giants El Merrikh in a African Champions League first round, first leg showdown at Rufaro.

F is for Fans, the "real owners of the game" who dug deeper once more, all year round, into their pockets, week in, week out to support their teams and immortalise their icons. Without them, the football world would certainly be deflated.

G is for Goals. There were certainly plenty of them on the local scene - a whopping total of 555 Castle Lager league goals for the whole season - and an equally flattering 40 goals in the Mbada Diamonds Cup. Way to go, our football heroes!

H is for Highlanders. Oh, how painful it was for Bosso in the end as they were pipped by their arch-rivals, DeMbare, in a photo finish for the Castle Lager league title!

But the way the Tshilamoya juggernaut roller-coasted to a 23-match unbeaten run and really illuminated all local roads in its lustrous ascendancy.

I is for Idols. And the nation's idols this year were the Castle Soccer Stars of the Year -- Denver Mukamba, Masimba Mambare, Ronald Chitiyo, Felix Chindungwe, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Ariel Sibanda, Mthulisi Maphosa, Innocent Mapuranga, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Partson Jaure and Nelson Maziwisa.

J is for Junior development. For how long will our football leaders continue to ignore the importance of getting them young?

The abundance of talent at grassroots level, as exhibited at National Association of Primary School Heads (Naph) and National Association of Secondary School Heads (Nash) tournaments, is stark testimony that Zimbabwe has arguably the finest potential in Africa!

K is for Kevin Kaindu, the Highlanders mentor who moulded a formidable side from an apparent raw squad that sent a torrent of tidal waves across the nation with their never-say-die attitude. "KK" will definitely want to continue from where he left in the new season.

L is for Laughs. Oh, we were treated to plenty of them during the year by some of the quotes from our football personalities e.g. Shabanie Mine's head coach, Luke "Vahombe" Masomere: "Where does it say in the Zimbabwean football regulations that I must lose to Highlanders and win against Dynamos?"

This was after Masomere had been criticised by some Bosso fans for allegedly "throwing away" his team's clash after they were clobbered 4-1 by Dynamos in a league match at Rufaro as the title race became a two-horse affair between DeMbare and Bosso.

Premiership newcomers

Triangle FC's head coach, Gishon "Gizha" Ntini: "It's now time to sort out the men from the boys!" This was before the derby clash against his Eastern Region long-standing rivals, Hippo Valley at Gibo.

M is for Monomotapa, the smooth-flowing and crisp passing exponents of the local game, who had a delightful season as they steamrolled into the Mbada Diamonds Cup final (and unfortunately lost 2-0 to Dynamos) and finished fourth on the Castle Lager League standings. We all can't wait to see this youthful outfit once again mesmerise us with their collective magic on the pitch!

N is for Nelson "Nedza" Maziwisa, the Chinda Boys trigger-happy gunslinger who was the Golden Boot as he tormented opposition defenders. With a couple of foreign clubs after his signature, our loss will surely be their gain.

O is for Organisation ... or lack of it? All football fans were deeply hurt after the national association failed to send the Under-20 and Under-17 squads to their away assignments in Angola and Congo, respectively. Let's all pray that this debacle does not occur again!

P is for Peter Ndlovu. The mercurial, former Warriors' skipper, who was injured following the horrific car accident that took the life of his elder brother, Adamski. May the Almighty shine his powers of full recovery upon this wonderful ambassador of our game so that he can rejoin all of us in perpetuating the bliss of our football fraternity.

Q is for Questions that are still lingering from 2012, eg, When will the Asiagate saga be finalised? When will the other corporate world business people come to realise that football is undoubtedly the world's most efficient form of direct marketing for their products by joining Mbada Diamonds, Delta Beverages and BancABC in supporting the "Nation's No.1 sport"? ...

R is for Ruzive Ruzive, the Castle 2012 Referee of the Year, who was just splendid as the man-in-the middle. A depot manager by profession, Ruzive's astute performances wheeled us back to the great shows by Paul Pretorious (late), Frank Valdemarca, Anthony Mandiwanza, Wilfred Mukuna, Felix Tangawarima, Brighton Mudzamiri and Tendai Bwanya.

S is for Sponsorship. Hats off to the Big Three sponsors of 2012 - Mbada Diamonds, Delta Beverages and BancABC! May they continue with their love and support for the local game till eternity. As mentioned earlier, our sincere hope is that more corporate world partners join them to further sweeten this chocolate cake.

T is for Talent, which was arguably second to none on the continent this year. For, how else can one describe this season's inimitable finesse and flair on the pitch that was displayed by the likes of Denver Mukamba, Masimba Mambare, Ronald Chitiyo, Ali Sadiki, Prosper Matizanadzo, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Ariel Sibanda, Rodwell Chinyengetere ... just to mention a few?

U is for Unity. It was absolutely fantastic to see the whole nation coming together in times of need, e.g., during the men's junior and senior national teams and the women's junior and senior national teams matches. The whole nation also rallied together in support and sympathy following the Ndlovu family's darkest hour in the aftermath of the 16 December event.

V is for Violence. This ugly monster breathed fire and brimstone at some of our stadiums, as witnessed at some matches in 2012. We will keep reminding some unruly elements within our midst to celebrate with caution after their team's win and also learn to accept defeat with grace.

W is for World Cup 2018. Now is the time for all stakeholders to start preparing for the world jamboree in Asia. Remember, that we had a dismal start to the 2014 World Cup campaign and the road to qualification for Brazil looks very bumpy indeed.

X is for 'Mr X', the Warriors head coach. Is German national Klaus-Dieter Pagels there in a permanent set-up or a temporary one? Whatever the case, he and his two assistants, Lloyd "Samaita" Mutasa and Nkululeko "Banks" Dhlamini, need all our support to resurrect the Warriors fledgling fortunes.

Y is for Yesteryear heroes. We must be the only nation that treats yesteryear heroes like outcasts! I felt really sad as I witnessed some over-zealous gate marshals treat our yeasteryear heroes with contempt and disgust at stadium entrances. It's now the time we started including these guys in the game's running and seek their technical guidance and tips.

Anybody remember George Shaya, Chita Antonio, Max Tshuma, Ernest Kamba, Josiah Nxumalo, Tymon Mabaleka, Stix M'tizwa, Peter Manyara, Andrew Kadengu, Laban Kandi, Thomas Muchanyarei, Stewart Murisa, Ephert Lungu, Tendai and George Chieza? Just to show how bad we are, E Aalst gave Bambo a hero's homecoming, when he returned to Belgium, 20 years after he left the club.

Z is for Zimbabwe Warriors. Hey, guys, where was the fighting spirit that we'd all become accustomed to? Our No. 1 team floundered an opportunity to grace this month's African Cup of Nations showpiece in South Africa after they squandered a 2-goal lead (following a 3-1 first leg lead) against Angola when they lost 2-0 in the return leg in Luanda. It still hurts, really does.

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