In a golden period stretching from August 16, '92, the day they destroyed Bafana Bafana 4-1 at the National Sports Stadium with Peter Ndlovu touching the heavens with a vintage individual show as good as it can ever get, to April 24, '93, when they drew 1-1 with South Africa in Johannesburg, the Dream Team were unbeaten in 10 World Cup/Nations Cup games
SOME things, as they say, never change and as the Warriors prepare to plunge into their World Cup qualifying campaign this month, it all feels like we have taken a trip down memory lane to '93.
Then, just like now, we have a German coach and where we had the fiery and passionate Reinhard Fabisch in '93, we now have the calm and composed Klaus-Dieter Pagels.
Then, just like now, it's the Pharaohs of Egypt who lie in ambush for a showdown in their backyard and, as was exactly the case 20 years ago, when Fabisch and his immortal Dream Team were chasing a priceless ticket to the '94 World Cup finals.
Then, just like now, we will play two World Cup assignments against the Pharaohs this year and where crowd trouble in Cairo forced the nullification of the result of the showdown, on February 25 '93, it has this time forced the switching of the match to Alexandria.
We will play Guinea in Conakry, in June this year, just as was the case in '93, and hopefully the youthful Warriors that Klaus-Dieter Pagels is trying to build will not suffer the same fate as the Dream Team that crashed to a 0-3 defeat on the shores of the Atlantic.
This year Zifa marks its 50th anniversary, Dynamos are also celebrating their Golden Jubilee, CAPS United are 40 years old and the domestic Premiership is marking 20 years of existence as an independent entity not controlled, on a daily basis, by the mother association.
Hopefully, someone will also remember that 20 years ago the Dream Team came as close as we have ever come as a nation, to qualifying for the World Cup, when their heroic campaign took them within just 90 minutes of a place in the United States.
There will always be something special, when it comes to Zimbabwean football, about '93.
It was the year the Warriors played more games than they have ever done in their 33 years of flirtation with international football as an independent nation - 13 World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers, one World Cup qualifier that was declared null and void and two international friendly ties.
That iconic Dream Team won five World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers in that year, drew two, lost two and won their two international friendly matches, including one against Senegal, who fell 0-2 in Harare.
Fabisch and his men played eight World Cup/Nations Cup matches, away from home, in tough places like Egypt, Togo, Guinea, Angola, Cameroon, Zambia and France, the result of the match in Cairo was nullified leaving seven matches to count, and they lost only twice in Yaounde and Conakry.
They beat Togo in Lome 2-1, held Egypt to a goalless draw in Lyon, France, drew 1-1 with Angola in Luanda, drew 0-0 against Zambia in Lusaka, drew 1-1 against South Africa in Johannesburg and lost 0-3 to Guinea in Conakry and 1-3 to Cameroon in Yaounde in the World Cup winner-take-all showdown.
In a golden period stretching from August 16, '92, the day they destroyed Bafana Bafana 4-1 at the National Sports Stadium with Peter Ndlovu touching the heavens with a vintage individual show as good as it can ever get, to April 24, '93, when they drew 1-1 with South Africa in Johannesburg, the Dream Team were unbeaten in 10 World Cup/Nations Cup games.
And these were not Mickey Mouse opponents, like Burundi, too.
Among the World Cup qualifying victims were Egypt, beaten 1-2 on December 20, '92, in Harare, Togo, beaten 0-1 in Harare on October 9, '92 and 1-2 in their backyard on January 17, '93, Angola, beaten 1-2 in Harare, and the Dream Team won six games and drew four in a golden patch unmatched in their history.
The iconic Dream Team didn't qualify, for either the '94 World Cup or '94 Nations Cup finals, in both competitions falling at the last qualifying hurdle, including a late, rare headed goal, by Kalusha Bwalya that gave Zambia a fortunate 1-1 draw and, with it, a ticket to the finals in Tunisia.
That they didn't make it, either to the United States or Tunisia, has been abused by some as a flimsy excuse to suggest that it wiped away the greatness in the Dream Team and they have quickly embraced the teams that qualified for the 2004 and 2006 Nations Cup finals as representing greatness.
That it was harder to qualify for the '94 Nations Cup finals, where only 12 teams could participate, than it was to make it to the 2004 Nations Cup finals, where 16 teams could take part, appears lost in the haze of denial that accompanies the argument fronted by those who believe the Dream Team did not achieve immortality.
Ultimately, in football, you are judged by results and qualifying for the Nations Cup is a success story but to suggest that the Warriors' teams of the '80s, who only had eight places open for them to play at the showcase, were inferior to the teams of the post millennium, who suddenly had double the number of places open for them to play at the festival, is staging this game on a playing field that is not level.
For the 2013 Nations Cup finals we only needed to beat two teams - Burundi and Angola - to be in South Africa while the Dream Team needed to beat Zambia, who would be runners-up in '94, South Africa, who would be champions in '96, and also take care of little Mauritius at a time when they were playing Cameroon, Egypt, Guinea and Togo in World Cup battles.
Between August '92 and October '93, there were 16 World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers for the Dream Team and, amid all that, still they reached the final hurdle, were defrauded in Cameroon leading to Fabisch's one-year ban for implying the referee had been bought, and were unlucky to concede that late goal against Zambia at home.
That the Dream Team came within 90 minutes of qualifying for a World Cup, at a time when only three African teams played at the showcase, and that we now barely feature at all in the equation, when five teams can now make it from the continent, demonstrates how great that side was and, in my little book, seals their immortality.
One day someone will write a book about the Dream Team and someone will make a documentary about that great side and we will relive it again - Fabisch, Grobbelaar, Chawanda, McKop, Shonhayi, Gundani, Rambo, Nkonjera, Mashinkila-Khumalo, Rahman, Peter and Adam, Madinda, Ajira, Digital, Nomara and many more.
Twenty years have passed since the Dream Team's golden year but if you were part of the sights and sounds of that movement, it all feels like it happened yesterday, you can see the highs and the lows, the ecstasy and the tears, real warriors who fought real battles and emerged out of it, with a lot of emotional and physical scars, but having done enough to earn the heroes' tag.
To me the Dream Team will always be the greatest, the finest, the awesome machine that was the epitome of excellence, and I hope Zifa will remember these gallant men, when they honour their football heroes, and reserve a very special place for a group of Warriors like on other who, for some time between August '92 and October '93, had the right to claim to be one of the best four teams in Africa.
Another German Football Revolution Unfolds
Twenty years after Fabisch and his Dream Team came close to breaking barriers, both at the World Cup and the Nations Cup finals, another German coach, Klaus-Dieter Pagels, is now pulling the strings and shaping the Warriors hoping to make them competitive again.
Unlike Fabisch, who was familiar with the challenges of African football when he arrived here having worked, with a measure of success in Kenya, Pagels is exploring virgin territory and, while he has been here for, at least two years now, he knows very little about the continent and its game.
His model, unsurprisingly, isn't African but is distinctively Spanish or, to be exact, something cloned in Barcelona and he told us he wants the Warriors to play tika takka, the short passes, the one-touch football, the quick movement, letting the ball run for you, the kind of stuff that have made the Catalans a beautiful team to watch.
Fabisch, in contrast, stuck to what the Germans did - an uncompromising defence was the starting point, there were always tough guys in the backline, there was very little action in midfield and the ball was moved quickly from the back to the front, usually via the wings, there would be that cross and Sawu would head home.
It was basic but effective and it suited the team well because we didn't have many special ball-playing midfielders and our best man in the department was a defensive tiger called Nkonjera who was a specialist in robbing the opposition of possession than dominating the game with the ball at his feet.
In 17 matches between August '92 and October '93, including two friendly internationals and the nullified World Cup qualifier against Egypt in Cairo, Fabisch's Warriors played to their strength and, typically, conceded more than just one goal, in a match, in just two games - against Cameroon in Yaounde and Guinea in Conakry.
They had seven clean sheets and, normally, the best you could do against them was score one goal. The Dream Team, too, didn't score many goals and only four times, during that run, did they score more than one goal - against Bafana Bafana (4-1), against Togo (2-1) against Angola (2-1) and against Mauritius (2-0).
Normally it would be one goal but, because it was a team playing to its defensive strengths, it would be enough to beat Cameroon and to beat Guinea and, for that, you needed experienced players, tough men who could go to Lyon and battle Egypt and stop the Pharaohs from scoring.
Pagels' approach is different, he wants boys who can understand his philosophy, who can be developed to play the way he wants, to spread the ball around, he wants to build a team and his project, clearly, is not about this coming World Cup but the 2015 Nations Cup finals.
The coach's enduring alibi is that the veterans, those who have been in the trenches before, have nothing to show for their adventure and if he can fail now, while investing in a young team that can grow into a better side that can triumph in the future, it's a risk worth taking.
It's not fair to judge Pagels right now, because we haven't seen what he is trying to do, and the best way would be to back his revolution and hope that, at the end of it all, it would be worth the pounding that we are virtually certain to receive along the way.
Pagels must be supported by everyone who cares for the team because the boys he is throwing into the line of fire need to feel the love and warmth of their fans, that is the only way they can respond and try and lift their game, and there is noone who can tell what the future holds for them.
It's easy to sit down and judge this and that player, criticise this and that player and mourn about this and that player's exclusion but it's certainly not going to change anything because the coach has made his decision and to back the boys he has chosen will help to lift morale in their camp.
If there is a concern about Pagels' selection then probably it centres around the fact that he has a pre-determined team in his head, the players that he wants, and their form, or lack of it, is irrelevant and, alternatively, those who are not in his radar don't matter even if they appear to be in better form, or shape, than those in his frame.
So Tafadzwa Rusike, who is dropped by his Ajax Cape Town coach for the midweek clash against University of Pretoria, which ended goalless, because he has failed to justify his place in the starting XI, gets a call-up to the Warriors three days later.
None of the 11 players, who form the midfield and forwardline, has scored more than five league goals for their teams and the majority of them are on zero goals and that is a huge concern.
But those who are scoring, Chinyama, Duduza, Malajila, Mandaza, have been tried before, with little or no success, and that gives Pagels his alibi and the best way to deal with this issue is to back him, for the sake of the team, and see where he takes his project.
That they can't scale the heights touched by the Dream Team is virtually given but if Pagels can take the Warriors back into something that resembles that adventure, it will be worth it.
NetOne, Dynamos And Highlanders
The absence of heavyweights Dynamos and Highlanders from the NetOne Charity Shield, which starts in Zvishavane today, has been a huge talking point amid accusations and counter accusations of what might have elbowed the two giants out of the tournament.
In a normal voting process, where fans are casting votes for their teams, you expect the two giants to be in the tournament having won the poll, by a mile, because of their huge support base.
But what became clear, in the past week, was that this was nolonger about supporters casting their votes through the sms platform but about wealthy individuals and, in some case big corporate organisations, jumping onto the bandwagon and voting in a certain way to boost the interests of a certain team.
If the owner of Monomotapa bought air-time worth US$10 000, for instance, they were guaranteed 50 000 votes and, given that every team that features in the tournament would be guaranteed US$20 000, they would still make a profit, on appearance only, and could even better it by winning the tourney.
So, one man, in this case the owner of Monomotapa, can do more, in swaying the vote in his team's favour than 49 999 Dynamos fans who choose, for example, to only vote once for their team to be in the competition.
The question of numbers, in terms of Dynamos and Highlanders having the biggest support base, became irrelevant in an environment where one man, depending on the size of his purse, could influence the voting pattern more than a packed Rufaro casting just one vote each.
What became clear is that this wasn't about the fans but about business and while the DeMbare chairman cannot spend US$10 000, from his pocket, to try and sway the vote in his team's favour, it makes business sense for Monomotapa's leaders to do so.
NetOne said the platform was open for the fans to make their choices but they must have known that it would be hijacked from the ordinary folks, who can only do so much for their teams as spending 20 cents or, at most US$1, and bigger players would come in to influence the voting.
It's not illegal, this block voting because one could vote as many times as one wanted, but to portray this exercise as one based on the wishes of the fans, one that would be determined by the voting from the fans, was certainly wrong because powerful forces were always going to come into play.
To take the outcome of this vote as representative of the support base of our clubs and suddenly try to pretend as if there are now some bigger fish in the pond, than DeMbare and Bosso, is not only reckless but certainly stretching the imagination a bit too far.
The bulk of the people who support DeMbare and Bosso are poor folks and they sacrifice a lot just to get US$3 to buy the cheapest ticket to watch their favourite teams in action week-in-and-week-out.
To these people DeMbare and Bosso are not football teams but are institutions that represent, in every sense, a way of their lives.
These people already carry their heavy burdens, just trying to live in a very tough world, and mostly, it's their favourite football team that provides that refreshing comfort when it does very well on the football field.
The conflict between DeMbare and NetOne, over the withheld winning purse from last year, did not help matters either and statements from the club's leadership, saying they would not play until they got their dues, must have killed whatever little enthusiasm there was, among their fans, to vote in numbers.
But, even if they had voted in numbers, chances are that they wouldn't have stood a chance, in a playing field that wasn't level where one man, with US$10 000 to spend to get a minimum of US$20 000, can do more than 49 999 people casting one vote.
If every one of DeMbare's estimated seven million fans voted once, for their team, it would have garnered 350 000 and a team like Monomotapa would match those votes with seven of its directors spending US$10 000 each on airtime and, if one more person spent 20 cents on one extra text, they would poll more votes.
In such a scenario, the sponsors then should know that teams like Dynamos and Highlanders, technically don't stand a chance to garner enough votes in a voting process that would have termed more commercial than social and can be hijacked a business considerations.
What I can't understand is the logic to cancel DeMbare's friendly tie in Marondera this weekend, on the basis that it provides a counter attraction to events in Zvishavane, when we all know that they need to prepare for their Champions League tie next weekend.
When we begin to belittle the Champions League, either because we have an axe to grind against Dynamos or because we trying to impress sponsors, and put a Charity Shield show in Zvishavane ahead of our continental inter-club interests, then we are getting it wrong somewhere.
DeMbare were exposed in Lesotho on a number of fronts, a defence that needs tightening, a midfield that appears static and a strikeforce that looks a little bit lightweight and Callisto Pasuwa needed a competitive match to fine-tune his preparations.
And while there is nothing shameful about their defeat, in an era where Celtic can beat the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League, it's their reaction that will shape their future in the tournament and if they can rise to be counted in Tunisia next weekend, they would earned their stripes, especially against a background of the horror of their last visit there.
Story Of The Week
Our sister newspaper, B-Metro, reported yesterday that Peter Ndlovu has turned to God and is now a devoted Christian under the Family of God church in Bulawayo.
"I have just realised that I was supposed to get born again back then when I was playing for the nation because if I had done that, today we would be talking about a different Peter Ndlovu. I would have done wonders," said Peter.
"After the passing on of my brother, Adam, I have just realised that I have to turn to God and make my life straight since we are not staying forever in this world."
You got it King Peter, you can't survive that horrific crash and still see the world in the same light.
Don't Cry For Us Red Devils
It has been quite a horrible week for all of us Manchester United fans, a referee plucked from hell who conspired to destroy our night, a coach who failed to react when we went a man down, a former hero coming back to throw the killer punch and all the abuse we have suffered from the United Nations group of fans who are Anything But United.
There is a huge price to pay for being so successful, being so huge and being such a commercial giant that dwarfs everything in this world.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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