Zimbabwe: In a Way, the Dembare of '76, Shaped Local Football

21 April 2021

FORTY five years ago, a benchmark of success was set by a steamrolling Dynamos side which won the league title and five of the six domestic knock-out tournaments.

They were also crowned the Southern African champions.

It was a vintage Glamour Boys side which, also, scored 67 goals, in the 19 knock-out tournaments they featured in, losing only in the semi-finals of the Chibuku Trophy.

Given, this is the 45th anniversary of that golden DeMbare side, it is probably understandable that we revisit them, and take another look at the magic, which propelled them into such a ruthless machine.

Especially, to look into how it all changed, in just one year, given they had been ordinary, the previous season, when they only managed to win the Chibuku Trophy 3-2, in a replayed final, against Arcadia United.

The first game had ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

During that period, tension had been stalking the Dynamos camp, for some time and it came as no surprise when a players' revolt exploded at the Glamour Boys.

The entire leadership, headed by chairman Morrison Sifelani, and the head coach Obediah "Wasu" Sarupinda, were all ousted in the player revolt led by Felix Tapfuma, who took over as the boss, just before the start of the 1976 season.

Tough-tackling hardman, Shadreck Ngwenya, was appointed player/coach, in full charge of the dressing room, while centerback Shepherd Murape, became the team captain.

Other players who made up this great squad included new signing from Mhangura, goalkeeper Matthew Mwale, who was deputised by John Revai, Isaac Nhema, Simon Sachiti, Shaw" Kojak" Handriade, Kuda Muchemei, David Phiri, George Shaya, Oliver Kateya, Ernest Kamba, David George, Daniel "Dhidhidhi" Ncube, Hilario Nengare and Cremio Mapfumo.

It is widely believed that grievances, including maladministration, poor kits and training conditions, among others, led to players taking matters into their hands and toppling their leadership.

Players of that era hardly made any noise about allowances, $15 per week was sufficient to cater for family needs.

Once players took control of entire administration of the club, the results started to flow with casualties of this mean machine going far beyond their dressing room, but into boardrooms of their rivals, especially the two biggest rivals Chibuku and Highlanders.

In the traditional season-opening Nyore Nyore Shield the Glamour boys beat bitter rivals Chibuku 8-0 in the final, on March 7, in the BAT Rosebowl, they beat Arcadia United 2-0 in the final, on April 25 before dispatching a Jomo Sono-powered Orlando Pirates 4-1 in the second leg of the Southern African championship, at Rufaro.

They had lost the first leg 3-5 in Johannesburg. The Glamour Boys also thrashed Zimbabwe Saints 8-1 on October 3, 1976, to walk away with their maiden Castle Cup, in 13 years. This was Dynamos' fourth attempt, in the final, to try and win this tournament.

Such was the dominance of Dynamos, over their derby rivals, and once bogey team Chibuku, the club's sponsors decided to withdraw their sponsorship of the team, which was then under the guidance of Jack Megher, at the end of the season.

This was apparently as a direct response to 0-8 drubbing suffered by Chibuku, at the hands of Dynamos, that season.

However the Highfield Road brewery company continued to sponsor the Chibuku Trophy.

The "orphaned" players were later adopted by businessman Majid Khan, who took over the franchise and re-christened his project Black Aces, at the beginning of the 1977 season.

But, that was not before centerback, Sunday Chidzambwa, then known as Marimo, crossed the great divide to join Dynamos while goalkeeper Posani Sibanda retraced his footsteps to Hwange.

Highlanders, who had serious reservations after being docked two points, which were won by Dynamos in that ill-fated game which was never played, were already planning life after Rhodesia National Football League. And, once Dynamos were confirmed as the Super League champions in 1976, after winning their last league match 3-1 against Zimbabwe Saints on October 17, Bosso fulfilled their threat and led some smaller teams to form a breakaway league, the South Zone Soccer League.

However, the other Super League clubs from the South Zone decided to stay in the mainstream league, and against following Bosso, into their project.

It is worth noting that 1976 marked several milestones, notably the resurgence of Dynamos, and also the two major teams in Bulawayo as, if by some coincidence, they dropped their ethnic identity to their names.

Matabeleland Highlanders re-branded to Highlanders and Mashonaland United re-branded to Zimbabwe Saints.

That, to a large extent, managed to cool emotions among supporters, in both camps, which had roots in ethnicity.

The revolution, which started with disgruntled Dynamos players, eventually transforming them into a dominant force, also claimed the scalps of two of their major rivals, driving Highlanders into exile for three years.

Bosso were lost to the mainstream league, in those three years, as they played in the unfashionable social league SZSL while Chibuku were also abandoned by their sponsors, after that 0-8 demolition.

So, in a way, the events at Dynamos in 1976, which created a mean machine, had an impact in events at many of the Glamour Boys' rivals, including shaping the future of Bosso. It wasn't a bad season, for everyone, it appears.

Simpson Nyereyemhuka is a football fan, former ZNA Sports writer and analyst. He works as a labour relations practitioner.

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