Drama behind birth of Battle of Zambezi

Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
DAVID “Yogi” Mandigora vividly remembers the events of that afternoon of June 7, 1980, when he headed home an equaliser at a packed Rufaro against Zambia.

Shacky Tauro then buried the winner in a match that marked the beginning of the long-standing football rivalry.

It was supposed to be a friendly match to celebrate Zimbabwe’s Independence, but the Zambians were infuriated by the Warriors’ second goal, which they claimed was scored from an off-side position.

Chipolopolo were so livid their captain Jan Simulambo suggested, “even a pilot in a jumbo jet could have seen that Shacky Tauro was off-side.”

It was a tense finish to a four-team tournament that also featured Mozambique and Malawi. Mandigora, who had a brilliant outing that year, becoming the first person to win the Soccer Star of the Year award in post-Independence Zimbabwe, relieved the memories.

“We had a very strong team and Zambia also had some big names and a solid squad that could beat any team on any day,’’ said Mandigora.

“But, no side were prepared to lose. Our team had some talented players, but we lacked exposure to international football.

“Both teams played well and we won the game. But the Zambians were not happy with the result.

“They claimed Tauro’s goal should not have stood.

“I think this is when the rivalry between the two brotherly countries really started because a few months later they invited us for another friendly in Zambia and the reception we got when we got there, it didn’t feel like it was a friendly.’’

That Zambia team was not an ordinary side.

They had legendary players like Peter Kaumba, Ken Mwape, Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu, Alex Chola, Moses Simwala, Evans Katebe and Simulambo.

The Warriors then had a collection of talented players like goalkeeper Frank Mkanga, Graham Boyle, Oliver Kateya, Sunday Chidzambwa, Ephert Lungu, David  Muchineripi, Robert Godoka, Wonder Phiri, Tauro, Joseph Zulu and Onias Musana.

From a goal down in the final, Zimbabwe staged a great comeback against Zambia.

Rufaro, which was packed to the rafters, erupted when Tauro doubled the tally for the hosts, courtesy of another cross by the industrious Kateya.

Since that drama of the Independence Cup final in 1980, the Warriors have played Chipolopolo not less than 46 times in friendly matches and competitions such as the African Cup of Nations qualifiers, COSAFA and CECAFA.

The anti-climax for Zimbabwe in the Battle of the Zambezi was in 1993 when Zambia shattered the dreams of their neighbours with a late header at the National Sports Stadium to deny them a maiden appearance at the AFCON tournament.

The Dream Team, which for many years was described as the Golden Generation of Zimbabwean football, was on the threshold of the 1994 finals in Tunisia.

But, Zambian legend Kalusha Bwalya headed past Bruce Grobbelaar to silence the 60 000-seater stadium in just one moment.

The Dream Team was packed with talent in every department, from the goalkeeper Grobbelaar, Mercedes “Rambo” Sibanda, Henry “Bully” McKop, captain Ephraim Chawanda, Norman Mapeza, Benjamin Nkonjera, Vitalis Takawira, Rahman Gumbo, Adam Ndlovu, Agent “Ajira” Sawu and speedy winger Peter Ndlovu.

Zambia had lost virtually an entire team a few months earlier in a plane crash and had a new generation of players coming up under the strong influence of Bwalya.

“I watched that game and I remember very well how disappointing it was. We needed a win, but then with a few minutes remaining, we conceded. It was disappointing, that’s how tense it has been between Zimbabwe and Zambia,” said Mandigora.

Source : The Herald

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