Four Years, Four Games and the Gods Must Surely Be a Crazy Lot

Four years after their blockbuster showdown for the Premiership title spilled into the final day of the season, fate has somehow conspired to ensure that Dynamos and ZPC Kariba meet again – four games into the new season — in the gloom of their precarious positions at the basement of the table.

Whoever writes some of these extra-ordinary football scripts certainly deserves his place in the sunshine because, at times, everything falls into place — albeit in sharp contrast to events from a bygone era — in which two clubs found their fate somehow crossing paths.

Like Manchester United somehow having to win the UEFA Champions League in 1999 at Barcelona’s majestic Nou Camp with a dramatic late comeback show against a German team, Bayern Munich, whose home city has been representative of the plane crash tragedy that wiped a generation of these Red Devils in 1958.

Or like Zambia’s Chipolopolo returning to the scene of their football’s greatest tragedy in the Gabonese city of Libreville, where a plane crash in 1993 killed some of the country’s finest footballers, and being crowned champions of Africa in 2012 after a penalty shoot-out victory over Cote d’Ivoire. Like the striking coincidence that there were 77 people on board when the chartered plane carrying Brazilian side Chapecoense — who share the primary green-and-white colours with CAPS United as their primary identity — came down just outside Medellin in Colombia two years ago. And, as if by a stroke of cruel irony, the Green Machine first played in the domestic top-flight league in ’77.

Or how do we explain that Spanish side Sevilla, whose last qualification for the Champions League quarter-finals came in 1958, could choose Manchester United — marking the 60th anniversary of the players they lost in that plane crash in Munich — to be their victims to end their long wait for a place in the tournament’s last eight?

Well, that’s football for us.

And it’s hard to explain that when DeMbare and ZPC Kariba meet at Nyamhunga in a Castle Lager Premiership match on Saturday, it will be a basement battle between two of the clubs perched at the bottom of the Castle Lager Premiership table. Of course, it’s just four games into the season and a lot can, and probably will, change down the line but the coincidence is just striking.

Only four years ago, the two clubs were involved in a battle royale for the league championship which spilled into the final game of the season. ZPC Kariba, then homeless and forced to play their matches in the capital because their stadium was not up to scratch, had charmed many neutrals with the way they turned on the style and — with one game remaining in the campaign — had a two-point advantage over DeMbare. All they needed was to win their last game against CAPS United and Dynamos’ result against How Mine would be irrelevant, in terms of the championship race, and the league title — for the first time in 48 years — was set to be taken outside Harare and Bulawayo.

But, on a dramatic finale to the marathon, DeMbare simply did what they had to do — beat How Mine 2-0 and hope for the best in the other game — and somehow ZPC Kariba self-destructed as they crashed to defeat at the hands of Makepekepe.

What was a two-point cushion, in the penultimate round of the season, was converted into a one-point victory for the Glamour Boys and Callisto Pasuwa, who graced the launch of the partnership between Unilever Zimbabwe and Chelsea in Harare yesterday — had just won his fourth straight league title.

Yesterday, Pasuwa didn’t want to discuss much about his former employers, save to say he has been disturbed by reports coming from the Glamour Boys suggesting he was angling for Lloyd Mutasa’s job. However, ahead of the meeting between DeMbare and ZPC Kariba this Saturday, it hasn’t escaped us that, after just four years, the two teams who fought tooth and nail for the league championship, find themselves occupying the two bottom places on the table four games into the season.

It’s been DeMbare’s worst start to the marathon, even by their tradition as poor starters, and one point in four matches, including three in which they have failed to score a goal while leaking a goal in every match, represents mediocrity. There are some voices of defiance at the club who still preach the gospel that things will be well and Edward Sadomba, one of the finest forwards to wear the blue-and-white jersey in recent years, yesterday said he believed his old club would turn the corner soon.

Sadomba, though, felt there was need for Mutasa to blend some of his exciting youngsters with some old warhorses who bring the experience needed to stand the heat of playing for a giant like Dynamos where the pressure is always relentless. Whether Sadomba’s words, which echoed those of DeMbare president Kenny Mubaiwa, that the Glamour Boys will turn the corner will come to pass, remains to be seen, but what can’t be hidden right now is that they are in a huge mess.

The greatest triumphs, just like their success story four years ago, are the ones that come when no one expects such feel-good tales and, who knows, maybe this basement battle could be the one when these Glamour Boys will find a way out of this darkness.

Or, who knows, maybe this could also be the game when ZPC Kariba, who have been in all sorts of shambles since the beginning of the season, also find a way to make their fans — who have never forgotten the events of four years ago when their championship dreams were destroyed by these Glamour Boys — find a reason to smile.

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