Glamour Boys turn to Uhuru Cup for relief as dark clouds converge

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
IN the beginning, they were good, very good and so good they won the first four league titles, after Independence, and six, of the first seven battles, for the championship during that golden period.

By the end of the marathon, for the 10th championship race, in the era of the freedom brought about by the removal of the punishing weight of colonialism, they had won seven league titles in a decade of ruthless dominance when they were the kings of the fledgling kingdom.

Only two clubs, Black Rhinos (twice in 1984 and 1987) and an excellent Zimbabwe Saints team of 1988, had found both the stamina and pedigree to beat them in a championship race between 1980 and 1989.

Such was their quality that, in their first season in the African Cup of Club Champions, now known as the CAF Champions League, in 1981, they scored 13 goals in six matches.

That included a 5-1 aggregate hammering of Shooting Stars of Nigeria, then a powerhouse on the continent.

The same Shooting Stars that had thrashed Botswana’s Township Rovers 7-1 in Ibadan before their meeting with this Zimbabwean side, in the next round, the same Nigerian team which, in three years’ time, would be the losing finalists in the same tourney.

A 2-5 aggregate loss to JS Kabylie brought their maiden African inter-club campaign to an end in the quarter-finals but the Algerians’ 5-0 aggregate win over Congolese side, AS Vita in the final, that same year, provided a reminder of the local giants’ pedigree.

Along the way they paraded some of the finest footballers to grace the domestic football fields with a genius called Moses Chunga topping the bill, for both excellence and the kind of arrogance that used to define them as different, as powerful and as successful.

Eddie Katsvere, Oliver Kateya, Sunday and Misheck, back in the days they shared a surname called Marimo, Kenneth Jere, him of the computer memory and brilliance, David Mandigora, Japhet Muparutsa, names fit for a Hall of Fame, all fought for their cause.

There was a time, back in the days, when they appeared fated to triumph from birth — winning the league championship in the year of their creation in 1963, winning the title in the first year the World Cup was broadcast in colour on television in 1970, and being crowned champions in the year of our Independence in 1980.

But, nothing lasts forever.

Today, where they used to resemble Muhammad Ali in their prime, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, they now look more like the late Bonyongo Destroyer, at the tail-end of his career as a heavyweight boxer whose name instilled fear but whose athleticism delivered little.

Dynamos, DeMbare, Glamour Boys, Haina Ngozi, Chazunguza, Boys In Blue, Mabhinya, whatever they used to be called, whatever it meant, whatever they represent, are in the intensive care unit, stripped of their invincibility and, like poor Samson without his long hair, having been tricked by Delilah to reveal his secret, now powerless.

Two defeats, in the first three league matches, just a few months after they battled the embarrassment of flirting against relegation, have quickly, and crudely, exposed the lie that something special is being brewed at the Glamour Boys in their search for a path back into the light.

Instead, the results have shown DeMbare remain trapped in the mediocrity that stalked them last year, short of quality within their playing personnel, who resemble a rag-tag collection of footballers, overwhelmed by the sheer weight that comes with wearing that jersey.

Confused by the responsibility that comes with playing for these giants and crippled by the grand expectations that come from the fans of this franchise.

While coach Lloyd Chigowe, whose crazy nickname MaBlanyo is increasingly becoming a source of a range of jokes, might have done reasonably well to help them in their fire-fighting last season, it’s clear he remains too lightweight to be the Saviour.

The team’s leaders, especially the founding fathers, have remained trapped in the past, insulated from reality by a flawed belief — that it’s Dynamos’ divine right to rule domestic football, irrespective of the chaos they have sown at this dying institution.

And, oblivious to reality that their club has been left behind by time.

Since Sunday Chidzambwa left his role as coach 20 years ago, DeMbare have won just five league championships, at an average of one every five years.

And, that’s a confirmation of how things have changed given, in the first 10 years of Independence, they won seven of the first 10 titles.

They have also disappeared from the Champions League radar and, indirectly, they are slowly destroying the spectator interest in domestic football.

“It’s a double-edged sword. When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places,’’ Richard Scudamore, who left his role as boss of the English Premiership at the end of last year, once told Bloomberg.

“There’s lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again, but you have to balance that off against putting on a competition.’’

Today, DeMbare take on bitter rivals Highlanders in an Independence Cup showdown at the National Sports Stadium.

Bosso, themselves, also have their challenges — two draws and a comprehensive defeat in their first three league matches haven’t gone down well with some of their fans losing patience with a system that hasn’t produce a champion for the past 13 years.

It’s the biggest barren stretch for Highlanders, without winning a league title, since Independence.

They took 10 years to win their first one in 1990, won again in the first season of the domestic Premiership, waited for just six years to add a third in 1999, beginning a four-year winning streak in which they matched the DeMbare of 1980-1983 and 2011-2014.

Some experts have warned that the era of community clubs, like DeMbare and Bosso, passed a long time ago and, without ownership by a millionaire benefactor prepared to spend a fortune to woo quality players into their ranks, the duo will continue to struggle in an environment now dominated by richer and more ambitious clubs backed by diamonds and platinum.

But, there are no other football clubs that capture the spirit of the people of this country better than Dynamos and Highlanders.

And, it’s only fitting that, as the nation says goodbye to its third decade of existence as an Independent country, the two giants — no matter their compromised state of health — should battle in the Independence Cup today.

Who knows what is in store?

After all, it was a triumph for Bosso in this tournament in 1986, a 2-1 extra-time win over CAPS United, which provided the first signs they were on the path to greatness and, a year later, Mercedes “Rambo’’ Sibanda, was crowned Soccer Star of the Year.

And, three years later, Bosso were champions.

Maybe, just maybe, despite all this gloom, there could still be some light for these two ailing giants.

Source : The Herald

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