EVENTUALLY, everything comes to an end, the only thing that differs is that some endings are dramatic while others are expected, some are painful while others are welcome.
That’s the way it is.
After all, the riveting domestic Premiership race finally ended last Saturday.
TelOne’s flirtation with top-flight football lasted just one season, and both Gweru clubs crashed out on the final day of the campaign.
Carlo Ancelotti’s time as Napoli coach was ended just minutes after leading his team into the Champions League Last 16, a 4-0 win over Genk doing very little to save him from the axe.
Last month, the coach of an Italian youth team guided his side, Invictasauro, to a 27-0 thrashing of rivals Marina Calcio, but before he had finished the celebrations, was told he had been fired.
“We were stunned and deeply regretful when hearing that our juniors team had beaten Marina Calcio 27-0,’’ Paul Brogelli, the president of Invictasauro, said in a statement.
“The values of youth team football are antithetical to such a thing. The opponent must always be respected and that did not happen today.
“As president, I sincerely apologise to the Marina club. I announce that our directors decided, unanimously, to sack coach Riccini. Our coaches have the duty to train young players, but above all to educate them. That did not happen today.”
Well, after a lengthy year in which we shared a lot, from the AFCON finals that ended in shame for us to a return to the World Cup qualifiers that almost ended in shame for us, I guess we should, for now, bring the curtain down on the show.
After feeding each other on a weekly dosage of this blog, all year round, we both – writer and reader – have to take a deserved annual break.
We have to recharge our batteries, in the form of the writer, somewhere in the company of the people who matter to me the most, my hometown folks in Chakari – simple people of simple lives.
And, recharge the batteries in the form of the readers, wherever the holiday takes you, so that by the time you come back next year, and we start another conversation on these pages in February, or thereabout, you will be desperate for the reunion.
It was also the year we joined hands to mark my 27th year as a fixture of this newspaper and on November 2, just a day after marking that day, we celebrated together on these spaces — going back down memory lane to the good, the bad and the ugly times.
“I have seen you grow to be the finest sports writer of your generation,’’ the MDC-A vice president, Tendai Biti, provided the most flattery, if not touching comment on Twitter to the article I wrote celebrating that milestone.
“Our very own Henry Winter, Grantand Rice, Brian Granville or Tim Vickery. God bless you my brother.’’
Growing up yes, honourable, the other stuff of being the finest, ummmm, I think that’s debatable, but of course, the compliment was well-received.
You know, when you creep closer to 50 like I’m doing now, having been blessed by the Lord who somehow ensured the peak of your adult life coincided with the dominance of your favourite football club, you begin to imagine things.
Like arriving in heaven, and being asked by the Lord what would be my wish in the event God granted me the chance to go and do just one thing back on Earth.
And, telling the Lord that it would be a privilege, if that’s the case, to return here on Earth as a die-hard fan of Highlanders, supporting them with the same passion that I used to support Manchester United during my first spell here.
That I didn’t grow up supporting Bosso, in the days when my local bearing was firmly focused on my beloved home team Falcon “Bwela Ufe” Gold, is one of the biggest regrets of my life.
Because there’s something special about being part of the Bosso family, something unique which isn’t found in any football club in this country, and denying that is accepting the pitfalls of living in denial.
Nowhere in our game do you find the passion that comes from Soweto when it’s full, and here I’m talking about the majority of the good people who go there, and not the few foolish ones like that fellow who chose to display his offensive banner describing other tribes as dogs.
You feel the electricity, the power of love, the beauty of ownership, the sense of loyalty, the virtues of togetherness — a people and their football club bound by a special bond that just keeps growing despite the challenges that come with time.
OF COURSE, I WANTED CAPS TO WIN BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT IS
It gives me great pleasure that some of the regular readers of this blog are unapologetic Bosso fans — Qinisela Mpunzi is one of them, Nodumo Nyathi is another, Liqhwa Gama is the other and, of course, the club’s chief executive, Nhlanhla Dube is the other.
Watching them again find a reason to celebrate this season when they won the Chibuku Super Cup was very special.
Their sights and sounds providing a fitting closing soundtrack to the end of another decade for our football, the special one where the stars of the past half-a-century were duly honoured.
Of course, it wasn’t the fairytale ending which the CAPS United family had been hoping for as their dream for a sixth league title was shattered on the final day of a campaign, which just three days earlier appeared a race they could not lose.
But the Green Machine didn’t only lose the marathon, in fact, they probably became the first team in the history of football, to be involved in a two-horse race for the championship that eventually finished with them in third place.
I had picked them to win the title at the beginning of the season on ZBCTV’s weekly football magazine programme “Game Plan”, and — as the season progressed — I became convinced this was a triumph for them which had been written in the stars.
And, so I wanted them to win it to mark the 40th year of their first league triumph in 1979 in style.
I wanted then to win it for Shacky Tauro, to mark, in style, the 40th anniversary of the year the legendary striker was named Soccer Star of the Year.
I wanted then to win it for Mr Goals, the club’s first big star who died exactly 10 years ago and a league championship win for the Green Machine would have been a befitting tribute to Tauro, the man we called Chinyaride, Bere, the striker we believed could fly inside the penalty box.
And, I wanted them to win it for Blessing Makunike, for Gary Mashoko and for Shingi Arlon, the three football stars the club lost in March 2014 in that road accident and, given this was the 15th anniversary of that disaster, I felt it was very fitting they were crowned champions.
I wanted them to win it for Charles Mhlauri, the revolutionary coach whose arrival in their camp provided the foundation for their transformation into this side that no longer had to wait 16 years for a league championship.
And, that this was the 15th anniversary of the year Mhlauri turned them into champions in 2004, I just felt it was just right they win the championship again.
I wanted them to win it for Farai Jere, for the fiery passion that has fired this gentlemen, in good and bad times, to try and transform his club into league champions, investing a considerable fortune for that, which I felt needed to be rewarded with another league title.
I wanted them to win it for Nyasha Mushekwi, the good fellow who set a great example for others by buying a luxury bus for his old club.
And, I wanted them to win it for Hardlife Zvirekwi, who refused to be buried by the personal challenges of having his arm amputated, after a road accident, and continues to play competitively.
Of course, it didn’t happen, and they are not the first club to collapse like that.
Liverpool did it in 2013/2014, that Steve Gerrard slip, that 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace, Newcastle United in 1995/1996, blew a 12-point lead over Manchester United to eventually lose the title, Ajax Amsterdam in 2015/2016, lost to second-from-the-bottom club De Graafschap on the final day of the season.
Manchester United did it in 1997/1998, blowing an 11-point lead over Arsenal and Real Madrid blew an eight-point lead, losing seven of their last 10 games in 2003/2004 to lose the title.
If, there is a disappointment, about how CAPS United blew it, then it’s probably found in the way the Green Machine meekly surrendered, so poor in their final game against FC Platinum they resembled a team probably coming from a drinking binge than one battling for the title.
No passion, no structure, no shape, no spirit, just going through the motions as if they were watching a romantic movie, just easing through the 90 minutes, as if they were taking a midafternoon siesta, just relaxed as if they were on holiday someone on a Mediterranean island than in the biggest match of their season.
So poor, so pathetic, so lifeless, so hopeless, so spiritless, so toothless in attack, so directionless, so reckless in possession, so colourless, so powerless, so visionless, so motionless, this wasn’t the CAPS we had seen all season, this was something else, an effigy of the side.
A LEADERLESS PACK, A MONUMENTAL COLLAPSE, A VERY SAD ENDING TO IT ALL
When FC Platinum scored on the break on Saturday, after a lovely move featuring a player, Never Tigere, who was not supposed to be on the pitch given his first half meltdown, when he shoved an opponent into the ground, should have been punished by a straight red card, I looked for a leader among the CAPS United players.
Someone like Francois Pienaar, during the 1995 Rugby World Cup at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on June 24 when, with seven minutes left to play in extra time, when the South African captain summoned his Springboks into a huddle.
The All Blacks were leading 12-9 and pressing and, if they scored again, the Springboks would certainly lose this landmark battle on whose outcome, according to some claims, rested the future of a country still battling to emerge from the darkness of a past built on racial segregation.
Pienaar’s 20-second speech was as short as it was powerful and very motivational.
‘’Heads up! Look in my eyes,’’ Pienaar screamed to his teammates as 63 000 fans packed inside Ellis Park sang, ‘’Shosholoza, ku lezontaba, stilema si qhamuka e South Africa.’’
And, Pienaar continued with his lecture.
‘’Do you hear? Listen to your country. Seven minutes, seven minutes, defence, defence, defence. This is it! This is our destiny! Kom bokke (Let’s go Springboks!).
The Boks rallied with Joel Stransky scoring a penalty and then a drop goal for a 15-12 win to give South Africa its first Rugby World Cup title.
Sadly, I didn’t see anyone with that capacity, among the CAPS United players.
Instead, I just saw a group of players whose spirits had been deflated by that goal, whose heads slumped, whose confidence, or whatever had remained of it, evaporated and, rather than go for it, with everything they had given this was the last fight, they merely surrendered.
Instead, it was probably the FC Platinum skipper, who put his teammates into a huddle and, like Pienaar before him, must have barked the following battle cry:
’Do you hear? Listen to your fans singing, seven minutes, seven minutes, defence, defence, defence. This is it! This is our destiny! Kom Platinum (Let’s go Platinum!).
One can only wonder, what would have happened if Method Mwanjali, the only man who could do that, was in the team and not in the stands?
Of course, we will never know but, in the end, the title couldn’t have gone to a better club, for their resilience, for their never-say-die spirit and for showing, once again, that defence wins you championships.
Merry Christmas to you all, from the loyal readers like Harmony Gwaure, Phineas Tundu, Mufaro Masoka and @jmobla, to name but a few, the occasional readers to the harshest of critics, and may the Lord provide you with all your comforts and hope you have a prosperous New Year.
That’s it for this year, enjoy your deserved break, and let’s pray to the Lord that we see each other again in the New Year.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole Ole!
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