Zimbabwe: Football Loses Its Very Good Friend

What about the Dynamos founding fathers carrying out an ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ for the Glamour Boys to try and find the formula which used to make them the country’s dominant football club?

Or what about Black Rhinos, borrowing a leaf from their all-conquering women’s team as part of the club’s quest for a return to the glory days when they won two league championships?

Between them, the two Harare football clubs won the first eight league championships on the domestic front in the post-Independence era.

The Glamour Boys won six titles in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1986 while Rhinos won in 1984 and 1987.

Rhinos haven’t won the championship, since their last triumph in 1987, while DeMbare have won just five titles in the past 20 years, having won six, in eight years, just after Independence.

Two years ago, both clubs received a timely reminder, of a time they used to be champions, and the need for both of them to find a way back into the light, from a true football friend.

Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Perrance Shiri, who died in Harare yesterday, offered that advice to the two clubs, in June 2018, at a time FC Platinum were just starting to impose their dominance of the domestic football landscape.

Seven months earlier, the Zvishavane club had made history when they became the first football team, from outside Harare and Bulawayo, to be crowned champions, after Independence.

“I think I would like to offer a bit of some advice to two soccer teams, being Black Rhinos and Dynamos Football Club,” Shiri told guests while officiating at a dinner reception in honour of the COSAFA Cup-winning Warriors, in June 2018.

“To Dynamos Football Club, I will be honest that the founders of the club need to carry out an Operation Restore Legacy.

“Anything short of that, they may play in the First Division next season.”

A few months later, just to show the minister’s concerns were well-placed, the Glamour Boys finished in 11th place, 36 points behind champions FC Platinum, and only six points ahead of Nichrut, who occupied the last relegation slot.

And, last season, the Glamour Boys again struggled, finishing in ninth place, 18 minutes adrift of FC Platinum and just four ahead of relegation trouble.

Then, Shiri turned to Rhinos.

“To Black Rhinos, I think if they are to succeed, they need to throw away male chauvinism and take a leaf from the female Rhinos who have proved themselves very good players and well organised to the extent that they dominate the national women’s soccer team,” he said.

The late Minister then went on to deliver a speech, on behalf Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who was the guest of honour at the reception.

DeMbare responded to the call by restructuring their executive with the board of directors making some key appointments they believed would help revive club.

Banker Isaiah Mupfurutsa was roped in as executive chairman and there have been signs of stability at the country’s biggest, and most successful, football club.

From playing a key role in the formation of Chapungu United in the 1980s, where he became the club’s patron, to helping the game, and its players and coaches, on several occasions, Shiri was a true friend of domestic football.

“He was one of us, in the game, and we would go to Chapungu and Rhinos matches together, drink together and laugh together,” said the patron of the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association, Eddie “Mboma” Nyatanga.

“He was like a brother to me. We used to go to him for advice.

“He was a down-to-earth man and always told me that football was a very important sport in this country because it meant a lot to our people.

“When the Warriors win, there is a wave of joy that sweeps across the country and he always wanted us, as leaders, to try and ensure we put the right systems to ensure the game develops.”

A few weeks ago, Chapungu United coach Moses “Bambo” Chunga paid a courtesy call on Shiri at his offices in Harare, where they discussed the current state of football in this country and farming.

“You know that I am a farmer, too, and I paid the minister a visit to discuss my farming project,” Chunga said.

“The minister was heavily involved in the Chapungu project and it’s always important to tap into the knowledge of such senior people so that you understand exactly what you are going into.

“As an individual, you should always keep learning.”

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