Monday, 30 June 2014

Flair play: Joel Ngodzo must fight the weight demons

Flair play: Joel Ngodzo must fight the weight demons: Stanford Chiwanga Still got the talent BEING crowned the second best local footballer in 2010 will always be a special acco...

Joel Ngodzo must fight the weight demons

Stanford Chiwanga

Still got the talent
BEING crowned the second best local footballer in 2010 will always be a special accolade for Joel Ngodzo. It came after a season in which he mesmerized and dazzled many with his ball artistry for Highlanders.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Sun downs for Nyandoro?

WHEN he first broke into the national team he was hailed as the next Norman Mapeza. A holding midfielder blessed with astounding abilities. The comparison was not off the mark. The comfort on the ball was similar, the coolness, the calmness and the collected manner was hard not to compare.
The bravery in the tackle, the eye for goals and that killer pass made sure that Esrom Nyandoro was regarded as the rock of the national team after many had tried with little but with little success.
Here was an extraordinary, almost the perfect national team midfield hybrid. He displayed the passing brain of Ronald Sibanda, the surging forward drive of Mapeza himself and the tackling power of Lloyd Chitembwe.
 It came as no surprise when South African giants, Mamelodi Sundowns came knocking and snapped him with ease, thanks to the mega bucks of their wealthy owner, Patrice Motsepe.
What followed was assured performance after assured performance, the South African premier league was held spellbound. It was not surprising when he won the Rookie of the Year award in his first season there and was in the running for the league’s player of the year numerous times.
The dazzling performances not only won him adulation and accolades but caught the eye of English Premier League teams such as Fulham, Bolton Wonderers and Sheffield United.
The attraction did not materialise into a transfer but that did not take away the fact that Nyandoro was a talent. The undoubted talent saw his trade mark booming shot against Cameroon at the 2004 African Cup of Nations winning him the goal of the tournament.
But the 2011-2012 season, has not started well for him. He has been relegated to the bench by Surprise Moriri, a striker who has been converted into a defensive midfielder. But, full marks to him, he has refused to throw in the towel and has declared that he is going to fight it out to regain his place among the privileged 11.
The story is the same with the national team. He has lost the favour of Mapeza who now prefers Tinashe Nengomasha. What makes the situation worse is that the national team coaches have dropped him from the Warriors’ squad altogether.
Suddenly Nyandoro is not so quite convincing and the excuse used is that he is no longer able to cope with the pace of the game is his undoing. It is said he now comes up short against teams that play direct football.
His downward curve is hard to ignore because Nyandoro is a once in a lifetime player. Players like him are hard to find. It is not every day that a defensive midfielder is blessed with a crafty-deadly pass and a brutal eye for goals.
For many the demise of Nyandoro is a cataclysmic capitulation so bad that it still almost defies belief.
Thumps up to him for refusing to give up the ghost at the first sign that the end is near, the determination to linger on as long as possible and the defiance have always been synonymous with Nyandoro. 
But he needs to realise and accept that he is now in the summit of his career and walk away from Sundowns if he still desires to play regularly and to be recalled to the national team. For if he stay there someone will put the old warrior out of his misery.
But there is still hope for the 31-year-old. By football standards he still has the legs to carry him for a few more years and the talent to silence his critics.
It is the fighting spirit of the man that has seen him rule out a move from Sundowns, he does not want it dictated to him; he will leave when he wants to leave, so Moriri must not rest on his laurels because Nyandoro still has it.
And he must use it ruthlessly because failure to shame his critics will see him reluctantly falling on his sword and Moriri making the holding position his own.
If Nyandoro unravels that pit in his gut, he is going to blow people away. The only obstacle in his way is his confidence, which was undone by being dropped from the Warriors and Moriri’s elevation. If he overcomes that psychological hurdle, he will certainly make his critics eat the proverbial humble pie.

Mehluli Sibanda Sunday News Sports Reporter on Highlanders

Highlanders hit the jackpot

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Stanford Chiwanga
IT was Rumble in the Jungle in the Dynamos-Hwange match on Sunday afternoon at Rufaro Stadium. There may have been no sign of Mohammed Ali and George Foreman but Rufaro had everything else: the 20 000 plus crowd, the fanatic chanting and the excitement.
Above all, besides the football, it had the punches and the uppercut to spice it up. But no boxing gloves, bare knuckles sufficed. No, really, Monday’s sport pages of the country’s dailies proved it. For there, splashed across the back pages were pictures of Hwange coach Nation Dube who was sandwiched between two paramedics who were escorting him to an ambulance. The other pictures had the match commissioner Wilfred Mukuna, and the police trying to persuade a livid Hwange secretary Burzil Dube not to forfeit the match.
They say a picture tells a thousand words but these ones didn’t. They only told half of the story. For out of the picture, Hwange assistant coach Manelo Njekwa was also nursing injuries, injuries that were not caused by rowdy fans as is the norm. These injuries were not caused by a mishap in the dressing or a stadium stampede.
No, the Hwange coaches had been assaulted by Dynamos marshals in the latest and most surreal installment in the heartrending love story of Dynamos and their habit of shooting themselves in the foot.
The Hwange coaches had to be driven away to hospital, leaving Hwange coach-less as team manager Tenant Chilumba was away in Zambia. The kit manager Andrew Zulu and fitness trainer Kenneth Nyape took over the coaching duties after the Rumble in Rufaro caused a 45-minute delay.
Some declared that Dynamos should have lost, insisting that the regulations allowed Hwange to refuse to play in fear of their lives. The referee should have abandoned the match and the Premier Soccer League should have given the match to Hwange on a 0-3 score-line. But Dynamos having part of the negotiations with Hwange officials, match officials and police for the match to kickoff meant that would not be the case:  the referee has the authority to delay the game, in agreement with both teams.
“We are very disappointed with this kind of behaviour. Such hooliganism should be condemned. We played the match under protest because we did not want to disappoint the sponsors of the game. We should have called off the game because our coaches have been assaulted. This is intimidation and this is not good for football,” said Burzil Dube - the one man to have come out of the affair with his reputation enhanced.
Well, him and the Dynamos’ team. Dynamos won 4-1 with Takesure Chinyama scoring a goal which according to the Herald “could be a contender for the top goal of the season”. Roderick Mutuma scored a brace and Denver Mukamba weighed in with the other one. Eric Chitepa scored Hwange’s only goal.
The Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches Association (Zisca) was furious and described Dynamos as the “perpetrators” of the violence.
“We strongly condemn such behaviour where our members are needlessly and ruthlessly assaulted while conducting their duties. We call upon the PSL to take stern measures against the perpetrators and in this case their principal which is Dynamos,” said Zisca chairman, Bheki Nyoni.
In the streets, the ordinary football fans were also seething; to them here was more evidence that Dynamos is run by thugs. Thugs who made then Highlanders assistant coach Dumuza Dube run for dear life last year when Dynamos bouncers charged at him. They also manhandled Sunday News senior sports reporter, Mehluli Sibanda.
Run by thugs you think? That is far from the truth. The truth is even worse: no one runs Dynamos. Not even the board of directors made of the founding fathers. What about the executive? They are just figureheads. Dynamos are a club that is played for by geniuses but run by nobody.
The founding fathers make matters worse by being there when it suits them and not being there when it does not suit them to be there. The Sunday fiasco saw them hiding their heads in the sand. There is an institutional vacuum; Dynamos are a club who do not know who owns them, the “owners” are constantly scheming boardroom coups and where there are fights over shares that do not exist.
On Monday Dynamos chairman Kenny Mubaiwa insisted that Dynamos would act on the problem.
“I personally do not condone that. Those are primitive yesteryear actions. We will however issue an official statement as a club once I am fully briefed,” said Mubaiwa.
Dynamos secretary Ray Kazembe said: “We are going to investigate what happened. I also hope to get a briefing from the chief of security for the team to establish what
It was just a pity they wouldn’t even act on their own marshals; that there was no authority to rein the bouncers into line or propose a solution and force it through; that on a match day they allowed their marshals to put the fear of God in Hwange; that they did not learn from last season’s mistakes and disbanded the marshals.
This was another mistake from Dynamos authorities who, far from protecting and promoting the game, damage it at every turn. The decision not to disband the marshals has come back to haunt them. That decision could cost Dynamos dearly; they could end up with a huge fine on their hands. Without an attempt to be harsh on Dynamos this was a match of shame.  
In fact most things about Dynamos are a shame these days. A classic example of that happened during the pre-season. When their season was headed for disaster last season, they sacked Lloyd Mutasa and replaced him with Callisto Pasuwa who delivered the championship from a position of weakness. But Dynamos being Dynamos wanted to replace Pasuwa with Keagan Mumba during the off-season in a clear sign that the club that was once a model is now a mess: someone put an “in” in stability.
The NetOne Charity Shield cup final is another example that Dynamos have gone to the dogs. It was marred in controversy as Dynamos breached the sponsorship agreement after the club at the 11th hour refused to wear a kit with a NetOne logo opting for its club sponsored kit with a BancAbc logo.  
According to NetOne, Dynamos who faced Motor Action had no problems in using the kit but made a u-turn the day before the match. The match was almost abandoned until NetOne allowed the match to go ahead. This behaviour did incalculable damage to the sponsor’s image, Dynamos’ reputation and of course the standing of the sport.
All this rot is caused by the continuous chopping and changing of the Dynamos leadership by the founding fathers. That is the problem, Dynamos have no core; the foundation is shaky. That conclusion that scenario that nagging doubt, eats away at everything. If Dynamos do not have leadership, they have nothing. All that glorious past, all that effort is a result of the players and fans, not the leadership.
After the Sunday controversy, the Dynamos leadership took tried to take centre stage but from its not so convincing statement it was hard not to avoid the feeling that the Dynamos leadership has no bite. It used to start some fires and put others out, now it just puts them out. Now it just gets burned by people around it. The problem is not just what the Dynamos leadership does; it is about what it does not do.   
This ever changing executive is a caricature of the Dynamos leadership of old – the Lincoln Mutasas of old are gone never to return.   Dynamos’ problems are deeper. Some insiders think that in the long-term their title win last season was a disaster because it enabled the wrong people to survive, just at the time when Dynamos needed a change.
The status quo was maintained and on Sunday afternoon Dynamos fans sang and chanted themselves hoarse and declared that they are the best team in Zimbabwe. They also held a banner as they always do in every match. It declared “Dynamos will never die!” Sadly they were wrong, if Dynamos continues on this path, it’s headed for the dustbin.


MILTON NCUBE was tackled to the ground, referee Philani Ncube gave the foul, Ncube shrugged off the injury, stood up and struck the free-kick, Beaven Chikaka jumped and Nomore John, the Harare City goalkeeper reacted. Only it was too late – the ball hit the back of the net and the lid to Pandora’s Box was hacked off. 
It had been one goal apiece and Chikaka thought he had won it for Highlanders. Only it was not a winning goal, it was it offside. There was one more drama to come: conspiracy, accusations, missiles and terror. In the middle of it all, a man, a man in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
Salani Ncube, the assistant referee would feel them closing in. When he disallowed the goal, the match should have continued. Instead it was stopped. Suddenly he was surrounded by furious Highlanders’ players, only it was temporary – the players accepted the decision. Only it was too late, the fans took matters into their hands.
John started playing acting for a draw and Highlanders voiced their displeasure. The offside and then the insult by John were an incitement. A series of interlocking stories came to a head, building to a violent climax late. One hooligan threw a stone; it was cue of what was to come. More fans turned hooligan – stones flew into the field of play like confetti at a wedding.
Riot police came across and, sheltering the players, ushered them to the sanctuary which was the touchline near the VIP stand. Peter Dube, the Highlanders Chairman and his executive intervened and after ten minutes the match resumed.
Chikaka’s ghost goal had been scored in 83rd minute – meaning that there was about ten minutes – enough time for Highlanders to win the match. Kelvin Kaindu was the only one who seemed to realise the match could be won, he hugged the touchline trying to drag his team back into it. His team, though, had become deadweight on his back, victims of their own fury, paralysed by the injustice of it all. Virtually nothing had happened before Chikaka’s disallowed goal, just fouls and faking, and virtually nothing would happen after it either.
Whether the protests for the offside were justified, the scale of the protest was not justified. Nothing can explain such fallout, quite so nuclear. Hooliganism grabbed the headlines. Hooligans were at the heart of it all. The only thing that the violence did was spare Highlanders from being criticised by the media for a poor performance. Bosso looked off-colour, heavy-legged and as if their minds where somewhere else and credit to Kaindu for admitting that his boys were “below average”.
In a nutshell Highlanders’ fans lost their bottle and Bosso drop points.  
It is not only Highlanders, in May, Dynamos marshals assaulted the Hwange coaching stuff, rendering the colliery team coach-less as Nation Dube and his assistant Manelo Njekwa were rushed to hospital.
On another less tuneful Sunday, an April clash between Caps United and Chicken Inn was also ruined by violence and was abandoned deep in injury time after Caps United fans could not stomach defeat.
The two violent marred matches surely prove that football in this country is a long way from turning professional, for it is such behaviour that chases away sponsors and advertisers who have a desire to pour their money into the game but have no wish to be associated with violence and controversy.
Though no life was lost in the two hooligan tarnished matches, the violence shows that Zimbabwe did not learn from the tragic events of year 2000, at the National Sports Stadium, where 12 people died during a stampede, at a World Cup qualifying match between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
These are incidents that have turned football ugly from beautiful. No wonder some spectators who endured such acts of violence now prefer not to pay to watch a match in the stadium again, no matter how important the game is. A certain degree of fear has crept and continues to creep in and that has seen fans staying away from matches.
Thus it can be safely said that for all its entertainment value, football in Zimbabwe is not just a game anymore. It embodies local culture and local pride. Wherever football is played, emotions will always be at a high and anything that can be of controversy to some can spark and fan the flames of hooliganism.
As much as we do not excuse the fans for being violent we must also point fingers at the administrators who lack the flair for organisation to reorient the supporters to accept that bad decisions premeditated or not, do happen in football.
Wining matches is in the DNA of Highlanders, Caps United and Dynamos and fans are so used to it that losing is unbearable pain, but is that an excuse to turn violent?
However psychologists who specialise in crowd behaviour and who have made a special study of football fans’ behaviour disagree with the notion that only a few trouble makers are responsible. They believe that many caught up in riots have no previous history of violence, and instead are galvanised into action by a sense of solidarity which emerges suddenly and powerfully, as a direct result of the way their team is treated.
The PSL is predictably going to descend on the Highlanders family with a heavy hand but that will not make the cancer of hooliganism disappear as the battle to prevent a return to the dark days requires stringent measures.
Eradicating hooliganism would need a culture of change. The minute we think we have it under control there will be trouble. Do not think for a moment that Dynamos and other teams’ fans have changed; they have not changed at all. If you poke the animal in the Dynamos’ fans well enough it will rear its ugly head. So as much as the PSL will try to teach the Highlanders fans to behave well, it must make sure that it teaches the other teams’ fans to act right as well.
An improvement in crowd control, appropriate policing, state-of-the-art CCTV systems and the efforts of clubs and the PSL is needed to make football a fan-friendly environment, but that would require money, lots of money.
Currently ZIFA is broke, the PSL is broke, the clubs are broke and the business community is sitting on the fence, fearing to invest in a game whose image has taken a lot of battering over the years. With such depleted resources it will be difficult to stop hooliganism but that does not mean attempts should not be made.
The media can also play a role. The coverage of hooliganism betrays a curious paradox. While every fragment of aggression between Dynamos and Highlanders fans gets the full front-page treatment, intra-violence between fans of the same team goes virtually unreported.
Every season fans turn on each other but you won’t see much evidence of this in the media as the press plays down such incidents and dismisses them as trivial. The clubs are generally unmoved by such small scale skirmishes.
Over the years, it has also become increasingly clear that the police cannot and should not deal with hooliganism alone and that an integrated approach is needed. In practice, measures tend to focus on ways to prevent rival fans from having a go at each other. This one-sided focus on security is detrimental to an atmosphere of friendliness.
Well-trained marshals can contribute significantly to hospitality and the uprooting of trouble causers inside stadiums. The behaviour of players, coaches and club-officials also influences fan behaviour. Supporters’ clubs can also play a role.
Security forces deal with public order and the arrest of offenders. Public prosecutors and judges deal with apprehended offenders.
To prevent hooliganism, all these parties have to develop policies and co-operate with one another. If the different policies are not made explicit, if they are not integrated with one another and if arrangements are not binding, they will not work as expected.
And as long as football hooliganism continues to be presented as a preserve of Dynamos and Highlanders fans, rather than as an endemic part of the national game, there will be few serious attempts to understand why a significant number of football fanatics choose to spend their soccer Sundays fighting and throwing missiles.
And as a result hooliganism will continue rearing its unsolicited ugly head.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Flair play:
Highlanders rekindle fond memories
Mapuranga is a player whose reputation is written in stone. Strong as an ox with dexterity in defence that makes a mockery of his age. Highlanders have not conceded many goals and it is because of him. If Highlanders lift the league trophy no one will deserve more credit than Mapuranga.
SO far it has been nothing but a stroll in the park on a sunny day.
Many believe that the weather will change sooner or later. That Highlanders Football Club will be brought back to earth.
But chances are also high that that might not happen. Highlanders Football Club are third on the log after four league games, with a game in hand. They have scored an impressive 13 goals in the process and conceded only five to suggest, even validate, that the old balance of power has been restored.
At first it was easy to dismiss the team’s high scoring victories over Blue Rangers and Hardbody. When they drew one-all with Buffaloes in Mutare many were quick to suggest that the slide from high to low had began. How wrong they were.
Away to FC Platinum on Tuesday, many fancied a loss for Highlanders. The bookmakers that had a heart took pity on Highlanders and turned away those who put their money on Bosso. How wrong they all were. Highlanders did not receive the hiding that was expected. They did not survive a siege. They did not hang on for dear life. They came out swinging and three telling punches landed on FC Platinum. FC Platinum could only achieve one to make the outcome respectable. It all ended 1-3.
Meanwhile, all over the country thousands were surprised and tried to fathom what happened at Mandava Stadium. They also tried to work out what is happening at Highlanders’ training sessions. No one expected Bosso to come out this strong and no one expected them to put the fear of God in all the teams in the league. But they have done so.
Highlanders are the team that did not buy players because they could not afford to; the club whose budget for the whole year is not even a tenth of what FC Platinum will spend and a team that recruited players that had been offloaded by other teams.
It has been said and in a way it might sound true that Highlanders are a team made up of rejects. A motley crew of has-beens and never-have-beens, vaguely familiar faces from a distant and not especially glorious past, thrown together on the cheap for one last job, the most audacious heist of them all, and the coveted Premier Soccer League title.          
Milton Ncube, who has scored three goals and as many assists, was dumped in the scrap heap by Motor Action who had also picked him up from Dynamos’ dustbin. Bhekimpilo Ncube was deemed excess baggage at FC Platinum while Mthulisi Maphosa was fired for “alleged’’ indiscipline. Beavan Chikaka did not see game time at Dynamos in 2010,while the following year he moved to Caps United were he failed to break into the team. Masimba Mambare joined in for free after his contract at Motor Action expired.
Shabanie Mine are at the summit of the log followed by Chicken Inn. Highlanders might be third but they are ahead of them having played a game less and are only a point behind. Dynamos have won three and lost one and have one game in hand. But Highlanders are ahead of them too. Dynamos have lost a match; the only stain on Bosso’s record is a draw. The Bulawayo side is also ahead of Motor Action who have 10 points like Highlanders. But Highlanders have a better goal difference, have played a game less and have not lost a match.
In fact Highlanders are ahead of everyone. If they play their game in hand and win they will be on top of the log. Since 2006 this has never happened.
Highlanders started the league with a win and now they can’t stop.
This is a team that was built with so-called faulty material. Highlanders picked what was left after other clubs had already picked what they wanted. No wonder the media and neutrals believe that Highlanders had no chance of winning the league title.
Maybe that is the reason behind their success. The fact that they are underestimated and dismissed means they play with a certain freedom that surprises and puts the opposition on the back foot. Maybe the noise about them being average has made them conscious of their limitations and forced them to play to their strengths.
Supremely well organised, defensive, swift on the break, possessive on the ball and happy to be on the back foot when it suits, there are no pretences about this side. And while they might slip back down the table this certainly cannot be dismissed as a fluke.
They have created a kind of can-they-really-do it fascination; they are a constant cliff-hanger, leaving everyone waiting for the next match. People now actually care and those that don’t pretend they do. For a team that no longer mattered in its own city, this is quite something.
The work of Kelvin Kaindu cannot be frowned upon. He has employed a clever psychological work ethic to bring out the best out of the players. He has taken a more tactful role, convincing the players that it is about them and that they are actually pretty good at football. He has been even closer to the players than his predecessor, Mkuphali Masuku.
Another man who is not but should be credited with Highlanders impressive run is defender Innocent Mapuranga. At 34, Mapuranga is Highlanders’ leader: intelligent, confident, committed and utterly unpretentious, despite becoming an idol to team-mates and fans - the antihero who embodies the image of this team. Highlanders’ fans believe that he is the best defender in Zimbabwe. Although this is partly tongue in cheek, it’s not wide off the mark. 
Mapuranga is a player whose reputation is written in stone. Strong as an ox with dexterity in defence that makes a mockery of his age. Highlanders have not conceded many goals and it is because of him. If Highlanders lift the league trophy no one will deserve more credit than Mapuranga.
And if they continue on this vein that will most likely happen. And very soon the vuvuzelas that had been shelved will be dusted and blown until the throats give out. Those who do not support Highlanders will complain about noise pollution. The song wakhala umantengwane will assume its really meaning again. The Highlanders’ once famous road shows will return. Each and every terrace at Babourfields Stadium will have a bum on it.
Everyone knew that this revival would come and Highlanders’ fans knew that better than anyone else; it should not have taken this long. So now that it has arrived, it has had even more of an impact. It took six years for the second most successful team in Zimbabwe to be reborn.
But it is not just the rebirth that has impressed - it is the manner of the regeneration, the maturity of it. Highlanders may win or fail to win the title in November, but in truth they don’t need to. The journey back from the wilderness has been concluded. If they maintain the team they have and bloody it with a few additions, there will be plenty of titles.