Thursday, 29 December 2011

Zimbabwe football: The good, the bad and the ugly of 2011


THE 2011 football season has come and gone with the wind to return no more, but Leisure Sport cannot help it but look back and reminisce on the good, the bad and the ugly of the year just past.  
Team of the year   
This one does not even need a vote and it’s not up for debate - 2011 belonged to Dynamos. At one time they did not have a prayer in the league race as they were 12 points behind FC Platinum but they staged the greatest Houdini act of the modern topflight league as they seized the crown from FC Platinum with virtually the last kick of the season. 
Not only did they walk away with the League title but they also triumphed in the richest cup tournament – the $1 million Mbada Diamonds Cup.
Without a doubt DeMbare were the Cinderella story of the year.
Man of the year
When Ndumiso Gumede was appointed to head the investigation of the Asiagate match fixing scandal few if any thought that he would succeed as he was up against a well run syndicate that included individuals with spines of iron. But Gumede was brave enough to enter the arena in an attempt to clean up the dirt at ZIFA House.
He fought a good fight despite death threats that at one time saw him disguised as a woman. Due to his relentless pursuit of justice the Asiagate scandal investigations will come to an end in March and heads of prominent figures, footballers, administrators and journalists will roll.
Coach of the year
Hwange mentor Tenant Chilumba made a mockery of tradition by leading his team to a laudable fourth place on the log and as such it was not surprising that he won the coach of the year award, leaving Dynamos coach Callisto Pasuwa and Gunners coach Moses Chunga clutching thin air.
Some might have been tempted to cry foul in support of Pasuwa, but if you consider that Hwange also won the Most Disciplined team award then you will be compelled to agree with the sportswriters, coaches and referees who selected Chilumba as the top dog.
Player of the year
The Soccer Star of the Year selection has a tradition of controversy but this year’s winner got the nod from all and sundry – there was no voice in opposition that Washington Arubi deserved the accolade that greeted his gallantry throughout the season.
In football one man cannot make a team but if there is a player who came close to defying that maxim it is Arubi. Despite not having an intimidating physique, Arubi proved to be the difference between victory and defeat for Dynamos.
Change of the guard of the year
Pasuwa spent the first half of the Premier League picking his nose and frowning into emptiness while Lloyd Mutasa turned Dynamos into the laughing stock of the league. But when Mutasa was fired Dynamos looked to Pasuwa and boy did he do wonders.
He won a double after coaching Dynamos for 15 matches or less and they say luck has nothing to do with it.
Best administered Club of the year
With Zvishavane being one of those places were locals still point excitedly at passing airplanes and wave at moving trains, it was surprising that FC Platinum emerged to be the best run club in Zimbabwe.
Not only do they pay their players and coaching staff good salaries, they have given a face lift to their home ground, Mandava Stadium. They were by far the best kitted team in the league.
And they should be applauded for not being sour losers. After Dynamos knocked them out of the Mbada Diamonds Cup and robbed them of the league title they had the heart to flight adverts in newspapers congratulating Dynamos.  
Losers of the year
After finishing the 2010 season on an amazing run, Highlanders were expected run riot but their fire in 2011 was extinguished before it even began a flicker. Gone are the days when Highlanders were a force to be feared; now they are just pretenders among contenders.
Off colour, off form, off pace – Highlanders were nothing but clueless, no wonder they ended on position seven on the log. The less said about them the better.
Disappointment of the year
The National team failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations after being beaten 2 - 1 by Cape Verde. It was apparent that the Warriors were not going to go to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea after drawing 0-0 with Cape Verde at Home and 1-1 with Liberia away but the nation still clutched on to straws with hope – a hope that proved to be false.
Next year just like last year, Zimbabweans will be rooting for other national teams – sad indeed.
Villains of the year
All the people who were part of the Asian sojourns and took part in match fixing to fatten their pockets were scoundrels of the highest order. If they were soldier they would be made to face the firing squad for selling the country for pieces of silver.
The match fixing scandals might not have happened in 2011 but the fact that their effects overlapped means they deserve the award. The national team is struggling to recover on the FIFA rankings because of that and it entrenched poor administration system that Cuthbert Dube and his Board are trying to right.
Before Asiagate came to the fore the Zimbabwe Football Association had a bad reputation, match fixing made the dreadful public image worse. 
Buffoons of the year
This award goes to … the local referees for discarding the Book of Ethics for the brown envelope. From Division One to the Premier League clubs complained through out the year that match officials were taking bribes to influence the out come of matches.
Their reputation lost, the Premier League crossed the Limpopo River to South Africa and came back with reputable referees to officiate the semi-finals and final of the Mbada Diamonds Cup. If that was not the ultimate vote-of-no-confidence then I don’t know what could be.
Add the suspensions of Zimbabwe Referees Committee vice chairperson, Samukeliso Silengane, Zifa Southern Region chairman Gift Banda, Central Region chairman, Patrick Hokonya, FIFA referee Cosmas Nyoni and Cedrec Manengedze Raisi for fixing Division One matches in the Central Region and you cease to wonder why the football gods don’t smile on Zimbabwe.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dynamos, Motor Action battle for mortality


THE script for today’s Mbada Diamonds Cup final at the National Sports Stadium does not ask for a dramatic potential with recently crowned league champions, Dynamos clashing with BancABC Sup8r victors, Motor Action.
Dynamos and Motor Action can already claim to be the genuine articles, the top dogs of Zimbabwe’s top flight football after having shared the other major competitions.
But all that is history today is a different ball game altogether as both teams will be seeking to emerge as the most successful team of 2011.
Even though, Dynamos and Motor Action have had successful seasons, it is the outcome of today’s final at the amphitheatre of football in Harare that will determine how fondly the 2011 campaign will be remembered by each set of fans.
Dynamos are the favourites to ride into the sunset with a double as they are on-form team and possess star quality with Murape Murape, Denver Mukamba, Archford Gutu, Roderick Mutuma, Cuthbert Malajila, Washington Arubi, Guthrie Jokinyu and George Magariro ranked as being among the best players in the land.
All these players can combine to devastating effect with Murape, Malajila, Mutuma, Mukamba and Gutu having an unparalleled telepathic relationship that gives them the privilege to slice through defenses like a hot knife through butter. Their scintillating performances in the second half of the season left opponents and observers bewildered.
Some fans obviously overcome with ecstasy have gone further to conclude that this Dynamos is the best club of all that. In reality the current crop of players cannot untie the shoelaces of previous vintage teams as they lack the class and finesse associated with the Glamour Boys.
But while they this team lacks the buccaneering style of the George Shaya, Moses Chunga, Tauya Murewa and Memory Mucherahowa, Justice Majabvi legendary teams, it has shown a willpower to overcome any obstacle if faces.
Dynamos have a formidable formula of defensive solidity exemplified by the almost impenetrable combination of Jokinyu and Magariro. Whenever one of the two is injured, substitute Gift Bello has proved to be a perfect replacement. Tawanda Muparati, Leo Kurauzvione and Milton Makopa have taken turns to prove that Dynamos are spoilt for choice when it comes to defensive midfielders with rearguard actions that have neutralised many potent midfields.  
Last time they met in a league match, Motor Action gave up on the title chase as they lost by two goals to nil and Antipas attributed that loss to the absence of Young Warriors right-back Passmore Bernard and Reuben Machaya through suspension.
In that match, Motor Action had defensive headaches as Godfrey Moyo who usually partners Themba Ndlhovu in central defense was pushed to the right while Norman Njelele who has not seen much of the game this season was called from the wilderness and thrown at centre back.
Earlier in the season Motor Action beat Dynamos by a similar score-line but all that is history. This is a different ball game altogether, history counts for naught here, what matters is today not what happened in the days of yore.
This time Motor Action have no injury and suspension worries, they have a full squad complement. Left-back Ocean Mushure who fought a lone battle last time the two sides met will have to be ruthless down the flank this time around if he harbours another winners’ medal on his neck.
With the central defensive pair of Godfrey Moyo and Themba Ndlhovu united again to shut out Dynamos’ raids together with shot-stopper and captain Marlon Jani, Mushure and right-back Passmore Bernard, will be expected to play a roving game, to supply those deadly crosses that were never were last time. If that happens, the Dynamos defense will have to be at its best otherwise after last Sunday’s league jubilation, they will cry us a river at sunset.
Midfield maestro Allan Gahadzikwa will have to undo himself and conduct a masterful footballing opera that he has never before if he wants to make light weight of the Dynamos midfield. He has done it before and if the gods are on his side this afternoon his side will get the $75 000 cheque.
But if there is a player who has the potential to be the general in Motor Action’s midfield it is Conrad Whitby – it’s a pity he is always deployed on the flank. Supersport pundit Alois Bunjira and those who have played with and against Whitby testify that if he is in central midfield he passes the ball like no other.
Isaac Masame who has been one of the stand-out players at Motor Action offers the team speed and intensity in midfield. He has been outstanding through out the tournament and that is exemplified by the screamer of a goal he scored against Blue Ribbon to send Motor Action to the semi-finals.
If the midfield clicks the strike-force of Tawanda Ushe and Kudakwashe Musharu which lacked the cutting edge to trouble Dynamos will have no excuse if it conspires to be anonymous again. Otherwise Tawanda Nyamandwe and the fit again Enasio Perezo will be called upon to turn the game on its head.
Of the two, Perezo is the most capable, as he has shined when called upon. He is a fox in the box and Dynamos are well aware of that as he has won previous clashes for Motor Action against them.
However the match will not only be a battle for supremacy between the two talented sides. It will also be a brilliant and witty battle between two great strategists, Callisto Pasuwa and Joey Antipas. While Pasuwa edges out Antipas in terms of their football careers, Antipas surely knows the ins and outs of the league’s most elite cup competition. Antipas has installed a fearless attitude in Motor Action and their compact game is a treat to watch.
For Dynamos, Pasuwa has proved to be the most effective weapon that they have since he replaced Lloyd Mutasa when the team was on its knees and managed to launch an unrelenting and amazing pursuit of the league when most had given up on the Dynamos ghost. He won nine games, drew one and lost one out of 11 on his way to league glory. Betting against such a motivator and inspirational coach is risky business.
The same can be said of Antipas as he has transformed Motor Action from being a middle tier team to one of the giants in the league. Unlike Pasuwa, who inherited a well-oiled machine, the vastly more experienced Antipas, built Motor Action from scratch and is confident that he has hatched a plan to make sure Dynamos don’t turn Harare into a disco two weeks in a row.
In a capsule, there is literally no bigger event in Zimbabwe today than the Mbada Diamonds Cup final. It will not change your life but it makes this Sunday relevant and interesting for local football lovers.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The best league in Africa … not by a mile


THE media in Zimbabwe, when the occasion arises never lets go of the opportunity to hail the Premier Soccer League as one of the best leagues in Africa.
It’s merits are compared to that of African top leagues, the Egyptian, the South African, the Ghanaian, the Tunisian, the list goes on and on, with the conclusion that in terms of excitement, passion and competitiveness, Zimbabwe’s top division rules.
That bravado stems from the four slots that Zimbabwe was allocated in Africa’s prime club competitions, the Champions’ League and the Confederations Cup. Such a privilege is a preserve of country clubs that do exceptionally well in Africa but it hides a blemish that few acknowledge.
That those four slots that put Zimbabwe club football on a higher plane than our proud neighbours, South Africa, are not a reflect of the standard of football in general, but of one club, Dynamos. If it was not for Dynamos’ impressive record in Africa, Zimbabwe club football would not be chinned up.
The other plus that is mentioned is that Zimbabwe, compared to other Africa countries, has the most football imports, players and coaches, plying their trade in the richest league in Africa, the South Africa league. That is true and that’s a fact but if we desire to be a powerhouse, we should never brag that our best players are just good enough to play in South Africa not Europe.
Still in South Africa, the media is never slow to reaction to virtuoso performances by Zimbabweans. Whenever Nyasha Mushekwi, Khama Billiat, score for their clubs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Ajax Cape Town, back pages of local newspapers make you think for a second that Zimbabwe is in South Africa.
Championship diversity is also ruthlessly exploited to give the league an aura of excitement. In their view a league where big teams can go for three years without the championship with middle tier clubs ruling the roost is not deficient when its comes to fireworks.
Recently they found another pointer to make noise about the goodness of the league. The move by Supersport to flight the league match between Motor Action and Dynamos and today’s Mbada Diamonds Cup final featuring the same clubs, has been seen as an acknowledgement by the TV sport giant that Zimbabwe football is lekker. 
As a patriot one is almost forced to go with the crowd and boldly state that our league is among the best, but as much as I believe that our league is underrated, the reality is that the PSL does not yet come close to being included in the list of the best.
For starters it is among the least sponsored leagues in Africa. Castle Lager was hailed for pouring a $US2 million sponsorship which will run for three years. But a closer look reveals that the amount is peanuts – Dynamos, the new champions were given US$70 000 for huffing and puffing. In total Delta Beverages spent US$600 000 this season.
The winners of the Mbada Diamonds Cup will take home US$75 000, while cup competition winners in South Africa get monies ranging between 6 and 10 million Rands.
Still want more? The average basic salary for players in South Africa’s top flight is R20 000 a month while in Zimbabwe its US500 (R4000).  The average new contract value for a PSL player is R500000 a year, including signing-on fees and bonuses. This translates to R40000 per month. In Zimbabwe signing on fees are around US$3000 (R24 000).
No wonder many South African players prefer to stay home than to move to inferior European leagues such as those of Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavian countries. A Zimbabwean player would thank his gods and sacrifice a bull if a club from those leagues knocks on his door.
Still not satisfied? In Zimbabwe academy graduates or juniors pocket as little as US$100 (R800) a month. In Mzansi, academy graduates are bread winners as they earn R7000 to R8000 a month, which according to the South African Football Players’ Union is far from enough.
The other fact that makes a mockery of the “best league in Africa” saying is that the Zimbabwean fan does not fill the terraces. While in countries like Egypt, big clubs can have an attendance of 70 000, in Zimbabwe it is unheard of for the 60 000 seat National Sports Stadium to have no empty seat in club matches. Even when the two most supported clubs, Dynamos and Highlanders clash a crowd of plus 35 000 is a rarity.
One of the stand-out measures of a good league is its foreign imports. The South African league has players from all over the world, Brazilians included, who are attracted by the irresistible pull of the Rand. Zimbabwe only boasts of a few Zambians and Ghanaians whose football skills are open to question.
Most would state that Dynamos’ runs in the Champions League have not been emulated by filthy rich South African clubs hence our league has the right to brag that it’s among the best in Africa. Better than that of Angola, better than that of Botswana, better than that of Zambia, better than that of Mali, better than that of Senegal.
But the reality is that it is the South African league that contains the most technically gifted players. Watching Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Ajax Cape Town toying with the opposition you would be inclined to agree. The number of players who were hailed as brilliant in Zimbabwe but failed to light the stage in South Africa is embarrassing.
Murape Murape the best player in 2007 went down under and failed massively before coming back to Dynamos to win more plaudits and accolades. Kingston Nkhata, a predatory striker, is struggling to find goals at Free State Stars, but at home he banged them week in week out.
Highlanders Captain, Gilbert Banda has trotted to South Africa many a time for trials without success but the media at home sees him as one of the most complete defenders to emerge in Zimbabwe.
Still want more? I will spare you the details.
All the above players and more are of quality but to shine so brightly at home and to fail so badly just across the Limpopo River raises the suspicion that perhaps they are brilliant because they face mediocre opposition.
It is also embarrassing that the clubs that are seen as the foundation of our football are still far away from being professional. Dynamos and Highlanders the so-called most successful, best supported teams in the land are poor as a church mouse. Every year their best players leave for better paying clubs or threaten to leave.
They struggle to pay salaries prompting players to go on strike. The uniforms they wear are of poor quality. Compare all this with South African football giants and you come away with egg on your face. Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns and Ajax Cape Town are astoundingly rich.  Their players are pampered with hefty salaries and live large.
Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns are sponsored by Nike, Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town by Adidas. Unlike Dynamos and Highlanders who use the same kit through the season, these South African giants have the privilege of throwing away jerseys after use. 
Certainly there is nothing wrong to dancing to our own drumbeat and hailing our league as one of the best in Africa but we should not sweep the dirt that screams to the contrary under the carpet.
Let us swallow the bitter pill and admit that our league is far from being the best and most exciting. A lot will have to be done for us to be viewed among the best and for that to happen huge capital needs to be pumped into football.
Unless and until that happens our league will be the best to us not to Africa.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Chaenda Chikwata


IF there is a football club that is now seen as the undisputable yoyo team of the Zimbabwe football, it is Zimbabwe Saints, a team now notorious for making to-and-fro transitions between the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and Division One.
Since the turn of the millennium Saints have been relegated twice and promoted into the PSL two times, in 2001 they survived with the skin of their teeth after being dumped into play-offs to stay afloat.
Their traditional war cry Chauya Chikwata (the team has arrived), which used to intimidate opponents has a new meaning, it is literally now a welcome note used when Saints descend to Division One and the PSL when Saints make a return.
In a nutshell, Chauya Chikwata paints Saints’ quandary as the perennial yoyo club of soccer in Zimbabwe.
This season promises to be no different as Saints are in the drop zone and risk plummeting to Division One with just a season back into the top flight. Pundits have already unveiled an engraved tombstone and identified the yet-to-be-dug Saints’ grave as they believe that chances of the team avoiding the guillotine are as high as the survival prospects of an ice cube in hell.
If the inevitable happens no one will be accountable but Saints themselves as they have repeatedly shot themselves on the foot through out the season.
First they failed to keep the impressive squad they had surprisingly assembled. Players such as Leo Kurauzvione, Philip Sithole and Tafadzwa Maingire left when financial obligations were not meant. A stronger Saints was weakened from that unpleasant incident on.
But what left a bitter taste on the mouths of Saints’ devotees was the failure by the club to respond to the loud overtures of its former sons, Mthulisi Maphosa and Mtshumayeli Moyo who desired to do a double-prodigal-son-act but were met with indifference by a coldhearted father.
The appointment of club legend Agenta Sawu as assistant coach to Willard Khumalo was meant with anticipation but that expectancy of good things to come quickly evaporated as the two were shown the door. First to go was Sawu, accused of bringing chaos into the dressing. Khumalo was hard on Sawu’s heels after relations turned sour over the club failed to pay him what the contract predetermined.
If the appointed of Sawu and Khumalo had been met with optimism what followed next put the Saints’ fan in dreamland of honour and glory. The legendary Ephraim Chawanda, who was part of the Saints dream team that went through out the 1988 season unbeaten, swiping all in its path, abandoned the Kalahari Desert of Botswana to bring order to the madness.
But what happened next was unexpected, Chawanda has failed to sail clear of the treacherous waters because he was given a ship with a malfunctioning compass. The Saints’ ship is not out of the dangerous waters and high chances are that it will hit an iceberg and sink like the Titanic.
Chawanda should be given a pat on the back because any other coach would have walked from Saints before he was pushed. He would say he is not paid enough and would probably claim that he does not need the hassle. He would walk away with a slur that club’s financial difficulties do not give it the right to tie his hands behind his back.
But Chawanda is not that kind of coach, he is no mercenary, he responded to his club’s SOS and is not about to abandon ship without giving it a go. His return might be in vain, but it has proved one thing – that had he been given more time Saints could be safe from relegation and possibly fighting for the championship.
This is exemplified by club’s impressive run in the top flight’s premier cup tournament, the Mbada Diamond Cup where Chawanda has navigated his ship into the semi-finals at the expense of Highlanders and Kiglon. The only obstacle that stands in their way to the final is Motor Action and if they surmount it they have every chance to drag the US$1 million cup to Division One with them.
If that happens, Chawanda would have proved to himself and the rest of the world that he possesses the qualities most deeply cherished and respected by football pundits; outstanding personal courage and the ability to turn a team of failures into winners.
He will fully deserve the acclaims that greet him and the blaze of decorations that recognise his gallantry. He will no longer be touted as just another coach; he will be in the league of the greatest.        
It will mean that Chawanda had stepped clear of the shadow that had hindered him from turning shrewd tactics into positive results in the fight against relegation.     
In all it will confer another legacy, it will confirm that Chawanda is a man apart, a man of destiny. It will confirm that Chawanda and he alone know best. From then on it would be he who would do the thinking and the deciding. No one else and if the Saints’ executive desire a quick return to the PSL they must shut up and listen.
Chawanda is wise enough to know that in order to win on the field, you have to capture the hearts and minds of supporters, the real owners of the club, whose every action the club must not ignore because doing so would see Saints becoming a permanent member of the Division One family.
Adroit and daring as he can be Chawanda is also wise and headlong. Temperamentally he is not out of place in modern football. He sees as the likes of Rahman Gumbo and Callisto Pasuwa see that that modern coaching is a matter of argument, debate, co-operation and even compromise.
 In a nutshell even if Saints go down with or without the Mbada Diamond Cup, it will be an astute move on their part to retain Chawanda as coach. If they do that they will be no need for them to buy another franchise to return to the PSL.
Better still, they will rid themselves of the unwanted yoyo club tag.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Should Mwanjali shed the Warriors armband?


THE two costly blunders that Warriors’ captain Method Mwanjali committed in Cape Verde were met with mixed reactions; some turned red with outrage, some became sad, while for a few who have been there before it was a case of déjà vu - they easily swallowed the bitter pill because they are used to it.
Mwanjali is considered as one of the best defenders of all time to emerge from this land encompassed by two majestic rivers, the Zambezi and the Limpopo. Who cannot admire the elegance that he has introduced into the national team rearguard, the cool, calm, in-your face defending that turned Mamelodi Sundowns’ head?
The old-heads cannot help but compare his style of play to other Roll Royce-type of Warriors’ defenders who also had the privilege to be captains – Thulani ‘Biya’ Ncube and Norman Mapeza.
But waxing lyrically about Mwanjali’s talent is not the rationale of this piece; it is to question his resolve to remain captain after the Cape Verde shame. He should be applauded for sticking to his guns but there is a lot that goes against that decision.
Those who frown upon the move or lack of it believe that Mwanjali will never fully put behind the ghost of Cape Verde. They fear that each time he takes to the field in a Warriors’ jersey he will be a haunted man and because of that, a shadow of his former self.
To them the national team captain’s armband is now a burden that will weigh heavily on Mwanjali diminishing his skill and pace. If he desires to remain that graceful defender whose play is easy on the eye he must shed the armband and pass it to a Warrior unsoiled.
If Mwanjali has a change of heart and leads the Warriors no further, he will not be alone but will find company in a group of past national team greats who quit the captaincy or threw in the towel altogether.
A few of those greats who turned villain spring to mind:
In 1992 the late Warriors shot stopper, John Sibanda, made a horrendous last-minute goalkeeping error that cost Zimbabwe qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations. Fielding the legendary duo of Peter Ndlovu and Moses Chunga for the first time together, Zimbabwe needed a win against Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and was leading 2-1 until Sibanda, all alone and intent on running down the clock, inadvertently threw the ball in his own net.
The match ended 2-2 and Zaire went through to the finals at the expense of Zimbabwe who would wait for another 12 years to make their maiden appearance at the finals. The former Warriors goalkeeper immediately, though reluctantly, retired into coaching.
In 2006 former Warriors’ captain Peter Ndlovu went to AFCON with the sole intention of exorcising the ghost of AFCON 2004 where the national team failed to qualify to the next round despite an impressive display. But it proved futile as Zimbabwe was soundly beaten by Nigeria and Senegal by 2-0 identical score lines.
They won their last match against Ghana 2-1 and Ndlovu felt that he had let the nation down and that compelled him to quit the international game. Those close to him say Ndlovu retired because goals deserted him throughout that tournament unlike the previous one were he was the leading light.
Just last year, Benjani Mwaruwari decided to do a Peter Ndlovu after the goalless draw against Cape Verde at home at the national sports stadium. Booed throughout the match by the fans that had a love-hate relationship with the former Manchester City striker, Benjani, who presided over the Warriors’ worst run from 2006, felt it was time to walk away from it all.
Benjani, who revealed soon after that match that he was turning his attention to club football, admitted that he was on the departure lounge because he had failed to reproduce his rich club form on a national platform.
But what justifies Mwanjali’s attachment to the armband is that unlike Sibanda, Ndlovu and Benjani he still has age on his side – he is 28. He can unravel that pit in his gut and dare scale heights that other disgraced Warriors dared not attempt again.
The defensive-positional play has not suddenly deserted him and it will be harsh to conclude so after one disastrous match. His display for Sundowns makes sure the jury will remain out for seasons. He has shaken off the Warriors disappointment, the momentary rust is not deep rooted as feared.
Odds are for him that he will not fail to fire up and if that happens strikers will hardly have his measure, even as a right back  where his pace, sure touch and steady nerves make him hard to beat.
The aura of quasi-invincibility that abandoned him in Cape Verde has not followed him to South Africa. He did not look ordinary, a motivating truth that he eagerly acknowledged.
That is enough reason for him to rest assured that the captain’s armband is his to lose. Unless he proves again and soon … in Warriors colours that he can no longer carry the heavy load of leading the team at the highest level, then it will be precise to suggest that he should have passed the button soon after his Cape Verde tribulations and be content with getting his fill captaining Sundowns instead of entertaining the risk of losing the trust of other national team players.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Mthulisi Maphosa and other player misdeeds


THE off-field behaviour of footballers came under the microscope again last Sunday when FC Platinum midfielder and former Warriors international Mthulisi Maphosa handed himself over to the police for allegedly ripping open a Mpopoma man’s stomach following an altercation.
The man, Isaac Mazambane who was rushed to hospital, said trouble started when Maphosa went to Khongo Bar and got red under the neck when an unidentified man mobile-vendor blocked his path as he tried to park his car.
This incensed the defensive midfielder who alighted from his car and slapped the man compelling Mazambane to intervene and Maphosa turned on him and stabbed him on the abdomen.
As expected the media jumped on this incident like a pack of hounds fighting for a meaty bone because of a famous footballer gone haywire. Better still the player turns out for the richest football club in Zimbabwe and the incident makes a-damn-good-read and increases the sale of newspaper copies.
The alleged crime that Maphosa committed is without doubt an outrage and if found guilty he should be punished and the football authorities must come down hard on him for soiling the beautiful image of football.
This is an isolated incident but triggers the mind to go down memory lane, to look into the archives, to recall other players who got into trouble for misdeeds, for doing the unexpected.
Footballers have, since football was born, made and continue making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Serious criminal allegations and unsavoury tales depicting a lurid off-the-field lifestyle have always brought their behaviour into sharp focus.
PSL players routinely get into the news for committing stupid crimes and getting busted. These guys are typically making money, yet they can’t get their act together and just behave like law-abiding citizens. Their behaviour has cost them public humiliation and maybe a short suspension. While many players have proven themselves to be incapable of normal human behaviour, the following list will only include those with actual legal problems off the field.
If Sunday Leisure has left a player you believe deserves to be on the list you can send your comments to From the terraces.
Charles Sibanda
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) match between Chicken Inn and FC Platinum at Luveve Stadium on 27 August will not be remembered for the exciting football that was played and the goals that were scored but misdemeanor of reigning-Soccer-Star-of-the-Year Charles Sibanda.
Instead of putting his boots to play and score for his team, Sibanda decided to momentarily cross the sporting divide to Boxing by assaulting and pouring urine on Highlanders and Warriors legend and now Chicken Inn assistance coach, Adam Ndlovu in juju saga that we will never really know much about.
Sibanda was arrested and whisked away by the police after the match.
Not to be outdone the PSL’s disciplinary panel consisting of Harare lawyer, Don Moyo, Vusa Vuma (lawyer) and Brighton Mudzamiri (a retired referee and serving police officer) fined him $1000 and slapped him with a two match suspension.
Due to Soccer-Star-of-the-Year selection no nonsense rules, Sibanda’s crime rules out of the running of this years player-of-the-year selection.
Proud Zireni
If there is a player whose talent was overshadowed by his penchant for transgressions it is Proud Zireni. The former Under-17, Under-20 and Bantu Rovers defender first got into trouble with the law after he went berserk, assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Tracy Ngwenya and her mother and stoned their family after being dumped.
Zireni went on to assault Sunday Leisure Editor, Delta Ndou who was interviewing his mother by grabbing her by the throat and viciously slamming her against the wall.
Early this year, Zireni strayed into the realm of criminality when he was convicted of stealing a friend’s television and other properties valued at $180.
Zireni was found guilty of disappearing with Patrick Kaunda’s TV, jacket, waist-coat and a stove after being left home alone by Kaunda who had gone clubbing.
The 18-year-old was convicted on his own plea-of-guilty and sentenced to three-months in prison, wholly suspended on condition he restitutes $60.
Gift Lunga Junior
It is a well known but undocumented fact that many footballers smoke the recreational drug, marijuana commonly known as mbanje in Zimbabwe. But one player who was caught red-handed smoking the weed is Highlanders FC’s long serving left back, Gift Lunga.
Thebe as Lunga is affectionately known was picked up by some police officers in civilian clothes at around at 9 am at Glengarry shopping centre in Mzilikazi.
For such a well known celebrity it was embarrassing for the over-the-heel veteran to be seen by his adoring fans being dragged to central police station where he was fined and released.
Lunga also did a Mthulisi Maphosa when he stabbed an unidentified man in Mzilikazi during a brawl. He was fined and released as the wound suffered by the man was not serious.
Chipo Tsodzo
If there is a player who has provided the media with enough garish news to fill a single tabloid publication it is Chipo Tsodzo known by those who have watched him play as Jack Roller. Manchester United Goalie, David de Gea might be the butt of jokes because he stole a doughnut at Tesco Extra but when proximity comes to play his antics pale in comparison to Tsodzo’s sticky fingers which saw the Zimbabwe Saints player stealing a beer can at Metropolis Pub and Grill.
The sticky-fingered former nomadic player also got into trouble when a reveler at a night spot accused Tsodzo of stealing his mobile phone, charges that Tsodzo vehemently denied.
Tsodzo’s fingers, if all the allegations are to be believed have a life of their own as they are said to have gone from sticky to patting  after a woman filed a complaint to the police that the player had indecently assaulted her at the Ibumba Arts Festival by forcibly touching her in the wrong places.
Tonderai Ndiraya
Zimbabwe football has just fallen in love with diamonds after diamond mining giant; Mbada Diamond launched a $1 million PSL 16-team-knockout tournament. But former Dynamos midfielder, Tonderai Ndiraya found the value of diamond way back in 2007 before football did.
He was arrested in Harare's Avenues area while trying to sell 16 diamonds he had brought from Mutare.
The Dynamos assistant coach, Ndiraya who was still kicking the ball at 30 for Dembare pleaded guilty to illegally possessing the diamonds, saying he had been given them by his uncle at Chakohwa in Manicaland and he intended to sell them in Harare.
Peter Ndlovu
The football world will always fondly remember Peter Ndlovu for the goals he scored for the national team, Highlanders, Coventry City, Sheffield United, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Mamelodi Sundowns 
But it also will not easily forget his off-field exploits that landed him in trouble many times. A case-in-point is when he handed himself to the police for allegedly assaulting his then pregnant girlfriend,  Pinky Duda before arming himself with a car jack which he used to smash windows of his posh townhouse in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg.
Duda said in her statement that the two had fought because a woman claiming to be Ndlovu’s girlfriend was constantly phoning him, although he had insisted their relationship was over.
Ndlovu appeared in the Hillbrow magistrates’ court, where Duda withdrew the case. She told prosecutors that she had decided to drop the charges after a meeting between their families.
This is not the first time Ndlovu has been into women troubles as a string of women have lined up to claim maintenance from him. In 2004 a magistrate ordered him to pay R1900 a month in maintenance after he fathered a child to Alice Thabulo.
In February last year Ntswaki Khathong claimed she miscarried Ndlovu’s baby after discovering that he was married to singer Sharon Dee.
The singer demanded R36000 a month from him, R13000 for each of their two children and R10000 for herself.
Nyasha Chazika
In 2002 former Dynamos and Supersport United defender Nyasha Chazika was in the crosshairs of the law when he was accused of statutory raping and impregnating a 15-year-old girl from Mbare high-density suburb.
The scandal became national news as Chazika was the leading light of Moses Chunga’s kidz-net project at Dynamos that unearthed promising young talents that included Norman Maroto, Samson Choruwa and Eddie Mashiri.
Chazika was acquitted of the charges as the as the magistrate concluded that the roving defender was deceived and under the impression that the girl was above 16. The magistrate said though the girl’s birth certificate indicated that she was 15 she looked much older.















Thursday, 13 October 2011

PSL a four horse race


TWO-horse race? Two-horse race my foot!
Five league matches ago, sports writers up and down the Great Dyke were putting the finishing touches on print about the decline of Highlanders and Dynamos, preparing for the worst as the Castle Lager sponsored Premier Soccer League (PSL) faced up to the prospect of having a championship race devoid of the two biggest clubs in the land.
Then Dynamos won five matches on the trot. Better still FC Platinum and Motor Action the then run-away leaders conspired to eke out draws after draws, bringing Dynamos back into the picture and throwing a lifeline to dark horses – Highlanders.
Last weekend, many celebrated Motor Actions lose to Caps United, but few cheered Dynamos’ victory over Monomotapa, a victory that thrust them to second position, a point behind FC Platinum and a point ahead of Motor Action.
Highlanders lost to Black Mambas but the gloom that engulfed the Highlanders’ camp had a tinge of hope, as Bosso are a surmountable eight points behind. A difficult, but possible venture that hinges on the unlikely collapse of the leading three.
With six games to go, FC Platinum’s lead over Dynamos has been cut to one, yet to focus on just that would be to miss the bigger picture as Motor Action and Highlanders still have a shout.
It is a four horse race and if you do the math it will confirm that.
FC Platinum are bullish and no one can blame them because, despite being a season into the topflight, they have a team of galacticos and arguably the best coach (Rahman Gumbo) in the land.
But there is a sense that the tide is turning against FC Platinum, who could have been out of sight had they kept their cool. Charles Sibanda as bulked under pressure and he overtly exhibited this when he assaulted and poured urine on Adam Ndlovu the assistant coach of Chicken Inn. The team is made up of star players with egos and a team of personalities usually crumbles when egos get in the way. 
On FC Platinum being a real team the jury is still out as most of their wins have been achieved through brilliant individual performances. Whenever they have faced a compact club they have come out second best, the best they have done is draw.
But if there is a team that is really in dreamland it is Dynamos and no one can blame them for doing that after their recent run. The team of the moment, Dynamos have collected 15 points in the last five games and they have done that impressively and only after Callisto Pasuwa replaced the wacky Lloyd Mutasa. 
Their strike-force, which was blunt beyond belief and was responsible for most of their failures, has found an edge with Cuthbert Malajila who recently returned from the Libya nightmare bringing out the best in Roderick Mutuma. But their strongest department is the defense well marshaled by the outstanding shot-stopper Washington Arubi.
Considering the form they are in and the restiveness of their usually turbulent board, the obstacle that stands in their way are the difficult matches they have to overcome against Motor Action, FC Platinum and Highlanders. Teams that desire what Dynamos desires. If they come out unscathed in those matches the league championship is good as theirs.
The PSL was ready to engrave the name Motor Action on the league championship cup not long ago but had to put back the engraving pen after Motor Action climbed two places down the log to position three.
Allen Gahadzikwa’s energy, goals and creativity are essential to Motor Action’s bid to retain the title, but it is also true that theirs is a more compact and disciplined squad that relies more on teamwork than those of FC Platinum, Dynamos and Highlanders.
Coach Joey Antipas has built a team that will challenge for the title seasons to come, ruling out such a team because it has momentarily stumbled could be suicide.
Unlike FC Platinum, Dynamos and Motor Action, Highlanders do not have control of their own destiny because even in they win all their remaining games they might not be champions.
If Antipas feels that Motor Action have got it bad, he would not need to look far to see that Highlanders have got it even worse. Coach Mkhuphali ‘Mr Cooper’ Masuku is reported to have lost the support and respect of his assistant Mark Mathe who is said to be questioning Mr Cooper’s tactics.
Mathe is alleged to have strained the working relationship further by countering Mr Cooper’s instructions during matches – with such a coaching department opponents need not train when they prepare to face Highlanders.
Despite being fourth on the log it has not been an entirely happy season for Mr Cooper. The Highlanders coach has been taunted throughout the season with a section of Bosso fans deriding him and questioning his reign. Working in such a hostile environment would rattle any coach and Mr Cooper is no exception.
But if you are a coach you have to adapt and thrive even in the most hostile of conditions, Mr Cooper’s failure is a sign that he is not suitable to manage Highlanders. Hostile environment aside some of his match altering decisions have gone against Highlanders.
Despite promising early signs, the former Warriors player has failed to back his appointment as permanent coach with results when it mattered. It will take more than a winning run in the last six games to rebuild Mr Cooper’s tattered reputation.
Highlanders still have a chance to win the league but at Bosso expectations have dimmed and fans look forward to the day he will be fired. For most Mr Cooper’s stay has turned into a crisis, the day he is fired the catastrophe that Highlanders are in might end. Such an argument is made with Dynamos in mind, Dynamos fired the infective Mutasa and his replacement, Pasuwa has been on the roll and Dynamos have been the winner.
From the time he was appointed critics believed be was riding on Mohammed Fathi’s momentum and the scenario now suggests that they were right. It looks as if his adventure with Highlanders came to an end the moment it started.
If Highlanders are to maintain the chance to win the league they should part ways with their incapable and uninspiring coach.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The vanity of Moses Chunga

In 2006 and 2007 Moses Chunga proved to himself and the rest of the world at large that he possessed the qualities most deeply cherished and respected by football pundits; outstanding personal courage and the ability to lead players out of discomfort and danger when he saved Dynamos and Caps United from the unforgiving jaws of relegation.      
He fully deserved the acclaims that greeted him and the blaze of decorations that recognised his gallantry. He was no longer touted as a promising coach; he was now in the league of the greatest.      
It meant that Chunga had stepped clear of the shadow that had always hindered him from turning shrewd tactics into positive results.     
In all it was a fateful legacy, it confirmed in Chunga’s mind that he was a man apart, a man of destiny. It bolstered his vanity; displayed in his obsession with self-praise – once claimed in a local paper that people hate him because he is a “yardstick for local coaches”.      
It confirmed in Chunga that he and often he alone knew best. It was he who would do the thinking and the deciding. No one else but since Dynamos and Caps United are clubs that do not allow their coaches to have a free, unsupervised reign Chunga left in a huff.         
After leaving Caps United Chunga 2007 revealed that he had quit coaching at club level and would only return to the job if he was offered an assignment with national football teams. 
 “I will not be involved in coaching clubs. I have just decided to retire because it’s just frustrating,” Chunga said then letting slip that he was now going to concentrate on grass root coaching.   
He did not stay away too long, adjusting himself to the role of coach of Lengthens in 2008 – the reason for his return? Apparently Ghanaian coach Ben Kouffie convinced him to rethink his decision. He chose to bounce back into coaching at Lengthens because he felt that the club would suit his demands: “Just like Jose Mourinho you need good eggs to make good omelette. So we will shop around for a few quality strikers.”       
Such sentiments made people believe that Chunga was finally home surprise in 2009 Chunga found himself at Gunners, a club that he had co-founded.  
At Gunners Bambo had more powers and influence than at any other club he had previously coached. And to his credit he did allow that to get to his head, with an occasional wobble he toed the line.        
The task suited him and he did it well culminating in him wrestling the league championship from Dynamos.    
While Elvis Chiweshe the Dynamos coach had to endure a frustrating season that had promised much but yielded little, Chunga fizzed to the top.
He was going to lead Gunners to the holy grail of the African Champions league. But Chunga being Chunga had a surprise for us, he quit the post without giving a reason and set up base at Shooting Stars, a club that he coached before.   
Gunners did well without him making history by being the first club in Zimbabwe to beat Egyptian giants Al Ahly 1-0 at Rufaro through a Norman Maroto strike. Unfortunately they failed to finish the job in Egypt as Al Ahly romped to a 2-0 victory, people believe that the score line would have been different had Chunga stayed but we will never know.    
Always emotional and often melodramatic throughout his career, Chunga has tended to swing between extremes of despair paraded in his almost hysterical demands as the Warriors assistant coach for the ZIFA leadership to quit live on TV and extremes of elation displayed in the theatrical celebrations of winning the championship after beating Dynamos 2-0.                                                      
That 2005 TV outburst did not go down well with the Rafik Khan leadership, which quickly moved to fire Chunga for lambasting it. Where ever Chunga has gone he has always left in a cloud of controversy. 
Witness his recent ungraceful departure from Caps United after a two-year love-hate relationship with Makepekepe fans. As he walked out the door he accused Twine Phiri, the club president of instigating his resignation.
“Twine Phiri never wanted me because I am a Dynamos son,” said Chunga with the taste of sour grapes still strong in his mouth.
He even had the nerve, in fact the stupidity to trigger his fall to grass from grace by calling Caps United fans “baboons” for giving him more jeers than cheers during his flirtation with the green side of the capital.
He was not wise enough to know that in order to win on the field and in the boardroom you had to capture the hearts and minds of supporters, the real owners of the club, whose every action the club could not ignore because doing so would have spelled disaster.
Adroit and daring as he can be Chunga is also headlong and precipitate. Temperamentally he is out of place in modern football. He does not see as the likes of Sunday Chidzambwa, Norman Mapeza, Charles Mhlauri and Rahman Gumbo see that modern coaching is a matter of argument, debate, co-operation and even compromise.                                                                                                                                     
In a nutshell, Chunga lacks the necessary humility to be more than just a good coach. Yes he launched the careers of the likes of Eddie Mashiri and Norman Maroto through his kids net project, saved Dynamos and Caps United from relegation before winning the league with Gunners, but his pride will always see him falling short of being out of this world.                      
Over the years the local media has been frank at times sympathetic to Chunga. But their analysis of Chunga’s coaching credentials so far hardly justifies the conclusion that he is a coaching genius second only to Chidzambwa. 
Surely if Zimbabwe coaching parallels are to be pursued there is less in common between Chunga and Chidzambwa. Chunga strives for greatness but because of his vanity he will always fall short of it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The rebirth of short cat

THE words teenage sensation are thrown around far too often in football these days, but if there is a player who really can be that good and is already exhibiting signs of being the best thing since sliced bread then it’s Pride Zendera.
The Cat as he is known has been on the radar of all the top clubs for a while now even though he is still just 18. Much of the hype surrounding him started as early as age 16 as he progressed through the ranks to become the first choice goalkeeper at Sparrows Football Club in Bulawayo.
He did not stay long there as he was snapped under the noses of local top flight clubs by Moneni Pirates of Swaziland and ever since then he has never looked back as he his name is mentioned in the same breath as Sandile Ginidza, the Swazi National team goalie.
In his debut season he helped Moneni Pirates to survive relegation by putting up an unbelievable rearguard action that even Zimbabwe’s number one goalkeeper Washington Arubi could have been proud of.
Swaziland’s only two newspapers, the Times of Swaziland and the Swazi Observer have compared him to two of Zimbabwe’s greatest shot stoppers, Japheth ‘short cat’ Muparutsa and Bruce ‘Jungle man’ Grobbeller.
Can he follow the path the these greats of the Zimbabwean game, or is he destined to walk in the footsteps of Tapuwa Kapini and Energy Murambadoro, two goalkeepers who promised enough but only did much to be counted as good enough to feature for the Warriors.
“I am the first choice at Pirates and it only took me three games to become the first choice and at the time of my debut I was just 17. The media thought I was too young but my coaches believed in me and soon after that everyone was praising me after we won with me being voted man of the match.
“I am not good by chance but because I have the talent and you can not take away that, I am going to be counted in the league of Bruce and Japheth before I remove my gloves or I am going to die trying,” said Pride.
The goalkeepers’ production line in Zimbabwe has always produced good goalkeepers, who have gone on to do well for themselves, but few have been compared to the short cat. Pride’s height deficiency inevitably invites comparisons with Muparutsa.
And Pride didn’t help matters as kept three clean sheets in a row in his first three games with astounding saves that saw sports writers in Swaziland running into the English language archives in search of superlatives to describe what they had just witnessed.
The cat has been quick to dispel the talk that he is the new Muparutsa. Though he retains similarities with the Dynamos great, just like Muparutsa is lack of height, a disadvantage for many goalkeepers’, is his greatest asset as he makes up for it with unmatchable reflexes and a jump that takes him to the birds.
So far so good, yet many skeptics will refer to many promising players whose flickering flame was extinguished before it turned into an inferno. That said the cat is a better player. As the Swazi MTN league takes a Christmas break, Pride has kept eight clean sheets and has only conceded four goals in 12 games, making giant strides from the previous season where he only managed seven clean sheets out of 20 games.
Some journalists in Swaziland have even gone on to say that Pride is the best goalkeeper in the Swazi MTN league, although flanked by much more experienced players. It is plainly clear that strikers have to think twice when they face him, his agility, flexibility and annoying confidence matched with his handling ability are most of the time too much for the opposing teams.
He has the same reflexes a certain Tapuwa Kapini had at that age but with a better end product.
It is always important not to get too carried away with young players or to expect too much, it’s true he has done well in Swaziland, which is not the same standard as the Zimbabwean and South African Leagues, but he can only play the teams that are put in front of him.
He has already greatly impressed in his stint in foreign lands thus far. Young Zimbabwean players generally create more hype than others in foreign leagues due to the strength of the Zimbabwean league and its ability to produce great players and the danger is that they might get carried away, but it seems that Pride has his feet firmly grounded. He has a strict self imposed curfew; he also remains an avid Christian and does not drink. He is very much a shy young man and prefers to do his talking on the pitch, a breath of fresh air in an age where controversy seems to follow young footballers around.
It is not a question of if he leaves Pirates but when, it has transpired recently that he will most likely leave for the next two as he wants to first become a complete goalkeeper another good sign about the temperament of the boy. It is reported that he snubbed a move to Mbabane Highlanders as he believed that would undermine his rapid development.
Not only did he turn down Highlanders but the Swazi National team as former coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba tried his patriotism by trying to talk him to play for Swaziland.
The only blight in Pride’s football journey is that he has failed to represent Zimbabwe in the under 20 and 23 squads and that is not because he is not good enough but because the Young Warriors selectors are wearing blinkers that prevent them from looking beyond the borders.
“All most all the players who have been selected to play for the under 23 were my team mates in the under 17 national team. I was the first choice goalkeeper then but I failed to feature for the team because I did not have proper travelling documents.
“I believe I am good enough to play for the under 23, I am not the best goalkeeper in Swaziland by mistake but because of my hard work and ability. I could have been the Swaziland National first team goalkeeper but I turned the offer down because I want to play for my country and  I am prepared to be a last minute inclusion in under 23 national team that has been called into camp,” said the confident cat.
He is still very slight and needs to bulk up to become a top player but with his raw attributes, he could be moulded into a superstar.
There is no doubt that he is currently the most exciting young player in Swaziland but he is not that publicised because he does not score goals like Knowledge Musona – that is the ugly side of football only goal scorers are glorified.
But there is no doubt that whichever league and club is able to lure him will have a player who, if managed correctly, will eventually become one of the best players in the world and obviously the best thing since sliced bread.

Bosso, Dembare on the brink of extinction

THREE seasons have passed since the big clubs won the league championship, and if the moving and shaking of players in the transfer market is anything to go by, expect another long and cold lean spell for the country’s two biggest football clubs.
For the past three years, three sets of fans have turned out to celebrate championship glory, except they were not Dynamos or Highlanders supporters but Monomotapa, Gunners and Motor Action followers.
Dembare and Bosso, clubs who had acquired the habit of being serial winners of the league, which they took turns to be top dog of, are becoming increasingly worn down due to a championship drought that has bred all sorts of pent up frustrations.
Frustrations that have more to do with empty coffers than anything else and empty coffers that have seen the clubs failing to pay players, players who were then forced to suffer the ignominy of a broke festive season with their families putting on semi-permanent frowns of disapproval.
The failure to fulfill promises made by Dynamos and Highlanders and the emergence of teams with enough money in the bank has triggered an exodus at the two clubs that has pushed them to the edge of doom, to the brink of extinction as the teams have been left with skeleton playing personnel.
For years Highlanders and Dynamos have been using their popularity to out muscle, out play and out bid middle tier teams, but the outlook at the moment is not promising as players want out. In plain terms all the players who have left and are threatening to leave have probably had to fight the affinity that attracted them to the teams in the first place. They are not leaving because they have sold their souls to the devil but because teams such as Black Mambas, Mimosa, and Chicken Inn and of course Hwange and Caps United have acquired the ability to pay astronomical salaries. It is salaries such as the $1000 that Mimosa has laid on the table that are motivating the players to emigrate, not the ambitions of the clubs.
In today’s money driven sport, motivation is the force that drives players on and creates a sense of loyalty that makes them give their all to the club that cares about their welfare as much as it cares about silverware.
But it seems Dynamos and Highlanders still miss the point, they still live in a bygone era where players slaved for a wrist watch and a pat on the back. They still think that their proud history will carry them through another day. They are out of touch with reality and if they are not careful they will wake up one day in the league of average if not mediocre teams.
In a show of unshakable stubbornness and rudeness the two old ladies of Zimbabwean football will point out that there have been here before with Sporting Lions and Amazulu, two clubs that went down the toilet bowl with their monies. Money can not buy success they argued yesterday, they do so today and they will scream themselves hoarse with the same rhetoric tomorrow.
But that will not take away the fact that the football landscape is changing and that as much as money can not buy success it is one of the key components needed to achieve greatness.
Of course to get the best out of a collection of individuals is a complex cocktail that involves more than their individual motivation. There needs to be a sense of unity, a joint operation meant to transcend the club from the class of mediocrity to the league of achievers and ultimately over achievers.
Dynamos and Highlanders have that with the exception of the money. Their success was a product of understanding of how to harness individual motivation and skill to a strong and enduring collective effort, backed up by a brilliant tactical football family.
But that football family has failed to adapt with the changing times, they have chosen to remain in the past but something important left. The fans no longer recognise their most favoured clubs anymore.
The modern day clubs known as Dynamos and Highlanders do not have the means and the ambition to remain empires of the game. What has happened over the last few weeks demonstrates how the two are unaccustomed to dealing with clubs with serious money and are finding it difficult to acclimatise to the changing environment.
They have opted for the easiest reaction, accusing other clubs of poaching their players, but what did they do to make the players stay - nothing. Their actions in the 2010 season were a demonstration of how to turn champs to chumps. Players were not given their signing on fees and their salaries came in batches. Players who choose to stay in such clubs after being treated like nothing need to have their heads examined.
Those players who have decided to leave should not be hanged because they did not do so at their own volition, they were pushed out by a bunch of executive men in suits who seem to have forgotten that footballers are people too.
When these players signed contracts last year they reckoned that they and the clubs were committed to each other for richer for poor and for better for worse but it seems there was more of the poor and worse than the riches and the better.
In such a marriage institution even the most faithful and loyal wife would run for the hills given the least of opportunities.
Yes playing Dynamos or Highlanders is an honour and a personal achievement for players, but in this world where money talks, they are painfully aware that after the cheers and the standing ovations from the terraces have died down, they have to take something tangible home.
For players to stay, maybe it’s about time Dynamos and Highlanders sale their souls to the highest bidders and discard the “community team identity”. They should stop being yesterday’s teams and become tomorrow’s like others.
We are not saying that they should be out rightly sold to some spoiled rich buggers with fat pockets, but they should have a man in charge like Motor Action do with Eric Rosen and Caps United do with Twine Phiri. Or better still sell shares like Real Madrid and Manchester United – the richest clubs in the world.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this, Bosso and Dembare cannot pretend that it is their self-reliance that keeps them among the best. Their balance sheet is the fans that always pay to watch them play. But even the fans are now not that committed to the cause because they are frustrated by the happenings at their favourite clubs. At one time Highlanders made a paltry $1000 from gate takings, shared by the players who each took home $50.
The corporate sponsors (Savanna Tobacco) have also left because their association with the two giants was not yielding the desired results, largely because of the off field drama that characterised the two’s season. What a circus indeed.
The fans and the executives of the teams like to pretend otherwise, but Dynamos and Highlanders should be run along business lines. The troubling player exodus might make them think again about being “community teams”.
At the moment they remain the people’s teams, poor like the majority, clogged with never ending problems and deeply flawed. They might think highly of themselves, but if comparisons were made, they would be nothing different between the two clubs and social teams.
At least social teams do not pretend to be sitting on lofty chairs, frowning at the world below them with disdain.