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.