Saturday, 7 July 2012

DYNAMOS PLAYED FOR BY GENIUSES RUN BY NOBODY


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
happened.”
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.

THE DAY HIGHLANDERS FANS LOST THEIR BOTTLE



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.
By STANFORD CHIWANGA
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.
Ends


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.
By STANFORD CHIWANGA
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.
Ends

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Flair play: Castle Lager Premier League Preview Part 1

Flair play: Castle Lager Premier League Preview Part 1:
Castle Lager Premier League Preview Part 1
Stanford Chiwanga
AFTER four months in the wilderness of boredom caused by the absence of top flight quality football the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) kicked off two weeks ago with promise of a much more riveting season compared to 2011 season.
Last year, the league race went right down to the wire and was won by Dynamos with mega bucks debutants FC Platinum trailing not by any points but on goal difference. Highlanders, again, proved to be a disappointment as they failed to live up to their stellar reputation as they wound up 7th on the log.
Caps United also didn’t fail to disappoint as lived up to their well-deserved tag of end-of-season chokers as they finished on 6th position after a promising start. Motor Action meekly surrendered the title to Dynamos as they ended up third, a distant seven points behind Dynamos. The most organised team of 2011, Hwange anchored the top four – this was not a disappointing finish, they ended where they wanted and deserved to be.
Judging from the pre-season preparations, the learned lessons from last year and the player recruitment by clubs, the 2012 season will be a mania of football.
Sunday Leisure Sports takes the opportunity to look at the top four teams that are likely to take football fans and neutrals to the seventh heaven.
Dynamos
Prediction: Champions
The Glamour Boys have remained unfazed for time immemorial, winning trophies after trophies at will and sometimes with utter disdain. Dynamos have never been made to bother about what other clubs are doing. It is that attitude that saw them win the league last year when no one gave them a prayer.
Zimbabwe’s most cherished club have won 18 domestic titles to become the undisputed most successful team in the land and not many would dare to write off Coach Callisto Pasuwa and company for the upcoming season.
The bulk of the team they had last season has been retained with only Archford Gutu leaving for Sweden and Cuthbert Malajila joining Maritzburg United down south. This means unlike previous seasons, the 2012 season will not be a transition period for the champions. There will be no need to nurture the Dynamos’ spirit, it’s already there.
The addition of Takesure Chinyama who already has three goals in official competition (one in the Charity Shield and two in the Champions’ League), to compliment Roderick Mutuma, means that the Dynamos arsenal will be very destructive.
Coupled with their mean defense of George Magariro and Guthrie Jokinyu which conceded only 15 goals last season and a midfield led by Denver Mukamba and Tawanda Muparati it is difficult not to go for Dynamos. 
FC Platinum
Prediction: Position 2
Given the aspirations and determination surrounding Mandava Stadium under the immaculate guidance of Rahman Gumbo, FC Platinum, are among the bookmakers’ favourite for the Premier League title. Last year they allowed Dynamos to erode their seemingly unassailable 10 point lead to beat them to the league championship as their nerves of tissue paper failed to match Dynamos’ nerves of steel.
But that was forgiven, last season was Platinum’s first dance with the topflight, a mis-step was likely, in fact it was expected. But still the fallout was extraordinary. They dropped points amateurishly, reopened the title race tentatively and then lost it at home when Daniel Vheremu scored an own goal against Dynamos.
Platinum’s’ capitulation was a product of a tension and frustration that, if understandable, hardly helped. The talking point of last season was about Dynamos’ surprising comeback. But it was equally about how Platinum lost it, surprisingly easily. The striking impotence that was preceded by impressive victories was glaringly obvious.
However this season that will not happen, at least not according to Gumbo. All players he viewed as liabilities have been shipped out. New players tasked with delivering the silverware have been bought with no expense spared. Gilbert Banda, Allan Gahadzikwa, Hardlife Mavundi and Qadr Amini are a few of the recruits that Gumbo roped in. 
Last year they lost it more than Dynamos won it. Gumbo is a wily coach to allow another slip-up to happen. Expect a ruthless, no nonsense Platinum this season, but when the sense of tension and pressure grows will they be able to withstand it?
Caps United
Prediction: Position 3   
Heartbreak and frustration are now typical description of a Caps United league campaign. For seasons now they have been promising a title challenge, only for them to fall flat on their face.
Makepekepe fans have reason to be optimistic; their team has signed good players including Darryl Nyandoro, Christopher Semakwere, Conrad Whitby and Rahman Kutsanzira. But they also reserve the right to be depressed, season after season Caps assemble the most talented outfit but fail to use it.
They still have Clive Kawinga, Tapiwa Kumbuyani, Douglas Walaza, Pride Tafirenyika David Sengu and Marvel Samaneka. Show me a team with such a galaxy of talents? You can’t.
But under new Irish coach, Sean Connor, Caps United have found their old optimism going into the start of the 2012 season. The new season is full of expectations as Connor is determined to return Caps to the glory days of old.
With a new coach and new players, expectations are understandably high, yet a top four finish is the realistic chance that the Green Machine can entertain as the season progresses. Winning the Championship is asking too much from a side that lacks consistency but with such abundance of attacking talent on show, Caps are favourites to return into the top four.
But FC Platinum and Dynamos will prove to be too strong for them. Number three on the log is the best that they can achieve.
Highlanders
Prediction: Position 4
Kelvin Kaindu the new Bosso coach is set to play a pivotal role in returning the winning mentality and discipline to a side that once possessed an aura of invincibility. The former Highlanders player means business by setting his future strategy for a club that struggled to convince last year.
Mkhupali Masuku faded away last season due to a series of questionable team selections and tactics. Under Kaindu, expect to see a rejuvenated Bosso in full flow. Given the young nature of the new coach and the simple fact that he is familiar with Highlanders having played for the progress report is already satisfactory as far as the pre-season is concerned.
This is a club that always looks forward, no wonder it has promoted some of its promising players to the first team. Midfielders Knox Mutizwa, Arnold Ndiweni and Munyaradzi Tongai, strikers Bobby Nkomo, Mgcini Sibanda, Ryan Howes, Ozias Zibande, Rightback Lewis Ncube, Leftbacks Honest Moyo, Status Nsingo and goalkeeper, Ashley Katsande have benefited from the club’s traditional policy of promoting young players.
But in looking forward, this is a club that does not forget that the present is as much as important as the future. The needs of today have seen Highlanders snatching Mthulisi Maphosa, Bhekimpilo Ncube, Beavan Chikaka, Milton Ncube, Simba Mambare and Atlast Musasa.
The coming in of such talent and the retaining of the core of last season’s team means Highlanders might just start dreaming a reality once again.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Musona: Time to show the Germans what you made of


Stanford Chiwanga
FROM the moment Knowledge Musona burst into football’s radar in Kaizer Chiefs colours, he had the world at his feet.
Zimbabwe’s dominant creative striker delivered enough goals and assists to become not only the most gifted player in South Africa’s Premier League but the best player – better than Katlego Mphela, better than Sifiso Vilakazi, better than Anthony Laffour. 
There were fewer more satisfying sights, even to a neutral, than watching Musona putting goals, many of them spectacular in front of an enthralled South African crowd. Or watching him bob and weave past innumerable Orlando Pirates defenders before drilling into the net.
It was not surprising that Europe came calling, with Glasgow Celtic of Scotland and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim of Germany emerging as the favourites to sign the revered striker.
He chose the Germans.
Many expected him to unleash a reign of terror on defenders in Germany like he did in South Africa but those expectations have been squashed. Musona has been reduced to a squad player, a back up, waiting for a suspension or injury to one of Hoffenheim’s star forwards to get a rare opportunity to make an impact.
He has been given little time to impress as he has been used as a substitute in the last 15 minutes in almost every match. He only started one match in October last year in the first round of the DFB Pokal Cup competition (German Cup) against fellow Bundesliga outfit Cologne and scored the winning goal as his team emerged 2-1 victors.
After that game, Musona went back to being a pit-part-player, a clear sign that he has not won over the coaching staff at Hoffenheim, who prefer to use the twin attack of former Liverpool striker Ryan Babel and Nigeria’s Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke.
Certainly, there have been a few bright spots here and there – assists and productive trickery on the ball in the Bundesliga.
Yet watching the smiling assassin in Hoffenheim colours over these last few months has been hard not to feel as if the sparkling form he displayed last season for Kaizer Chiefs has largely deserted him. 
It’s hard to get your head around the idea that this is the same Musona who was the spearhead of last year’s insurmountable Chiefs’ attack. That Musona’s best years are ahead of him is a fact that few would dispute and that he might need to leave Hoffenheim to rediscover his club form is a suggestion that many would agree on.
But Musona is not a coward, he knows that in Germany he has a lot to prove, that he needs to establish himself as the lynchpin and their always dependable trump card when the chips are down. Those who have seen him in form obviously hold his class and technical abilities in awe but alas, he has not been afforded the opportunity to show the Germans what he is all about.
It is not difficult to imagine why his morale is in the doldrums right now. The entire German adventure has become a nightmare and he must have wished his South African stint was not ended so hastily.
For the reason of being forced to adjust to a squad player, the sharpness and velocity in attack that had set him apart from his peers appears to be waning. This, coupled with a lack of confidence in front of goal, has marred his spell in a Hoffenheim jersey, and in the eyes of casual observers may damage the reputation that he cultivated at Kaizer Chiefs.
The striker’s exploits for Kaizer Chiefs seem a lifetime ago, and it was that prolific impact that attracted Hoffenheim. In stark reality; the pace, technique and instinct of Musona that earned him immediate admiration has been lost in translation.
Despite playing second fiddle to the solidification of Babel as Hoffenheim’s supreme, being outscored by Obasi and ultimately reduced to a bench warmer, Musona’s rise from Black Aces Academy is worthy of revere.
The striker has enjoyed his fair share of trials, tribulations and triumphs in his short career – yes short career – lest you forget Musona is just 21-years-old.  Despite his own despair, one that clearly frustrates him as he struggles to re-discover that yard of pace after an injury induced layoff, the team he plays for offers contentment to a player who ultimately sacrificed personal glory at Kaizer Chiefs for the satisfaction being turned into a complete player by the side that produced Demba Ba.
Musona might have traded being king of FNB Stadium to be a cog in the Hoffenheim machine but that does not mean that is all he will be.
Yes, frustration and negativity have far outweighed the rare moments of inspiration for the ex-Kaizer Chiefs idol. It is wise not to judge Musona by his unsettled first season that is close to a climax anyway, Musona will enter a vital stage of his career next season where he must re-discover his form.
Next season Musona will not need reminding that he must shape-up or ship-out. He should not require further invitation. He will start from the start and will be part of the 2-12-2013 season preparations – in that period he must seize the moment and become un-droppable to save his club career.
A debut season as Hoffenheim’s third striker is excusable but next season is the opportune time for Musona to fulfill that old football proverb that form is temporary and class is permanent.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

New look Warriors: Time for redemption


THE sight of jubilant Zambian players lifting the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Sunday night was greeted with joy by its neighbours, Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa.
But for us, Zimbabwe, the celebrations had a tinge of melancholy because we knew that it could have been us up there on the podium. The Zambia squad that had been crowned Kings of Africa was the same Zambia that we had beaten twice last year.
Man by man we were superior; their captain Chris Katongo cannot even untie Knowledge Musona’s sandals. What is it that Zambia have that we don’t – organisation.
Unlike us they had no match fixing scandal to grapple with, unlike us their players are not traitors. When they put on that jersey they sweat blood for national pride. Unlike us their Football Association does not depend on a rescue package from its President, Kalusha Bwalya like we depend on Cuthbert Dube.
While we cry for our beloved Warriors after 82 players were suspended for throwing matches for thirty pieces of silver, Zambia has given its players $US60 000 each for throwing their lives on the line to deny the Didier Drogba led Ivory Coast army a dance with glory.
It is no wonder Zambian players are the equivalent of soldiers in their native land; this is exemplified by Katongo who was promoted to Warrant Officer Class One by President Michael Sata and midfielder Nathan Sinkala from Corporal to Sergeant following his exploits in midfield.
While we are busy falling down the FIFA world and Africa rankings because of our stupidity – Zimbabwe is now number 99 in the world and 23 in African – Zambia who do not boast the talent we have are now 43rd best national team in the world and the fourth in Africa. 
The trouble is that the one good thing that the Asiagate investigation did for Zimbabwe, albeit belatedly, was to remove the bad apples that had turned the national team into a bunch of underachievers. ZIFA realised that there was something amiss about the performance of the team and the subsequent suspension of the culprits has opened the way for untainted Warriors to restore the battered pride of the nation.
Rahman Gumbo and his assistant David Mandigora have accepted the interim posts of Warriors’ coaches on a wave of goodwill after Norman Mapeza and Joey Antipas were asked to step aside until the conclusion and passing of judgment of the Asiagate scandal.  Their selection is flecked with approval, though it includes players who are almost over the hill.
Esrom Nyandoro has been recalled after a long sabbatical despite the well documented fact that he is no longer an automatic selection in the Mamelodi Sundowns first eleven. If critics are to be believed, Nyandoro is not quite convincing anymore and he is no longer able to cope with the pace and that is his undoing. He now comes up short against teams that play direct football.
His cataclysmic capitulation is said to be so bad that it almost defies logic, but Gumbo still sees a Warrior in him, so the safest thing to do is to keep the jury out and pass judgment after the Burundi match. In football a second bite of the cherry is now fashionable – Paul Scholes has been a beacon of light for Manchester United though he is 37-years-old. Nyandoro has the potential to justify his selection, he still retains that marvelous comfort on the ball, the coolness, the calmness and the collected attitude is forever imbedded in his DNA.  
Nyandoro was, and, if he finds that inner man, still is that perfect national team midfield hybrid. He has the willpower to recover that bravery in the tackle, the eye for goals, and the defense splitting pass that made him for the national team what Yaya Toure is to Ivory Coast and Manchester City.
Dickson Choto of Legia Warsaw also makes a return from the wilderness after being ignored by Mapeza. After the emergence of Lincoln Zvasiya, (who is illegible because of Asiagate), Choto’s home coming feels like a throwback to a bygone era. But do we have a choice with Thomas Sweswe and Method Mwanjali suspended?
But from another viewpoint, Choto should never have been away, every time he was called upon he never disappointed, he defended exceptionally well with his Roll Royce type of defending. He is powerful, strong in the air and a good passer of the ball – qualities that are a requisite in Europe, qualities have made him stay at Warsaw while Herbert Dick was being offloaded.
With such a defender, partnered by Obert Moyo, who needs Sweswe and Mwanjali?
For left back and right back we still have Plymouth Argyle’s Onesimo Bhasera and Noel Kaseke of AC Omonia. Name full backs who are suspended who are better than these two, you can’t.
In goals, the loss of Washington Arubi is not huge by any means as Tapuwa Kapini who is the best Zimbabwean goalkeeper is still there. If he is injured, Marlon Jani is a worthy replacement and George Chigova, the third choice is a decent shot stopper.
In midfield the vacancies left by Khama Billiat and William Katsande will be the most hard to fill. In Billiat we had a magician who conjured moments of magic and who turned nothing into something when the Warriors were desperate for a hero to pull them from the jaws of defeat.
Katsande made us pine for the days of Ronald Sibanda with his radar-guided passes and for Lazarus Muhoni with his work ethic and the occasional goal.
Irreplaceable players indeed, but the emergence of Abbas Amidu, Denver Mukamba, Mandlenkosi Sibanda, Archford Gutu, the move of Vusa Nyoni from left back to midfield and the presence of Quincy Antipas means there will be no shortage of ball players.  All these are crafty midfielders and on their day they are unstoppable and unplayable.
For solidity in midfield, Zimbabwe still has the services of Tinashe Nengomasha and Nyandoro. By a mile or two, these are Zimbabwe’s best defensive midfielders – the country is yet to unearth a worthy heir to their thrown.
Upfront, Knowledge Musona, the best thing after Peter Ndlovu, a player who single handedly almost made Zimbabwe qualify to this year’s AFCON, is there and ready to rumble. Though he is currently struggling at TSG Hoffeinheim, Musona never disappoints when representing his country. He is to Zimbabwe what Klose, a decent club player but a brilliant national team player, is to Germany.
Musa Mguni of Russia’s FC Terek Grozny is a veteran who has been in and out of the national team. A good striker, who has a good goal rate in Europe, Mguni has been presented with an opportunity, probably the last, to leave a mark in Warriors’ colours. If he sets his mind to it he cannot do, the talent is there. With his maturity and Musona’s searing pace, Zimbabwe has a capable strike force.
Gumbo’s selection is a sign that he believes in blending experience with players of promise and unless and until Asiagate is concluded and players who have been cleared of all charges return, this is the best team that Zimbabwe can assemble under the sun.
With more than enough preparatory time, good administration and resources, nothing can prevent this team from qualifying to the Cup of Nations in South Africa next year. And who knows, follow the footsteps of South Africa and Zambia to become the third Southern African country to hoist the trophy. After all this is football.