By Robson Sharuko
That the biggest cheer at Rufaro on Sunday came shortly after the match, and for something that had happened more than 400km away, told the sickening story of Dynamos’ forgettable return to the Caf Confederation Cup.
Eight years to the month when an adventure into the same tournament ended with a humbling 0-5 aggregate loss, at the hands of Ghanaian side King Faisal Babes, DeMbare’s return to the Confederation Cup proved as nightmarish as their exit.
Charles Mabika’s announcement on the Public Address system at Rufaro on Sunday that the league match, between Highlanders and Harare City at Barbourfields had ended in a 1-1 draw, sparked a huge roar from the DeMbare fans.
Residents of the nearby Mbare suburbs might have believed Dynamos had scored, but the reality was that the game had long ended and, in their search for something to lift their battered spirits, the Glamour Boys’ fans found a romantic attachment with Bosso’s home draw.
But if the result from Barbourfields provided any relief, then it was short-term, as the brutal reality of DeMbare’s failings on the big stage, spending the afternoon wandering on the pitch as if they had been ordered to parade their kit rather than win the match, could not be masked by what had happened in Bulawayo.
King Faisal Babes were last year relegated from the Ghanaian Premiership and, after being relegated from the Champions League after a pounding at the hands of Esperance, the Glamour Boys looked ordinary in the Confederation Cup and, just as well, they don’t relegate teams from this tournament.
Until their stunning collapse in Algeria last year, when losing 0-3 to MC Alger after having won 4-1 at home, Dynamos had built a good reputation for themselves on the continent as a very strong and competitive football club that could be counted among the men when the time came to separate them from the boys.
They had not only reached the final of the Champions League in 1998, but for good measure, had qualified for the group stages of this tournament on every occasion that they had entered it and, 10 years after their grand mission to conquer Africa failed in Abidjan, they went all the way to the semi-finals.
But all that now look like images from a distant past. The massacre in Tunisia should have triggered the alarm bells, but life went on as usual at DeMbare, even against a background where their proud reputation had suffered its biggest damage, since those founding fathers gave this country this football institution almost 50 years ago.
Now, there are even fears the Glamour Boys could suffer another blow-out in Luanda in two weeks time.
There was a time when DeMbare’s fans would have put their last savings, or even their houses, on the line, banking on their team to emerge out of Luanda with a result that would sweep them through to the next round.
And, true to their belief, they would be rewarded by a performance full of both quality and courage, and scores would swarm the Harare International Airport to give their men a fitting heroes’ welcome after another successful foreign adventure.
Then, DeMbare had men of steel.
Tough defensive warriors like Sunday and Misheck Chidzambwa, flying wingbacks like Oliver Kateya, genuine midfield stars like Kenneth Jere, Lloyd Mutasa and Memory Mucherahowa, and goal-scoring machines like Moses Chunga, Gift M’pariwa, Charles Chirwa, Vitalis Takawira and Tauya Murewa.
These men played football with their brains and dominated their opponents with their big hearts, always conscious of the fact that they represented a club with a proud tradition, and there were times when they were eliminated, as was the case with Shooting Stars in 1995, but they still received a standing ovation.
Fans want to see players who are ready to battle, even to their deaths, for the cause of their team and there have been successive generations of very good and competitive Glamour Boys’ teams to spoil their supporters and make them believe there is something special in this club.
Therefore, when the same fans watch the kind of mediocrity that was on display on Sunday, they have a right to ask questions and wonder if their team is skidding off the rails.
There was no fire in the beast’s belly on Sunday, there was no leader on the pitch, one who was ready to take the bull by its horns and fight for the cause of his club and, sadly, the only man who was playing with the kind of inspiration needed to raise the bar was stuck in goals.
Washington Arubi was the hero when Dynamos clawed their way back into the championship race to overhaul both Motor Action and FC Platinum last year to win their first league title in four years.
He was rewarded with the Soccer Star of the Year award and, on Sunday, one could tell the difference in levels where Arubi was playing his game, and drawing the inspiration to keep fighting, and that of the other DeMbare players on the pitch.
Just after the hour mark on Sunday, Arubi was called upon to make an incredible instinctive save, just managing to scramble the ball away with his body, after Interclube defender, Ilidio Lanzo, had risen above the static home defence to power downwards a header that was marked “goal” the moment it left his head.
But a good goalkeeper can, at best, earn you a goalless draw and that is what the Glamour Boys got in this match. To win big games a team needs a functional midfield and Milton Makopa, returning from injury, was lost the whole afternoon while Thomas Magorimbo struggled to find the space and comfort he usually gets wide on the flanks.
Somehow Arthur Kaseloki, the Zambian midfielder whose authority grew when he shifted into a central role where he is comfortable, was wasted the entire first half playing wide on the right flank in place of Murape Murape.
That Kaseloki does not have the pace and industry needed to win battles on the flanks is clear for everyone to see and it’s criminal that his good ball retention skills, movement and superb passing range were wasted for the better part of the game by being given a role that is alien to him.
Once he had been pushed into central midfield, Kaseloki bloomed and even the crowd fell in love with him as every touch oozed class.
And when he was pulled out, struggling with an injury, DeMbare’s fate was sealed and even Denver Mukamba, who looked lively in possession, but kept running into blind alleys, faded away.
Callisto Pasuwa should have been brave to throw in young Tichaona Mabvura, a natural winger, on the right and that would have given him the luxury to alternate the youngster and Denver Mukamba, as and when he felt he needed to give the Angolan wingbacks a different challenge.
In July last year, then Dynamos chairman, Farai Munetsi, told the world that Mabvura was going to be the next Edward Katsvere. One year down the line, the 19-year-old remains stuck where he was at this stage last year with only one starting place in the Dynamos team this season.
If a player like Jordi Alba Ramos, who only turned 23 three months ago, can be thrown into the deep end in a Euro final and scores a goal in the final for Spain, why then is all this hesitation to juggle with players like Mabvura in a mere Confederation Cup game?
Takesure Chinyama didn’t make any impact and, after passing his medicals in South Africa, the risk of injury must have been weighing down on him heavily.
Rodrick Mutuma huffed and puffed but the self-styled Prince is lacking something, which he had in abundance last year, and one feels it’s beginning to eat away on his confidence. There is still hope for DeMbare but a lot needs to be done because the Glamour Boys have become ordinary.
Very, very ordinary!
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