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Mutasa bucking trend in battle

By Robson Sharuko

For Lloyd Mutasa, a Zimbabwe victory in the 2017 COSAFA Castle Cup final on Sunday will not only provide redemption in a coaching career stalked by toxic trials and tribulations, but will give him something to cheer his spirits in a very special year for him and a trailblazing Mutare side whose exploits charmed a province.

Lloyd Mutasa (left) and Sunday Chidzambwa (centre)
Lloyd Mutasa (left) and Sunday Chidzambwa (centre)

Before Mutasa, who has teamed up with his mentor Sunday Chidzambwa to guide the Warriors into the final of the COSAFA Castle Cup in South Africa, became a coach, he was a stylish midfielder who emerged on the big stage in the colours of the best football club to emerge from Manicaland.

Tanganda was not just a football club, for the people of Mutare in particular, but Manicaland province in general but a symbol of pride back in 1993 as the country embraced the arrival of the domestic Premiership, with its own leadership, after years of the top-flight league being run directly by ZIFA.

The late Morrison Sifelani and Chris Sibanda, the architects of that breakaway from the direct control of ZIFA and the abolition of the old Super League, promised the domestic football family that the new Premiership would not only deliver excitement, on a number of fronts, but its clubs would benefit from increased revenue.

While some of those promises haven’t come true, with a number of the clubs collapsing, a lot of memories have certainly been created by events on the pitch and, as the league’s leadership this year celebrate the Silver Jubilee of their project, one of its finest stories came in the very first season of the league in 1993.

On December 12, 1993, a ten-man Tanganda, rank underdogs in their Castle Cup final replay showdown against CAPS United at the National Sports Stadium before 15 000 fans, made a mockery of that status as they went toe-to-toe with the Green Machine in two hours of explosive knock-out football which, at times, dripped with purity.

The purity of the fight produced by a lightweight who refused to be destroyed by this giant, itself a specialist in winning such tournaments it had been nicknamed the Cup Kings, and the refusal by the visitors to falter despite the handicap of having a man less in the decisive phase of the game after it had spilled into extra-time.

The purity of a display by a diminutive forward called Patrick Chapoterera, who put in such a remarkable shift that afternoon for his Tanganda, he overshadowed the likes of Joe Mugabe, the late Cheche Billiat, the late Gift Mudangwe and Morgan Nkathazo in the showdown he was duly named the man-of-the-match.

And the purity of Tanganda’s courageous show, in the fortress of their rivals’ backyard, which eventually earned them an incredible, and largely emotional, victory as they lifted the country’s premier domestic knock-out tournament.

Mutasa, who had grown up in Chitungwiza but had taken his talents to his home province, had by that season emerged as the inspiration behind this band of fearless players at Tanganda whose stylish performances that season had caught the eye of many neutrals.

And, on that December day at the National Sports Stadium, in their biggest match in their history, like the words from the advert of the beer that is sponsoring the COSAFA Cup this year, where Mutasa’s huge influence in these Warriors has been seen by their lovely passing football, it all came together for Tanganda.

A see-saw match, which had ended 2-2 after extra-time, fittingly was decided by a nerve-wrecking penalty shoot-out drama in which Mutasa and his teammates triumphed 7-6 to take the Castle Cup to Mutare.

But, to do that, Tanganda had to fight long and hard, especially after the 107th minute when substitute Godfrey Madziwa was sent off for a second bookable offence by Bulawayo referee Thomas Khumalo which saw CAPS United throw everything at them as the Green Machine took advantage of their numerical advantage.

The Mutare side, however, held on to force the match into a penalty shoot-out which didn’t appear to start well for them when Kudzanayi Kadzirange’s effort, their first from the spot, was well saved by goalkeeper Brenna Msiska.

But assistant referee Brighton Mudzamiri adjudged that Msiska had moved before the kick was taken and Kadzirange didn’t make a mess of his second chance, drilling the ball home from the spot.

And, from there, it was all a roller-coaster of emotions, including some missed penalties, until Tanganda sealed their victory.

Mutasa’s goal, five minutes from time, had forced the game into extra-time after Chapoterera had scored in the 62nd minute before goals by Mugabe and Tonderai Mutambikwa appeared to have given CAPS victory.

It remains the finest moment for a football club from Manicaland and, with the PSL leaders celebrating their Silver Jubilee this year, it’s certain they will remember to honour the heroes of that Tanganda side that won the Castle Cup in the first year of the domestic top-fight league in its current format.

Mutasa’s focus, of course, is on his country’s challenge to try and win the COSAFA Castle Cup on Sunday when the Warriors battle Chipolopolo. It has been a topsy-turvy adventure for Mutasa, in the trenches of coaching, where he has struggled to make an impression at a number of clubs, including being sacked by Dynamos in 2011 after having assembled a team that would eventually win the league championship that very same year.

Three months ago, he shed tears after the Glamour Boys, again featuring a number of players he had assembled from various areas, started their championship campaign with a defeat at the hands of his former employers FC Platinum at the National Sports Stadium.

But, amid the tears, Mutasa asked for patience, arguing his project will come good and, today, his Glamour Boys have transformed themselves into the team-of-the-moment in the domestic Premiership.

If the gods of football smile on him and he helps his country win the COSAFA Castle Cup on Sunday and his DeMbare win the domestic championship, in a special year when the Premiership leaders are celebrating the league’s Silver Jubilee, it will be just what the doctor would have ordered .

For him to remember the year, in the colours of his Tanganda, when he announced his arrival on the big stage of our football with that Castle Cup success. The Herald

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