By Robson Sharuko
The CAPS United Class of 2004 versus the sleek Green Machine of ‘96, the Dynamos immortals of ‘98 versus the all-conquering Glamour Boys of ‘76.
The Highlanders trailblazers of ‘90 versus the unstoppable Bosso machine at the turn of the millennium.
The Dream Team versus the Warriors who featured at the AFCON finals.
Joseph Kamwendo, the first foreign footballer to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year, versus the late Derby Mankinka, whose cameo flirtation with domestic football, brought a star quality to the local Premiership.
Memory Mucherahowa versus Joe Mugabe, Peter Ndlovu and Moses Chunga in their exclusive company at the top.
Stanley Ndunduma down the right flank, a perfect reincarnation of the great wing play of Stanley Matthews, Edward Katsvere wide on the left, the perfect model of a slippery winger.
The Black Rhinos teams which won league championships in ‘84 and ‘87, the steamrolling machine known as Chauya Chipembere, the Zimbabwe Saints side which powered to glory in ‘88, the super team known as Chauya Chikwata.
Henry McKop and Ephraim Chawanda, Joseph Machingura and John Sibanda.
Stewart Murisa and Alois Bunjira, a dream striking partnership which almost took Blackpool to the league title in 1995, if the latter’s goal in the final game of the season against Tongogara, had not been controversially disallowed in Kwekwe.
And, as if the duo was on a mission to defy the cruel hands of fate, which had somehow conspired to deny them glory that year, they found a way to celebrate being champions the following year in the colours of CAPS United.
Desmond “Gazza’’ Maringwa and Johannes “Signature’’ Ngodzo, two examples of boy wonders who appeared destined for greatness until, of course, the curse of injuries intervened in a cruel way and destroyed their dreams, and possibly shattered the dreams of their country.
Sunday Chidzambwa, Charles Mhlauri, Callisto Pasuwa, Steve Kwashi, Roy Barreto, Joey Antipas, a crew of coaches who transformed their teams into champions, and left their mark on the domestic Premiership.
Domestic football is in lockdown, the stadiums are empty but the game is alive.
It is being played by fans who suddenly find themselves trapped indoors, without any live matches on television, as the world battles the pandemic brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.
It isn’t being played on the fields, as is always the case, but on the cyberspaces provided by Twitter and Facebook, with scores of Zimbabwean football fans having come up with a unique way to quench their thirst for the game by going down memory lane.
A journey back into a time when their teams dragged them into ecstasy.
Using the connectivity provided by the internet, and in these days of social media, they have launched a campaign to challenge each other, about which of their teams represented greatness.
And, along the way, they have devised a way of engaging in mock battles, transferring the duels, which their players usually fight on the pitch, to the Internet.
On those interactive streets, they have been revisiting some of the great battles of the past, like the defining showdown between Dynamos and CAPS United at Rufaro in 1996, which effectively decided a gripping title race.
Or the seven-goal thriller, between CAPS United and Highlanders at the National Sports Stadium in 2004, which Bosso won, to ensure the Green Machine wouldn’t find the immortality of becoming the first domestic Premiership club to complete an entire season unbeaten.
Mhlauri and his men lost only one match all season, a narrow 3-4 defeat to Bosso, and finished that season unbeaten on the road in what was a dominant display by the Green Machine.
Had they avoided defeat against Bosso, they would have — just like Arsenal in the very same year — found a way to write the great story that comes with Invincibility.
But, in the debates that have been dominating the Internet, there are some CAPS United fans who even question whether that Class of 2004 was the finest, with some saying the 1996 Green Machine was better while others have been saying the 1979 side was a finer team.
Cephas Chimedza, who starred for both Makepekepe and DeMbare, was yesterday forced to join the debate.
“Difficult to compare teams from different generations,’’ he argued. “We (the Class of 2004) conceded more than once, in a match, only two times and that was against Highlanders.’’
What has emerged from the conversations is that there is agreement, among the fans, the quality of the game, back in the ‘80s, 90s and in the first decade of the millennium, was better than what has been on display in the past decade.
And, the players, too, were better.
Here are some of the selected comments:
“Great team (CAPS Class of ‘96), played with swag and all you expect from a team. The 2004 team lost only one league match, (and even that match is legendary) and won every cup on offer. They had fewer standout stars but they had a team mentality that made them amazing.’’
“One double event I will never forget is the 1996 BP Cup Final and the replay between DeMbare and Makepekepe, what a double event, magnificent talent, total football.’’
“The team (CAPS Class of 2004) above was nothing compared to the great CAPS team of the early-mid 80s . . . the team of Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, Duncan “Zico” Ellison, Friday “Breakdown” Phiri and Joel “Jubilee” Shambo.’’
“Makwinji Soma-Phiri, the guy who could score with a header from the penalty spot, Hokoyo Zviripayi . . . the Flying Doctor, Gwenzi Memory Mucherahowa.’’
“The 1996 (CAPS team) was a well-oiled machine, I doubt there was any weakness in any department. I remember one game at the Colliery when we were already trailing 3-1, and in came the man they used to call the “Moneymaker” Morgan Nkathazo.’’
“This (Dynamos team of 1997) was my cover picture on my Mathematics exercise book in 1998 when I was in Grade Six. My friend offered a good money to buy the picture and I refused. I kept the picture all the way to Secondary School. Memo (Mucherahowa) was my favourite player. I probably got it (the picture) from Parade Magazine.’’
“I would not miss a DeMbare game when that line-up (Class of ‘97) was doing duty to entertain the multitudes of followers then. We enjoyed local football then.’’
“I think their best-ever (CAPS) side was the one that comprised Joel Shambo, Shackman Tauro, Friday “Breakdown” Phiri, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, etc. I know Gazza (Bunjira( will probably agree to disagree with me.’’ The Herald