By Langton Nyakwenda
One of the biggest shocks of the 2001 Premier Soccer League season was when Maxwell “Ma Rhino” Dube won the Soccer Star of the Year award after his team Chapungu had finished a distant 12th and closer to relegation than the title.
In that year, Dube, a stocky but talented forward, pipped favourites who included the Dynamos duo of Desmond Maringwa and Lenny Gwata for the top gong in an era when the domestic Premiership was also blessed with a cast that included star midfielders Johannes Ngodzo and Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda.
But, perhaps the most stunning moment of that 2001 season was when Shabanie Mine beat holders and firm favourites Dynamos 1-0 in the BP League Cup final at the National Sports Stadium.
Thomas Makwasha struck in the 74th minute, his cross-goal grounder beating Gift “Umbro” Muzadzi to silence a packed stadium and deny DeMbare a second BP League Cup on the trot.
That game remains one of the most talked-about Cup finals of the last two decades, and the main actors in that showdown still discuss about that feat 19 years on.
Coached by the unassuming Solomon Kaseke, that Shabanie side included yet another skilful midfielder Francis Chandida, Asani Juma, Max Ruza, John Banda, Albert Mbano and goalkeeper Andrew Chisunga.
Gerald Phiri, Tichaona Mazanhi, James Kaunda, Philip Sithole and Misheck Banda were also part of that brave Shabanie team that also finished a respectable third in the league, behind champions Highlanders and AmaZulu.
Famous for his pony-tail hairstyle, Makwasha is now late and so is Kaunda, but the remaining Shabanie legends still communicate to this day — via a Whatsapp group.
Sadly, when these legends talk, it is usually about the demise of their beloved Shabanie, who have sunk so deep into quagmire that they now struggle to pay affiliation fees for the Central Region Division One League.
In a year they are supposed to celebrate their 106 years of existence, the future of Shabanie Mine — one of the oldest teams in the country — has once again been thrown into uncertainty.
“It is sad to hear that our beloved team Bvaru Bvaru (Shabanie Mine) is struggling. We pray for better days,” said former Shabanie striker Juma, who is now based in the United Kingdom.
Juma and Makwasha formed a deadly striking combination that terrorised defenders across the country, as Shabanie also reached the ZIFA Unity Cup final in which they lost 1-4 to Highlanders.
“We ate, drank and slept football. I remember back then all we had to do was play football,” recalled Juma.
“The mine was still viable and it catered for its players well. We also had a community that supported us, a community that hated losing and believed in us.
“That spurred us on; that also put us under pressure to always win, especially at home.
“My partnership with Makwasha was just awesome, those who saw us play know what I am talking about, so there is nothing much I can say now. Everywhere we went, people knew of this deadly combination,” Juma said.
Shabanie beat Railstars 3-1 in the BP League Cup first round before bundling Amazulu out of contention with a 1-0 victory in the quarter-final.
Their semi-final clash against Masvingo United was abandoned after 64 minutes, with the miners leading 1-0 at Mucheke.
That result was allowed to stand and Shabanie booked a ticket into the final against a buoyant Dynamos that had brushed aside Circle United, Motor Action and Buffaloes.
“We were a united team that worked hard from training right up to matchday. We were an ambitious bunch as well,” said former Shabanie defender Gerald Phiri.
Phiri, who turns 49 in December, played in three BP League Cup finals, two with Mhangura and one with Shabanie.
“That (2001 final) was my third BP cup final after being there twice with Mhangura and losing both of them, so when Shabanie got to the final, I said to myself this has to be mine. My first BP Cup final was against Dynamos in 1995, I was playing for Mhangura and we lost 4-0. Three years later, I was back in the final against CAPS United and we lost again.
“So with Bvaru Bvaru, when we got to the final I said to myself this should be ours as God had taken me to the final for the third time in every three years.
“We knew DeMbare were playing well and would have all the support behind them. So, we went Harare with all the confidence, with the mining town right behind us, so it was a collective thing,” said Phiri.
Former goalkeeper Chisunga remembers the homecoming show vividly.
“We had a very wonderful welcome at Siboza, about 10km from Zvishavane. My brother, it was a great occasion,” says Chisunga, who also hailed coach Kaseke’s influence.
“He (Kaseke) was a great coach, so cool but very tough when it came to discipline.
“It was a pleasure having a team with players who worked for one another. We also had talent within our ranks,” said the 41-year-old Chisunga.
While it is still uncertain which executive will run Shabanie this season, should the team finally gets back to its feet, back in 2001 the mining club had a powerful leadership, headed by then-president Greg Mataka.
And Juma, who also paid tribute to the late Zimpapers journalist Paul Mundandi for popularising the brand Shabanie, also took his time to salute the Mataka executive.
“Hats off to the Shabanie executive of that time. The likes of Dr Greg Mataka, Khalid Khan (late) and Obert Dube — they were very supportive of the cause.
“I would also like to remember the late Saul Paul Mundandi, the veteran journalist from Zvishavane who contributed a lot in publicising the team back then,” said Juma.
Former Shabanie president, Mataka, is no longer actively involved with the club but his heart still feels for Bvaru Bvaru.
“I would not want to talk much now that I am no longer actively involved, but it pains me to see this team struggling.
“Shabanie Mine are a big institution, the community loves the team and we hope everything goes back to normal,” Mataka said.
While the 2013 BancABC Sup8r Cup victory over rivals FC Platinum might be sweeter to some Shabanie fans given their Zvishavane rivalry, the 2001 BP League Cup final will undoubtedly rank as one of the biggest shocks in the 28-year history of the Premiership.
Since their finest hour in 2001, Shabanie have gone on to be relegated from the PSL in 2006, 2014 and 2018. The Sunday Mail