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Then tragedy struck, ‘95 seemed a world away

By Robson Sharuko

And, just like that, the memories came flooding back — the joy and the pain, the tears and the fears, the heartbreak and the jailbreak, the strategy and the tragedy.

SHOCK AND GRIEF . . . The CAPS United family, notably Andy Hodges, the late Shacky Tauro, Brenna Msiska, Charles Kawadza and Energy Murambadoro join scores of football fans as they mourn the tragic passing of their three players – Blessing Makunike, Shingi Arlon and Gary Mashoko, at Raylton Sports Club in Harare in March 2004.
SHOCK AND GRIEF . . . The CAPS United family, notably Andy Hodges, the late Shacky Tauro, Brenna Msiska, Charles Kawadza and Energy Murambadoro join scores of football fans as they mourn the tragic passing of their three players – Blessing Makunike, Shingi Arlon and Gary Mashoko, at Raylton Sports Club in Harare in March 2004.

Losing Joe was hard, losing Joel even harder.

And, it was also the same when they lost Shacky, lost Lecture and then lost Goddie.

The old man still lives to this day, the pillar that held his football coalition together back then, the pillar that still holds them together now. Tragedy also hit him hard, at a very personal level.

Losing his young brother Hudson — a member of his football club’s inner circle — was a huge blow and some say he was never the same again.

He even buried Eric Rosen.

The businessman he sold his football franchise to, and who — in the red colours of Motor Action — found a way to make them champions in 2010.

That should have been then, 15 years earlier, 25 years now, tasting the glory of being champions of Zimbabwean football.

But, for Blackpool, it didn’t come to pass, denied by Dynamos in the closest race in the history of the domestic top-flight league championship.

Other similar tight races would come and go — Motor Action versus Dynamos (2010); Dynamos versus FC Platinum (2011); Dynamos versus Highlanders (2012) and DeMbare versus Bosso (2013).

All of these races, finishing with two clubs tied on the same number of points at the top, but none of them as close as the one in 1995.

It’s not every year that football provides such a dramatic script where two clubs finish with the same number of points (58), same number of wins (17), same number of draws (7) and same number of losses (6).

And, to that, add same goal difference (+25).

They even had identical winning margins on the final day (3-1), both victories coming against army sides (Black Rhinos and Tongogara).

Dynamos had the better attack, scoring 54 goals to Blackpool’s 50, a four-goal advantage but the challengers had a better defence, conceding 25 goals to DeMbare’s 29, a four-goal advantage.

“This is exactly how it happened, exactly how it felt, exactly how it ended,’’ said football fan, Stephen Africa, on Twitter yesterday amid a wave of nostalgia, on the domestic football front, triggered by this newspaper’s publication yesterday of that titanic battle of ‘95.

A riveting contest, which went the full distance, and still resonates with those who lived through its sounds and sounds, a quarter-of-a-century down the line.

“Awesome stuff, I was in Grade Seven then, watched the game, supported Dynamos and celebrated that championship with the De- Mbare boys,’’ said Makomborero Mutimukulu, the Zimbabwe Television Network sports guru, one of the most influential voices in domestic football.

“In these days, anything nostalgic carries the day, the past reminds us there is a future.’’

Miracles, sometimes, do happen but for Blackpool, the football gods were not smiling at them when, in an unforgettable campaign 25 years ago, they took on the establishment and nearly conquered it.

“It was massive, we couldn’t believe it,’’ Memory Mucherahowa, the captain who led the Glamour Boys to that success story, said yesterday.

“I still remember Bambo (Moses Chunga) saying, “so close, yet so far.” Rhinos never beat us during my whole (professional) career.’’

DeMbare bolted out of jail on that Super Sunday. Their character and experience helping them to handle the pressure, and withstand the spirited Rhinos attack and, in the end, just getting the result they required to be champions.

It’s the brutality of this game no one usually remembers those who come second.

Even on the occasions they also actually came joint-first in terms of wins, joint-first in terms of points, joint-first in terms of goal difference.

And, even, as in Blackpool’s case, they actually had the best defensive record in the league and were forced to complete their season on Super Saturday.

This gave the Glamour Boys the advantage of playing on Super Sunday, knowing the scoreline they needed to be champions.

“I feel for Blackpool,’’ said Arthur Choga, a business executive who once worked as a ZIFA spokesperson. “I believe the PSL rigged this outcome and Dynamos knew exactly what they needed to do and they did just that.’’

And banker, Joel Gombera, who was once provided the heartbeat for the CBZ Cup competition, agrees.

“Ndochi, what a brand and a team,’’ he said yesterday. “The games were supposed to be played concurrently.’’

Just five years after coming close to being champions, in only their second year in the domestic Premiership, Blackpool collapsed and their franchise changed names to become Motor Action.

Whether they viewed the Mighty Bulls success story in 2010, when they edged Dynamos to the league title on goal difference, as revenge for the pain they endured 15 years earlier, is something Simeon Jamanda, who worked as the protocol chief at both clubs, can say.

For others, the tragedy that followed, simply made what happened elsewhere irrelevant to their interests.

Joel Shambo, one of the two coaches who almost guided them to that landmark success story in ‘95, died five years later, on 17 April, 2000.

The other Joel, Salifu, one of the brains behind this club, died in July 2012, exactly 20 years after his attempts to lead a hostile takeover of Dynamos came short.

Sandwiched between these tragedies was the death of Shacky Tauro, the other coach, passed away in June 2009, exactly 30 years after being crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 1979.

Five years ago, they waved goodbye to Lecture Mpange, another of their founding directors, before another pillar of the club, Gorden Chademunhu, succumbed to prostate cancer in July 2017.

He was 65.

Maybe, on reflection, that tells a story.

Because, before the dawn of the new millennium, in every year that ended with a five — (‘65), (‘75), (‘85) — the Glamour Boys were crowned champions. Maybe, they should have known that would be the case in ‘95.

Or, maybe, no one cares about it anymore because, given everything they have lost since then, even football seems a world away. The Herald

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