DeMbare battered by Caps United

IN the end it needed the sniper who scored the goal that ended seven years of CAPS United’s Harare Derby pain to again get the priceless goal that exorcised the demons of a turbulent week in which the soul of the domestic Premiership was tormented by the stench of its off-the-field theatrics.

Fittingly, Rufaro — the spiritual home of football in the capital — provided the stage for this cleansing ceremony as the power, and to a lesser extent the beauty, of this game inevitably found a way to wash away the stain of a bizarre boardroom bombshell which had cast a huge shadow on this iconic encounter.

It wasn’t a classic, so much had happened in the seven days preceding this match to dilute any hopes of that:

l The raging controversy over that ridiculous attempt to try and nullify a red card, which the recipient fully deserved for behaving as if he had become a law unto himself and domestic football’s version of Irishman Conor McGregor who rules the roost in Mixed Martial Arts where head-butting is acceptable, and all the negativity it torched.

l The foolishness of that act in the dying stages of the Battle of Zimbabwe robbing this latest Harare Derby — on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of this iconic duel between the capital’s two biggest football clubs — of the hero of the first edition.

l The absence of some key Dynamos players, including the Glamour Boys’ unsung hero — defensive midfielder Tichaona Chipunza — from the cast of stars who were going to plunge into battle in this match at Rufaro.

l The absence of big goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda, who is a box office attraction on his own because of the promise he always brings to the show with his booming free-kicks capable of turning him into the hero who dominates the headlines.

l The absence of Tafadzwa Rusike, whose contract was terminated by the Green Machine on the eve of this Derby because, we are told, he misrepresented to his employers in the acquisition of a car the club wanted to buy for him and ended up getting one which was four times the value the two parties had agreed.

l The absence of an artist either side, like a Denver Mukamba at the peak of his athletic powers five years ago — to dominate this game and illuminate the stage with his magic the way this lanky forward used to do back then before he lost his way with either a premature adventure into Super Diski, and all the distractions that this brings, or his reported decision to turn his back on the woman credited with bringing him up, Gogo Kawinga, as he dined in pleasures of South Africa.

l The loss of Ronald Chitiyo, probably the next best player with the natural gifts to cast a spell on the Harare Derby, like a vintage Denver Mukamba, to a Tunisian club after his heroics for CAPS United in the Champions League this season.

l The loss of Abbas Amidu, the other player capable of exploding on the big stage as shown in the way he destroyed five-time African champions Zamalek of Egypt in a CAF Champions League match at the giant stadium, to an Egyptian side.

Let’s try to put this into context.

Since the two giants last meeting at Rufaro in the Harare Derby in May last year, the Glamour Boys had lost eight of the players who started that match — goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva, defenders Elisha Muroiwa and Sydney Linyama, hardman Stephen Alimenda and forwards Brett Amidu, who appeared destined for greatness back then, Rodreck Mutuma and Kudzi Nyakasaka.

They also lost two of three substitutes who were introduced that day — midfielder Dominic Mukandi and striker Evans Gwekwerere — while Masimba Mambare looks a pale shadow of the star whose decision to leave Bosso and join the Glamour Boys saw him being labelled a traitor on the front page of our sister newspaper, Chronicle, and although he is still around, he is now just a part-time member of the squad.

Oh, by the way, Valentine Ndaba is also still there and it’s a measure of how much he has fallen down the pecking order his name is drifting away from the conversation, from geography and into history.

CAPS United fielded six of the 11 players who started that game in May last year — goalkeeper Jorum Muchambo, of course not by design but by default because ZiKeeper was unavailable, captain Hardlife Zvirekwi — pushed into an advanced role yesterday because of his shocking defensive limitations — Justice Jangano, Stephen Makatuka, Moses Muchenje and Dominic Chungwa.

And, in Chungwa, returning from the suspension that saw him missing the reverse fixture, they had a man who knows what making a big difference in the Derby means — after his goal back in May last year ended the Green Machine’s seven-year wait for a league win over their biggest rivals — and he duly delivered yesterday.

The DeMbare ‘keeper, Tonderayi Mateyaungwa, made a mess of his decision to leave his penalty area, with his instincts probably not trusting substitute Jimmy Kanono the way they do the regular players, and when he failed to gather the ball, danger was written all over and Chungwa took full advantage and stroked the ball home with the calmness that comes with experience.

Only a fool will slaughter the young goalie, given the good saves he made on the afternoon, and it’s sad some lessons, on the big occasions, are delivered in such brutal fashion because he doesn’t deserve being marked as the fall guy for this loss.

Maybe, three big games — including two against the Green Machine — were too tough a fixture programme for the Glamour Boys to navigate and why punish them for CAPS United’s success in the Champions League with such a diabolical fixture programme that could destroy their season?

But, yesterday was about something bigger than the points on offer.

This was domestic football cleansing itself from the stain of the events of last week when that red card fiasco tortured its soul and how refreshing it was that, when a proper referee — Nomore Musundire — was given the role to superintend over this game, he produced a blinder that was a credit to his profession.

And, in just 90 minutes, did more to wash away the sins of those who spoiled the reverse fixture and the Battle of Zimbabwe. DeMbare’s decision not to field Ntoupa yesterday was a triumph for the morality of the domestic Premiership and not even three points lost can mask that.

Football always has a way of fighting back, a way of cleansing itself, a way of finding its path back to innocence and the Harare Derby yesterday might not have produced a thriller but there was more at stake than just the joy of people going home saying they had seen half-a-dozen goals like that reality show at the giant stadium last year.

This was about the purity of the game and Chungwa, just as he did in May last year, delivered for CAPS United and, in the process, showed the world that those claiming it has become taboo for Dynamos to lose a match, because of ZIFA, are not certainly saying the truth.

The next time they tell you that lightning doesn’t strike twice, refer them to Chungwa and the Derby at Rufaro in May last year and in September this year. So much for the Harare Derby@40.

Here’s a toast to the next 40 years CAPS United and Dynamos and long may this titanic duel live. – Herald