Where has the deby magic gone?

Sp2Charles Mabika Sports Correspondent
THE 75th Harare Derby produced just two goals at the National Sports Stadium on Easter Monday — one of many low scorelines that have now become all-too familiar in this huge clash for the last decade.The capital’s two giants — CAPS United and Dynamos — fared in a mediocre first half and the game only burst into life after 56 minutes when dread-locked midfielder, George Nyirenda, struck a beauty past ‘keeper, Artwell Mukandi.

And only after DeMbare had equalised from the penalty spot, through Qadir Amini five minutes later (and, oh, by the way, Mark Harrison, referee Thabani Bamala got it spot on and it was a clear penalty) did the two foes liven the duel with some end-to-end battles.

But why has the Harare Derby degenerated to these sluggish displays where the Blue Army still command the bragging rights over their opponents since 2009 when Nyasha Mushekwi’s double provided the last time the Green Machine beat their eternal enemies in a league encounter?

These clashes were never a one-sided affair since the first day the two sides met back in April 1977, with Makepekepe featuring in their debut top-flight season.

That match, played at Rufaro, was a five-goal thriller that saw a George Shaya-inspired Dynamos emerge as 3-2 victors with the lead changing hands twice.

DeMbare scored through Oliver Kateya, Kuda Muchemeyi and Daniel “Dhidhidhi” Ncube (all late) while  the late duo of Shacky Tauro and Peter Augustinho were on target for CAPS United.

In the ensuing years, the “must-see” duels would feature the two pugilists almost sharing victories although up to this day, Dynamos have the majority shareholding in that “partnership” — 37 wins over CAPS United’s 27 — with 11 draws.

So why has the “must-see” Harare Derby now become a “what-else-can-we-do-after-the-church-service-on-Sunday” affair?
Staunch Dynamos supporter , Eddie “Edza” Mwafuli, is adamant that the quality of the current players are a distant cry from those of the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s.

His counterpart, CAPS United follower, Anthony “Costa” Madziro, concurs.

“We don’t have the kind of players who can turn the game in an instant with individual flair,” said Mwafuli.

“It seems like it’s not restricted to CAPS United and Dynamos alone.  . . I think the standards of our game have considerably gone down both at club and national level due to many reasons,” echoed Madziro.

In terms of excitement, the Harare Derby was quite a show and both sides’ players would just explode into meteoric displays in search of dominance.

There was an epic battle back in 1981 when former CAPS United’s midfield magician, Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, virtually single-handedly destroyed Dynamos in a 3-1 evening clash at Rufaro.

He scored a double with the late Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma weighing in with the other one while current Dynamos gaffer, David “Yogi” Mandigora, scored his side’s consolation goal. It was a thrilling end-to-end encounter that when referee Frank Valdemarca blew to end the contest, nobody had left their seats although the gates had been opened about 15 minutes before the end of the match.

And, in 1986, the mercurial Moses Chunga, led the way in a memorable Dynamos victory when he grabbed a double with the other goal coming from his elder brother, Kembo, in a 3-2 classic win where CAPS United fought back furiously with two strikes from the late Shambo and Tauro.

The ‘90s and turn of the century still bore remnants of matches that provided full-value returns for the two sides’ fans who swarmed both Rufaro or the National Sports Stadium as the likes of Vitalis Takawira, Tauya Murewa, Callisto Pasuwa, Desmond Maringwa, Lloyd Mutasa, Claudius Zviripayi, Gift Muzadzi, Tonderai Ndiraya, Murape Murape  (Dynamos) and Mpumelelo Dzowa, Joe Mugabe, Alois Bunjira, Stewart Murisa, Farai Mbidzo, Edwin Farai, Basil Chisopo, Blessing Makunike (late) and Brenna Msiska (CAPS United) serving their teams well.

While it might, to some extent, be the shortage of skilful players nationwide, surely the Harare Derby should be a big incentive alone to be a challenging gauntlet for today’s players.

On Monday I was watching the technical and tactical approaches by both Harrison and Mandigora and applauded both gaffers for switching and adjusting their thinking caps.

In unison, players like Ronald Chitiyo, Stephen Alimenda and Simba Nhivi (Dynamos) and Ronald Pfumbidzai, Steven Makatuka and Leonard Tsipa (CAPS United) could have risen to the occasion to make this priceless clash more exhilarating as expected by their followers.

But one player who has glided to the lofty heights of supremacy — incidentally for both sides in the last few years — is big Oscar Machapa.
Oh, what a performance he put in again in that Derby after he came from the bench.

He was terribly unlucky not to have scored one of the best goal seen at the giant complex when his pile-driver, in the 80th minute, rebounded off the crossbar with ‘keeper Victor Twaliki unsighted.

The good thing though still in the current CAPS United and Dynamos’ players’ favour is that they still have more time to smoothen the bumpy ride that has now become an eyesore of a great journey that was swivelled into gear by 22 great players back in April 1977 at Rufaro.

We will be waiting and watching.