Grieving Dodo stands tall in hour of tragedy

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor

DARLINGTON DODO has scaled mountains just to win acceptance, but if he can mastermind a victory over Chicken Inn today, just two days after burying his son, it will be the finest hour of his CAPS United romance.

Surpassing, by a country mile, the priceless victory over his former boss Lloyd Chitembwe at Rufaro last month which helped dissolve the doubts, among some fans, who questioned the gamble to give him the big job.

Dwarfing the spirited come-from-behind win over Triangle, achieved with virtually the last kick of the game.

Overshadowing the heroics of his men at Trojan where they became the first team to beat plucky Mushowani Stars in their backyard this year.

And, eclipsing the chain of events which have catapulted his team to a five-point cushion, at the top of the Premiership standings, despite the baptism of fire he received, in his first match in charge, when they leaked four goals at Ascot against Chapungu.

A win for his team today, against the grim background of the personal tragedy he has endured in the past few days, will be his finest moment since he stepped out the shadows, and into the limelight, to stand as his own man.

Until the dramatic boardroom events in August, which saw Chitembwe cross the floor to join Harare City, Dodo belonged to the group of domestic football’s coaching backbenchers.

The guys who could be tossed here and there, without getting any recognition, or reward, for their efforts, taking some of the most unfashionable jobs and moving along with the changing seasons.

A job at Gunners, towards the end of this football project, was one of them.

Another one at Tsholotsho, where the thrust was all about survival, was added to his curriculum vitae and, as was largely feared, it ended in the team being relegated.

Then, there were those adventures into Botswana, where he took charge of Township Rollers, and Swaziland, where he was coaching when Chitembwe asked him to return home and become part of the CAPS United backroom staff.

When Chitembwe waved goodbye in August, and Dodo was thrust into the hot seat, a number of the Green Machine fans questioned, and probably rightly so, about “Darlington Who?’’

In the age of Twitter, some probably went there to check on him and were probably put off by the fact he has only tweeted twice, since he joined in November 2012, and has just 16 followers.

Both his tweets came the following year and were about United, not their United, but the other United from Manchester.

“Manchester United is my password,’’ he tweeted on November 10, 2013, and followed that with another tweet, “Manchester United has not chosen history, history has chosen Manchester United.’’

How he chose a team whose emergence as a global power will, forever, be linked with the tragic events of February 6, 1958, when British European Airways Flight 609 skidded off the runaway in Munich killing eight players, three staff members and 12 others, including journalists, no one knows.

Especially, now, when his emergence as a coach whom the CAPS United fans have started to believe in, and the fans have started to fall in love with, has also coincided with the personal tragedy, on Saturday morning, in which his son Don, died in a car crash.

Don was buried at Zororo Memorial Park on Monday.

If those who searched Twitter had gone deeper, they would also have seen Dodo’s only two tweets also came during the first three months  when Manchester United were adjusting to life after the 26-year reign of Sir Alex Ferguson.

David Moyes was in charge of the Red Devils.

Moyes didn’t last long at Manchester United, hounded by the weight of expectations and, five months later, in April 2014, he was gone.

Dodo will be hoping his stay at CAPS United lasts longer and he knows winning his maiden league championship, as coach, will guarantee him another season in charge of the team.

It’s a mark of his commitment, to that cause, to ensure CAPS United finish top of the table, he has found the courage to be with his players in Bulawayo today, for their clash against Chicken Inn.

Another coach would certainly have accepted compassionate leave, which the club offered him, and chosen to stay with his family in Harare during these trying times as they continue to mourn Don.

“The presidium, the Board, Management, Playing and Non-Playing staff of CAPS United FC would like to express our deepest condolences to the Dodo family following the passing away of Don Dodo, son to our coach Darlington Dodo’’ the Green Machine said in a statement.

“As CAPS United family, we say rest in eternal peace.’’

Even their opponents today, Chicken Inn, were touched by the tragedy.

“Very sad. We are with you coach and CAPS family all the way,’’ they responded on Twitter.

Death also cast its spell around Barbourfields on Sunday when a teenage footballer, Cedric Dube, collapsed and died on the stadium’s B arena while playing in a Division Three match.

For Dodo, the return to Barbourfields, for a match against the Gamecocks, also brings a flood of sad memories.

Two years ago, his flirtation with Tsholotsho ended in relegation at the same stadium, after a defeat at the hands of the same opponents.

The Gamecocks won that game 2-0 in November 2017 and confirmed the end of Dodo’s battle to try and save Tsholotsho’s Premiership status.

Today, as a grieving father, still haunted by so many questions, and no answers, related to the events which led to that tragedy on Saturday morning, Dodo is back at Barbourfields in pursuit of the ultimate prize in domestic football.

Just being there, irrespective of the result today, shows he is a quite a strong man.

And, in the event CAPS United fail to land the league title, no one can accuse him of not having been committed to this cause.