Another exciting season to look forward to

Charles Mabika On The Ball
HELLO there, all you lovely soccer-loving people, wherever you are all over the football globe! Welcome to this brand new weekly column, where we’ll be sharing with you all the ups and downs of the “world’s most beautiful game”, to borrow the immortal phrase of the great Edison Arantes do Nascimento, otherwise known as Pele.

When The Sunday Mail Editor, Edmund Kudzayi, invited me to be a columnist at the family newspaper, I had no hesitation in accepting the offer because, as you all know, football is the only “business” I know and am very confident to talk about!

So, here’s to a lengthy toast to what I foresee as being a great partnership between the wonderful readers of The Sunday Mail and yours truly.
I will be sharing with you the events on and off the field of football — especially in our lovely country — from the inception of the top-flight league back in 1962 when a side called Bulawayo Wanderers hoisted the glittering trophy as inaugural winners, right up to that great last day of battle last season when Dynamos won the Castle Lager Premiership crown by pipping Highlanders and Harare City, once again, on goal difference.

I’ll also be taking you back by re-living the glittering exploits of all the great exponents of our local game — from the illustrious finesse and flair of a one-armed silky forward called Freddy “Dusty King” Gotora; a mercurial mind-reading mathematician named George “Mastermind” Shaya; a stocky, dribbling wizard called Majuta “Jujuju” Mpofu; an incredible and meticulous artist called Moses “Razorman” Chunga; an inimitable chest control expert named Stanford “Stix” M’tizwa right up to a tear-away and quicksilver genius called Peter “Nsukuzonke” Ndlovu.

Of course, we’ll also be sharing the trials and tribulations of our “No. 1 team” — the “Warriors” — who, simply known then as Rhodesia, were only 90 minutes away from qualifying for the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico; sailing through the great 1980 Independence Cup final victory over mighty Zambia; piercing through another 90-minute distance from the Holy Grail of the 1994 World Cup finals in the USA right up to the commendable 4th place finish at the 2014 Chan finals in South Africa.

THE 2014 Castle Lager Premiership burst into life last week and a lot of excitement, drama, fanfare and, of course, disappointment, was the order of the weekend as fans witnessed some great goals as well.
A lot of people have been asking me who I’m tipping for the title come December . . .

Last season, I had forecast “The Sunshine Boys” — Harare City — to outpoint Dynamos and Highlanders and it really didn’t turn out that way but those “Big 3” teams were in the thick of things right up to the final whistle . . . and boy, oh boy . . . girl, oh girl, what a fantastic finale it turned out to be!

I can’t foretell this season’s grappling but the “perfect moment” will, once again, be decided in the same manner, but from how things catapulted into a towering inferno all over the country we will, once again, not get a chance to unfasten our seat belts throughout the rollercoaster journey.

Before I delve further into the permutations of this season’s outcome, I would like to salute the unwavering determination of a warrior they call “Mido” at the Colliery — RodwellChinyengetere— of Hwange FC.

After a horrific injury in the middle of the 2012 season, the Warriors workaholic midfielder, whom many had discarded to shadows, rose like a phoenix back into top-flight action with swaggering efficiency.

“Mido” struck chillingly twice in “Chipangano’s” first league match — a 4-1 clobbering of highly-fancied Buffaloes at the coal miners’ den.
History is littered with skilful gems who sadly withered into obscurity due to horrific injuries.

Players who readily come to mind are CAPS United’s duo Basil “Bhashi”Chisopo and Edwin “Shasha” Farayi; Dynamos’ little magician Samson Choruwa and lively wingback Francis Madziva; Black Mambas’ late midfield general Tutani “Tuts” Moyo; Black Rhinos’ stalwart defender Nesbert “Yabo” Saruchera and many more.

Chinyengetere is one of the few, the very few, who defied all odds to bounce back majestically. Welcome back “Mido” to the glittering showcase.

So, who do I tip for the King’s crown at the end of the season?
As abundantly clear as acid turns blue litmus paper red, once again I’m pretty certain it’s going to be a two-dog fight between Dynamos and Highlanders!

The other challengers for pole position should be FC Platinum, How Mine, CAPS United, Chicken Inn and Harare City.
I also foresee a Top 8 finish by returnees “Waru-Waru” — Chapungu. They have simply been flattering, haven’t they?
Relegation candidates? I think it’s too early now to go into that debate but I would like to tell everybody right now who thinks that “Pamuuyu” — Chiredzi FC — will be relegated to “go jump in a lake!” Oh yes, a very deep lake!

You don’t write off a team that is under the tutelage of “Bambo”; not by a country mile, you don’t!
Lastly, if you were watching the ZBC-TV weekly show, “Game Plan” last Monday, you must have heard me correctly tipping Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid to go through to the European Champions’ League semi-finals.

Well, last Friday’s draw pitted Real Madrid against Bayern Munich, while Chelsea will lock horns with surprise packages Atletico Madrid.
My prediction once again?

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a Bayern-Atletico final. Oh yes! A prediction on the winner? A historic first for Argentinian superb coach Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid!

And, hey, do you know that whoever triumphs out of the remaining four sides, will carve their own piece of history. How?
1. If Real Madrid win, they will become the first club to win the trophy 10 times.
2. If Bayern Munich win, they will become the first team to win the title back-to-back.
3. If Chelsea win, their coach, Jose Mourinho, will become the first man to win the final with three different clubs.
4. If Atletico Madrid win, it will be the first time in the club’s history to clinch the trophy.

Well, that’s just about it for this maiden week . . .
Remember to take care of your loved ones and each other. Till next week, it’s bye bye for now!

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