The Sunday Mail
ONE would have to rummage through post-independence football archives, with no joy, to find the last time Zimbabwe’s Big Three Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United all failed to make it into the top four in a top flight season. That was before the end of the 2018 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.
Times are changing, football is changing and the traditional football giants are struggling to cope with the change.
Highlanders, the Premiership’s oldest and best supported team, finished fifth, 27 points behind champions FC Platinum.
Caps United, once regarded as the Cup Kings, ended the season on eighth position and a massive 30 points behind Pure Platinum Play.
Dynamos, the league’s most supported team, had their worst season in over a decade, finishing 11th and 36 points behind the emerging football force from Zvishavane.
In fact, the last time Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United were all in the top four was back in 2009 when DeMbare came second to Gunners, with Makepekepe and Bosso coming third and fourth respectively.
The emergence of mineral backed clubs like FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum and the existence of corporate sponsored teams such as Chicken Inn and Triangle is threatening to send the Big Three into oblivion.
What are the Big Three thinking about as 2018 winds up tomorrow?
What are their New Year’s resolutions?
Dynamos president Solomon Sanyamandwe believes eternal boardroom squabbles at the faded giant have stunted progress at the Mbare club.
“As we go into 2019, perennial boardroom squabbles at DeMbare should be a thing of the past, former administrators at the club should accept they played their role and give the current leaders a chance.
“As long as we don’t change the way we operate surely there’s no way we can catch up with the likes of FC Platinum, Ngezi and Chicken Inn,” he said.
“Everyone at Dynamos needs to pull in the same direction, from the executive, technical team, players and fans. Dynamos is capable of attracting more sponsors but there is need to clean our image first.”
Sanyamandwe took over from Keni Mubaiwa midway through the 2018 season, but there are reports that Mubaiwa could be angling for a sensational comeback.
Board chairman Bernard Marriot, who has made it public that DeMbare is his own property, has also been accused of meddling too much in the team’s affairs and has often faced challenge from surviving founder members like Ernest Kamba.
Dynamos coach Lloyd Chigowe, who is expected to name Expense Chitukutu as his first assistant, will need a united boardroom if his “engine overhaul” exercise is to bear fruits.
Chigowe plans to offload most of the players that did duty in 2018 and bring in fresh players from the juniors.
Veteran players Edward Sadomba and Justice Majabvi are also set to bounce back at the club while talks are on to bring the exciting Nigel Makumbe who was on loan at Highlanders from FC Platinum.
Highlanders’ chief executive Nhlanhla Dube has urged his club’s supporters to accept the sad reality on the ground.
“While the club is weighed down by expectations because of its history, there comes a time when that expectation should be matched with reality on the ground. e will never be able to match pound for pound with these company sponsored teams in the medium term,” said Dube.
“This change is happening world over, in the English Premier League you have your Manchester City, Chelsea emerging as forces because of their monies, and it’s the norm.
“Football changes all the time but on our part I think we have done the best we can, given our budget.”
Bosso have already begun preparing for a comeback in 2019 and have so far brought back striker Prince Dube and central midfielder Nqobizitha Masuku.
Bantu Rovers product Bukhosi Sibanda is also now at Highlanders, who lost speedy forward Gabriel Nyoni last week.
“We are slowly moving back into the realm of expectations, remember we started preparing for 2019 early. We brought in Dube and Bukhosi midway last season, we also now have Masuku back.
“One of the best players at the recently held Under 20 tournament in Zambia Andrew Mbeba is our player, our midfield quartet of Adrian Silla, Brian Banda, Godfrey Makaruse and Denzel Khumalo has an average age of 21 years.
“We also have the best keeper in the land Ariel Sibanda, so I believe we are moving in the right direction,” boasted Dube.
2018 was thorny for Caps United who finished eighth, their worst performance since 2012 when they ended on 10th position.
So poor were Caps United, they only had 200 paying fans for their last home match against Chapungu on November 24.
Yet only two seasons ago, Makepekepe were champions and their spectacular fall has frustrated coach Lloyd Chitembwe, who like his DeMbare counterpart Chigowe, is set to embark on a major clear out exercise.
Milton Ncube and Peter “Rio” Moyo have been linked with Harare City, Wisdom Mutasa is heading to Manica Diamonds, Dennis Dauda has already left while striker John Zhuwawu is also on his way out.
Defensive pillar Stephen Makatuka has been linked with Black Rhinos.
Skipper Hardlife Zvirekwi’s contract expires tomorrow.
On the flip side, Caps United have already captured speed merchant Phineas Bamusi and are targeting veteran attacking player Ali Sadiki and former Bosso player Nyoni.
Caps United chief executive officer Cuthbert Chitima, who wants to forget 2018 as quickly as possible, remains optimistic though. “We are working flat out to bring back the Kepe Kepe that our supporters want. So far we are almost through with three big deals but I can’t disclose the players’ names now.
“There are more players coming, we have hit the ground running in our quest to bring back glory to the club,” added Chitima
“2018 is a year we want to forget quickly. We thought we would compete well, especially after assembling experienced players but they disappointed.
“We collapsed spectacularly in the second half of the season, a lot of things went wrong, players let us down,” moaned Chitima.