The Sunday Mail
THERE was a time when Danny Bismark was a fortress, an era when giants Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United used to fall each time they visited the Arcadia stadium in Harare.
Now in tatters following the demise of former top-flight side Arcadia United, Danny Bismark was the venue for Hamid “Muzukuru” Dhana’s funeral service, which was held last Friday.
Being one of the finest footballers to emerge from Arcadia, Dhana’s death brought back into context the contribution made by people of a mixed race to the development of the national game.
The now defunct Arcadia United, the club that produced 1978 Soccer Star of the Year George “TNT” Rollo, was a conveyor belt of talent as it also gave Zimbabwe players such as Herman “Sea Cottage” Hendrickse, Bethal Salis, Reg Payne, Headley Layton, Joey Antipas, Miguel Lemming, Carlos “Murehwa” Max, Mike Abrahams, Stewart Gilbert, Majid Dhana (late), Mike Mhlanga and Wesley Gilbert.
Dhana’s death reminded the legendary Rollo of the immense contribution made by the Arcadia community.
“The community had a big impact on local football as it produced a number of talented players, some of whom went on to represent Zimbabwe.
“We are a very small community but we had our own stadium, which still stands today. Football was a passion for the community which turned out in numbers to support Arcadia United,” Rollo, who is now 62, told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“The project started off with the likes of Gilbert Steward, Reg Payzee and Hedley Layton. Then we moved on. I played with Reg Payne, Majid Dhana, Hamid Dhana, Maxie Joseph, Joey Antipas, Bethal Salis and Brian Abrahams.
“Then came the younger generation, which had the likes of Carlos Max, Charlie Jones and Dorman Moodley. The list is endless, Arcadia produced a number of talented players,” Rollo said.
However, the demise of Arcadia United has seen a discontinuation of the talent supply chain from the mixed race community.
Jones attempted to explain the reasons behind this.
“Back in the day, most players of mixed race were based in Arcadia and the surrounding areas. So talent was on the door step.
“Over the years, many people have left the community to live in other places. The kids also started playing other sports, that’s how the football talent supply chain was disconnected,” said Jones.
Popular commentator Charles “CNN” Mabika also hailed Arcadia’s contribution to the local league.
“The contribution of the mixed race players was immense and tremendous, they brought a competitive edge to football.
“By virtue of Arcadia FC being a community project, it brought together the whole Arcadia community. Their fans were a strong presence at all stadia.
“Danny Bismark Stadium was an impregnable fortress were giants like Dynamos, Highlanders, Zimbabwe Saints and Caps United would always fall.
“The mixed race contributed to the national development of football, both before and after independence because they provided players for the national team
“Who can forget the likes of Hendrickse, the gifted goalie Stewart Gilbert and Hedley Layton, who became the first player to score direct from the corner when Arcadia played Mhangula before independence.
“Arcadia United were actually a force to reckon with, especially in the 1980s. You wouldn’t talk about the biggest teams in Zimbabwe without mentioning Arcadia United.
“Players like the late Jimmy Finch were awesome, he was arguably the finest player produced at Arcadia United.
“Hamid Dhana was top class, he won the league title with Dynamos in 1982, before winning a league and cup double with Black Rhinos in 1984,” Mabika said.
Dhana died at the age of 61 at his Braeside home in Harare after losing his battle with colon cancer.