The Sunday Mail
Makomborero Mutimukulu Sports Editor
IN these isles, soccer fans are often taken for a ride, paying to watch premier action but getting stuff that is nothing close to that, stuff that would make Pele think of retracting his famous “football is the world’s most beautiful game” statement.
However, once in a while, the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League gives us thrillers, games that give us the “did he just do that moment?”. Games that act as the silver lining to a league that is usually associated with stone age kick and run football.
Clashes between Harare City and FC Platinum rarely disappoint, turning out to be battles of passing attrition.
And last Wednesday, their latest match up at Rufaro, was the stuff that Premiership dreams should be made of. The match saw football purists Mark Harrison and Norman Mapeza pitting wits.
Harrison relishes the clashes with Mapeza, whom he lauds as the coach who teaches his team to play football the way it must be played.
“I have seen that a number of local teams just hoof the ball forward but FC Platinum, obviously, play it very nicely.
“We are in the entertaining business as professional football teams, fans like to see beautiful goals and if you play in the right manner, you will create chances and you will score beautiful goals,” the British gaffer said.
But at Rufaro, The Sunshine Boys and Pure Platinum Play did much more than just entertain, they dazzled, they gave some hope to the few fans who had briefly ignored what was playing out at the Constitutional Court.
It gave them hope that one day our game will get back to its entertaining days, days when strikers made dimwits of defenders with nutmegs and devilish trickery.
The match did not yield four goals like the one FC Platinum won 3-1 at Mandava back in April.
However, it made up for the lack of goals with a flawless passing, a chess like battle of tactics and some heated moments on the touchline.
A Moses Muchenje second half penalty settled matters and left Harrison purring “we showed them how football must be played” and Mapeza describing his team as poor, especially in the second half.
But on reflection, Mapeza would be the first to admit that his team lost it when they allowed Muchenje to get into his groove.
Everything Muchenje did just came out right, including an audacious edge of the box Cryuff Turn that left Gift Bello, Raphael Muduviwa and Winston Mhango almost bumping heads.
“Haaa why mhani? (Why let that happen?)” screamed Mapeza from his technical area, where he was unsettled as ever, after watching Muchenje’s wizardry bamboozling his men.
Harrison hinted that their victory was premised on keeping their shape and in Muchenje the home side had a compass, an inform player who could be used as a compass by his teammates.
As he grew up in Mbare, they – the likes of Edward Sadomba, Munyaradzi Diya, Gilbert Mushangazhike and Calvin Nyazema – stuck the nickname Supplier on Muchenje.
But along the way, several coaches tried to turn the midfielder from an artist into an artisan and those successive cloning processes saw the lad replacing some glitz with grit.
However, last Wednesday Muchenje played like the ball who dazzled many at Mbare’s Number 5 grounds and just like it was then, the opposition had no answers to his questions.
Meanwhile, the question that must have been on the minds of those who watched this mid-week classic is what would happen if FC Platinum were a wee bit faster when attacking.
It was only after falling behind in the 48th minute and the introduction of Farai Mupasiri that the defending champions put on the after burners.
But having said that – or written that as is the case here – one has to admit that it is somewhat unfair to question an approach that delivered the league title last year, an approach that has put Pure Platinum Play in a good position to retain the championship this term. Mapeza would probably challenge those who question his ways to show him a better modus operandi.
What is not in question though is the fact that our league is blessed to have Harare City and FC Platinum.
Long may they pass the ball and remind the rest of the boring lot that it is indeed possible to play “sexy football” — as Dutch legend Ruud Gullit once described a free flowing game — and still be effective.
Cheers to the pass masters!