The Sunday Mail
THE promotion of ZPC Kariba into the Premier Soccer League in 2014 was considered by locals as the best thing to happen to the resort town since the Kariba Dam Wall, which was constructed between 1955 and 1959.
Lake Kariba is the world’s largest man-made lake.
The phenomenal water body covers a length of 280km and is 32km at its widest section.
However, for the people of Kariba, the football team’s promotion into the top-flight was equally momentous.
For fishermen like Wise Ushe of Nyamhunga suburb, ZPC Kariba created a business opportunity by hosting hordes of fans from teams such as Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United.
It also boosted local tourism at a time when the number of foreign visitors was dwindling.
In short, ZPC Kariba is more than a football club to the people of Kariba.
That is the reason there was anxiety when the team flirted with relegation for the better part of the 2021/2022 season.
ZPC Kariba ended the season 12th, with 39 points, just four above Harare City, who occupied the last relegation slot.
So precarious was Kauya Katuruturu’s position that they entered the penultimate round of fixtures uncertain of their future in the PSL.
However, Darlington Dodo, who was left in charge following Rodwell Dhlakama’s sudden departure, conjured up crucial results to ensure the team’s survival.
They held Highlanders 1-1 at Barbourfields Stadium before dispatching Herentals 3-1 at Nyamhunga to guarantee their safety.
Dodo came in as Dhlakama’s assistant after Godfrey Tamirepi was fired for poor results in May.
Dhlakama then left for Black Leopards of South Africa in October and Dodo took charge of the last five games of the season.
He won three, drew one and lost once.
The former CAPS United coach is now likely to be handed a substantive post, amid indications that he won over the club’s management.
However, club chairperson Fadzai Chisveto declined to discuss Dodo’s fate.
“The new coach will be named as soon as we conclude all our consultations,” Chisveto said.
ZPC Kariba had a poor start to the season, winning just two of their opening 13 games.
A three-game losing streak in April and early May forced the club to fire Tamirepi.
Dhlakama came in with Dodo and the duo picked up eight points in their first five matches in charge.
When the July window opened, they bolstered the squad with four players, including former Ngezi Platinum Stars striker Wellington Taderera and veteran midfielder Winston Mhango.
Taderera and Mhango joined forces with the likes of Boid Mutukure, Munyaradzi Diro Nyenye, Collen Muleya, Munyaradzi Kunyarimwe, Samuel Makawa and Moses Demera, who were already in Kariba.
“The team became stable and we successfully fought against relegation,” said Chisveto.
Focus is now on the 2023 season, and Dodo, who could be appointed head coach or retained as assistant, is already looking ahead with optimism.
“I am in a good environment and I am actually happy. We want to make sure that we build a good product that is marketable.
“I am happy being here at ZPC Kariba but we are not going to promise heaven on earth. We are going to build from where we left off in the last game,” Dodo told The Sunday Mail Sport.
He has been in the trenches for a long time, both in good and bad times.
The former Gunners and Bulawayo City gaffer, however, reckons the last weeks of the just-ended season were one of the toughest moments of his career.
“What was worrying us more was that games were actually going and we were getting into a very tight situation, where the survival of the team was now more into almost everybody’s mind,” he said.
“It was the toughest phase because everybody now would be thinking about survival and playing well and trying to grind a result, and we ended up having a lot of pressure, especially the players.”
ZPC Kariba are now in their seventh season in the PSL since their debut in 2014.
“The status of the institution was very key to safeguard. This is actually what we did. We are very grateful to everyone who was involved in the survival of this team.
“I also want to applaud the executive for being very supportive; they did not panic. We were together in this; we were discussing and we were sharing.
“But all glory to God and I also want to give credit to our combination with coach Dhlakama. You see, him bringing me in after he was appointed had a very big bearing on the survival of the team, because Dhlakama is a visionary,” added Dodo.
ZPC Kariba almost made history in 2014, when they nearly won the championship in their debut season.
They finished second behind Dynamos and went into the last round of fixtures needing a victory against CAPS United at Gwanzura to secure the title.
But they lost 3-2 and DeMbare, who beat How Mine 2-1 on the same day, clinched the title. Saul Chaminuka was still in charge.
Since then, ZPC Kariba have failed to achieve a top-four finish.
They finished 10th thrice in 2015, 2017 and 2018. They were sixth and eighth in 2016 and 2019, respectively. “Just like any other team, there are times when standards may decline in an attempt to find best solutions.
“However, the team managed to sustain itself in the top-flight league for all the past years,” Chisveto said.
Along the way, ZPC Kariba have also attracted top coaches like the legendary Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa.
“So far, all our players are fully paid and have been paid on a monthly basis.
“We found an innovative way to handle their salaries and they get paid on time, which has proved to be a great motivator.”
He also re-emphasised the importance of the club to the resort town.