Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
JUST like any other year, 2017 had its ups and downs, failures and success stories. As the year comes to an end on Sunday, Post Sport chose to extol our sporting heroes at national and provincial stage as we reflect on some of the team as well as individual achievements that duly deserve praise and special mention.
Norman Mapeza clinches PSL title
Moneybags FC Platinum etched their name in the PSL history books as they became the first team from outside the two big cities, Harare and Bulawayo, to be crowned league champions.
Norman Mapeza’s FC Platinum saw off Chapungu FC 2-0 to claim the 2017 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title for the first time ever at Ascot Stadium on the final day of the season.
In what was the last matchday fixtures of the season, the visitors went into the match two points ahead of their nearest rivals Dynamos, needing a win to fulfil their title ambitions, while a draw coupled with a win by the Glamour Boys would have extinguished their aspirations.
FC Platinum wrote their name in the PSL history books by becoming the first team from outside either Harare or Bulawayo to ever lay claim to the league title. Mapeza was subsequently named domestic football’s Coach of the Year while his top marksman, Rodwell Chinyengetere, was voted the Soccer Star of the Year.
And the club’s president, George Mawere, summed up the achievement of the miners as he expressed great joy upon having claimed the league title.
“We are most humbled, gratified and overjoyed as the FC Platinum family to have landed Zimbabwe’s most coveted title, the 2017 Castle Premier Soccer League Championship,” said Mawere.
“Today we celebrate not only as a football club in Zvishavane but as the entire Midlands family. Hence the cup is not for FC Platinum only but for the entire province.”
The unforgettable triumph in Sri Lanka
The Zimbabwe cricket team had the world saluting them after breaking records to beat hosts Sri Lanka in the first One-Day International in Galle this year where Solomon Mire scored a century.
Riding high on a brilliant hundred by Mire, the Zimbabwean cricket team scripted a historic win over rivals Sri Lanka in the first ODI at Galle. It was a monumental occasion for Galle as it was hosting its first ODI in 17 years and the visitors made sure that this moment remains etched in cricketing history.
Set a target of 317 to chase, Zimbabwe had a wobbly start but soon Solomon Mire and Sean Williams steadied the ship and forged a brilliant partnership to take their side to an epic win.
Subsequently, a number of records tumbled as new ones emerged to take their place. Incidentally, this was Zimbabwe’s first win in any form of cricket in Sri Lanka.
This was also Zimbabwe’s second highest run-chase in ODIs with the highest being 329 against New Zealand. The primary reason behind this record was Soloman Mire who recorded his personal best of 112. His innings was the cornerstone of Zimbabwe’s win.
However, this was not the only record that was set by the African nation. Three hundred and seventeen is also the highest run chase by any team against Sri Lanka in ODIs in Sri Lanka. This was the first time that a 300 plus total was chased down in the 296 ODIs that were played in Sri Lanka.
This was Zimbabwe’s second highest run-chase in ODIs with the highest being 329 against New Zealand. The primary reason behind this record was Mire who recorded his personal best of 112. His innings was the cornerstone of Zimbabwe’s win.
Mutare’s own football benefactor of all time
Simply referred to as “Hwetu” by most of his peers in the sprawling suburb of Sakubva, James Lunga Meya might be unknown in other towns apart from Mutare, but the South Africa-based businessman has made a name for himself through his philanthropic acts especially for the good of the game of football in Mutare.
The young earthmoving entrepreneur, who has earned mega construction deals south of the Limpopo, is himself a former football player who rubbed shoulders with many players that went to ply their trade in the domestic Premiership as he opted to pursue business opportunities in neighbouring South Africa.
He has donated football equipment ranging from complete kits to training equipment to Mutare football teams that include Tenax, Buffaloes and recently the newly formed Mutare Legends outfit.
As if that was not enough, Hwetu has pledged to bankroll a lucrative football tournament that is set put all eyes on Mutare next year. If such benevolence that is crucial to the development of the game of football in the city does not deserve special mention, then nothing does!
City Rovers gets another bite of the cherry
Coach Kenny “Bokande” Kachara was in charge as Mutare City Rovers won Premiership promotion at the end of the 2017 Eastern Region Division One League. The achievement for City Rovers marked a quick return to top-flight league football after having been relegated at the end of the 2015 season.
Whatever is being organised by the powers-that-be at Mutare City Rovers there are three things that an ordinary Mutare football lover is hoping for:
That the team will not be relegated at the end of the 2018 Premiership season, that the team will not be banned from using Sakubva Stadium as its home ground and that the team makes sure it has a coach in time who is supposed to select players that will be well fed.
Mutare Sports Club’s Cinderella story
Mutare Sports Club had a fine run in the 2017 Inter-City League that is difficult to overlook. From a team that was a punching bag in the previous year, the Mckenzie Munetsi-led outfit was only disturbed by the abrupt stop of the season in the InterCity League.
Not even the newly appointed National Rugby Union interim committee, on which they pinned their hopes for the resumption of action in the league, helped things for MSC. They were in second position when action in the league came to an abrupt halt and they were keen to resume the league, have more matches, given their fine run.
Mutare Sports Club were in top form after winning all but one of their league games. They were one of the few teams from outside Harare that drew a huge following during their home games. But somehow things just did not work out the way MSC wanted. The league ended prematurely.
Common sense finally prevails
Sponsoring an annual once-off top flight league tournament is not only more expensive but gives little corporate mileage compared to bankrolling a team in the same league.
This is based on basic public relations opportunity cost calculations and the Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company seems to be alive to that fact hence the birth of Manica Diamond FC.
Just like FC Platinum did, the nation at large and Mutare in particular is waiting to see whether the Premiership title will once again be taken outside Harare and Bulawayo in a few years to come.
Mountaineers for life
Followers of the gentlemen’s game of cricket in Mutare should be forgiven when they cry out loud about the absence of live cricket action at Mutare Sports Club of late. It is because they miss their heroes since it was in June that the club last played at their favourite hunting ground – MSC.
They cannot wait any longer to celebrate the iconic 2016-2017 season achievements of their beloved Mountaineers franchise in the domestic cricket top flight competition. For the record, last season they won the Logan Cup 2016-17 season without defeat and still undefeated for the current 2017-18 season, while leading on the log standings.
Mountaineers have many other offspring projects that have been a source of pride for the province. They came together to host the inaugural Tino Mawoyo Junior Festival. They won gold in the Under-23 men Youth Games, won silver and bronze in the women category Under-23 and Under- 18 at the Youth Games, respectively.
The successful hosting of the Flame Lily Junior Festival which Chirowakamwe Primary won as well as the three development boys Chitumba, Masekesa and Muchawaya – who made it into the Rising Stars squad – a special group of rising players selected to be under the guidance of Tatenda Taibu – are all achievements of the franchise that is so dear to the hearts of those who follow the game in Manicaland.