'Derby has lost sparkle'

HARARE - Since the start of the last week, all the attention of football loving Zimbabweans has been focused on today’s Harare derby featuring Dynamos and CAPS United.

The two giants of Zimbabwe football clash at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon in a potentially explosive encounter in the eyes of many.

However, a number of veteran sports writers, who covered the Harare derby in the late 80s and 90s have a different view.

These sports scribes feel that the Harare derby has lost that X factor that made it a game not to miss for the entire country since CAPS United's formation in 1973 to rival Dynamos.

Michael Kariati, a former sports editor with The Standard and Mirror titles, says the match is not worth $3 for the cheapest entry fee.

“As a sports writer I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the last few days and everyone was telling me that paying $3 to watch this match is just too much,” said Kariati.

“There are no more star players in both teams worth to pay $3 to go and watch the match. When I began my journalism career in 1993, we used to cover the Harare derby with a lot of star players on display.

“Those days CAPS United used to have star players like Alois Bunjira and Stewart Murisa going up against such top players like Kaitano Tembo and Vitalis Takawira in the Dynamos line-up.

“When you look at the players going to be on show tomorrow on Sunday (today) they cannot be compared to those players I have just mentioned.

“You cannot compare Moses Chunga to Murape Murape or Stix Mutizwa to Tendai Samanja. The standard of players has gone down and this has affected the derby.”

According to Kariati, modern Zimbabwean players are rushing to seek moves to South Africa and this has deprived the local game of top quality talent.

Former Sunday Mail deputy sports editor, Hope Chizuzu blames the media for overhyping the Harare derby which no longer deserves the acres of space on the back pages of the national newspapers.

“Lately the Harare derby matches have been very boring. It is the media that is tending to overhype this match,” he said.

“Most people are excited by the reports they read in the build up to the match, but when it comes to the actual football there is not much to get excited about. The derby has been greatly affected by the absence of stars players in both teams. 

“Back in our days, we used to go to cover players like Alois Bunjira, Steward Murisa, Farai Mbidzo and Morgan Nkathazo for CAPS United. Dynamos had stars players like Lloyd Mutasa, Vitalis Takawira, Memory Mucherahowa and Kaitano Tembo.

“You are better off watching the match on the TV than go to the stadium because you will be disappointed by the football you will see.”

It is not all gloom though.

Stanley Gama, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe Group Editor, who spent most of his formative years in journalism as a sports writer, feels although the Harare derby has lost its fire, there is plenty to look out for today and he will be at the National Sports Stadium to witness the action.

“Derby matches between CAPS United and Dynamos used to have so much emotion that they created tensions in families before, during and after matches. I used to cover the matches it was not easy at all. You could feel the tension not only in the stadium but across the country,” said Gama.

“To me a CAPS/Dynamos match was and is the biggest domestic contest in the country. A Highlanders/Dynamos match is big but honestly I can't compare it to the one between the Dynamos and CAPS.

“I guess the tension is made worse by the fact that both teams are from the capital while the players, coaches and supporters come from the same community. But across the country, in most districts of the country, the divisions are between Dynamos and CAPS. Inside the stadium, it was always tense and usually the teams would be separated by a one goal difference, I mean 1-0, 2-1 scorelines.

“Before I even started journalism while at school in rural Chivi, a match between Dynamos and CAPS would split the whole school including even teachers. This is why I insist that this is the real battle of Zimbabwe in terms of football. For the first time in many years, I will be at the National Sports Stadium to watch the match. Who wants to miss such a massive match?”    

Prominent Harare-based football agent, Gibson Mahachi is also looking forward to today’s match and feels that most people are expecting too much from this current generation of players.

“The thing with derbies is that you are not looking at what happened last year or two years ago but you look at the history of the match and where these two teams are coming from,” he said.

“To except in every time to have players like Joe Mugabe or Memory Mucherahowa playing in the derby every year is not possible.

“Those players are gone and we cannot keep on comparing them with the players we have these days.

“As for tomorrow, I hope it will be a good game. For the first time this season, I’m sure we are going to see a bumper crowd and the stadium will be full.

“The media has played a crucial role in hyping this game and I’m sure the match will be equally exciting.”

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