As the highly-anticipated 67th edition of the Harare football derby draws closer, former Dynamos and Caps United players have said the once-fierce encounter between the two nemeses has lost its glamour.
The two teams lock horns at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday, in a match that has all ingredients to produce a thriller but an equal chance of producing a disaster.
With the two clubs seemingly struggling in the Castle Larger Premier Soccer League, and with only two points separating them on the log, the Sunday derby will be very unpredictable.
What has made the match special though is the fact that the outcome is bound to have far-reaching effects on the two coaches, Moses Chunga of Caps United and Dynamos’ Lloyd Mutasa.
Both coaches are reportedly sitting on a knife edge and it will not be very surprising to hear one of them waking up on Monday without a job.
Chunga started the season on a bang, dispatching teams with crude abandon, but his team has of late given indifferent results.
The Green Machine dominated the top spot early in the season and at one time looked so invincible that they scored an incredible 14 goals in three matches, but are now sitting five points below the log leaders Motor Action who have 26 points.
Caps United could be further down the ladder at the time the whistle blows to start the derby on Sunday — in the event that the Mighty Bulls dispatch Masvingo United tomorrow.
As for Mutasa, the pre-season that looked so imperious has turned into a travesty, and if the events that followed his team’s defeat to Blue Ribbon last week is anything to go by, the former Kiglon coach is sitting on a time bomb.
Dynamos supporters had to be dispersed by the police as they bayed for the coach’s blood and the ramifications of another loss to the team that they just love to hate are unimaginable.
However, former Dynamos and Caps United players are of the opinion the famous derby has lost its former glitter.
When asked about the impending derby yesterday, former Caps United striker Alois Bunjira pulled no punches.
Bunjira endeared himself to the Caps United legion of fans with his speed, dribbling skills and most of all — his die-hard fighting spirit on the field.
“The truth of the matter is that the derby is no longer the same — that passion and intensity that used to be generated whenever the two teams Dynamos and Caps United were mentioned no longer exist,” said Bunjira.
He blamed the movement of players between the two clubs as one of the major factors that has killed the two teams’ rivalry.
“In as much as I agree that players have to make a living out of soccer and have to move where they are paid better, somehow along the line, the derby is suffering. There is no longer player identity — imagine last year a player like Evans Gwekwerere was playing for Dynamos and their supporters loved him with a passion, but after a year he is now playing for their rivals and those Caps United supporters who used to revile him are now supposed to embrace him.”
“It’s like the supporters’ emotions are being tossed around. The clubs should try to keep players who can identify themselves with the club. During our time it was taboo for a player to move from Dynamos to join Caps United and vice versa but nowadays it’s different, a player does not have to think twice if approached by the rival club, there is no longer that loyalty,” said Bunjira who is now the Caps United brand and marketing manager.
Former Dynamos midfielder Tonderai Ndiraya, who is no doubt familiar with the bruising battles associated with the Harare derby, concurred with Bunjira.
Ndiraya, just like many players who have battled in the derby, is known for his die-hard type of play. He used to play as if his life depended on the game.
“I am of the opinion the spirit of the derby got lost over the years. Back then, I feel players were much more committed and played with passion unlike what we are seeing these days. There is no doubt the current crop of players have talent and are technically superior to those who played during our era and the years before, but there is no more passion in the derby,” said Ndiraya.
He added: “The issue has to do with the development of players at Dynamos and Caps United. Unlike in the previous years where a player would come through the club development system and into the senior team, these days we rely more on getting players from other clubs. So for the players to really appreciate and understand the pressures associated with the derby would be difficult. During our time a player would come through the ranks, grow up in the system and would always want to defend the name Dynamos — so they would fight hard because they had a name to defend. To lose to Caps United was totally unacceptable, but nowadays Dynamos players just take the game like any other league match,” said Ndiraya, who is now Dynamos’ junior coach.
However, having said this, the derby has nothing to do with the past, the previous results or the current position of the two teams on the log.
It’s simply special and very unique to supporters from both sides. It’s about pride and bragging rights. That alone will add to the huge pressure on coaches Mutasa and Chunga.