The moments that really mattered in Zimbabwean sport in 2016 are not that many, yet those few left memories are sure to linger long in the minds of the fans and players.
BY Kevin Mapasure
By objective measure this may not have been the country’s best year in sport, but it had moments that can rival some of the best that have been experienced in the world of sport.
NewsDaySports picks through six of the moments that left an indelible mark on the scene.
1 Great Kali takes Warriors to Gabon
On Sunday June 5, one of the biggest parties was triggered at the National Sports Stadium before it spread to other parts of Harare and other areas. The Warriors had beaten Malawi, but that was not the point, it is that victory which sealed the team’s qualification to the Gabon 2017 finals. 2016 will be remembered as the year of the Warriors’ dreams after they sealed qualification with a game to spare. In the Malawi match, Knowledge Musona opened the scoring with a penenka style of a penalty before Khama Billiat doubled the lead, while Cuthbert Malajila made sure the win was emphatic.
A decade-long wait for qualification to a major tournament finally came to an end. Swaziland, Guinea and Malawi were all left in the shade as Kalisto Pasuwa’s charges booked their flight for the continent’s biggest football showcase.
2 Manyuchi breaking Russian ice
Charles Manyuchi thrust himself into the annals of boxing fame and records in the country when he, against all odds, claimed the World Boxing Council welterweight silver title with a win over Russian favourite Dimtry Mikhaylenko in his home town of Ekaterinburg on May 6. It was a huge victory that helped lift boxing’s profile and more so the national flag. The general feeling was that Mikhaylenko would cruise to victory, but Manyuchi, whose odds of a win were staked at 7/1 (meaning that for every dollar placed on a Manyuchi bet, a punter would get $7) produced a performance of high quality to take the title by a unanimous points decision breaking the hearts of 27 000 Mikhaylenko fans in the stadium.
While Zimbabweans might not have been privileged to have seen the fight live on television, the pictures of a triumphant Manyuchi in newspapers will be enduring for a long time.
3 Big Phil’s the big boss of Cosafa
Upon election as Zifa president last year, Phillip Chiyangwa declared that he was aiming to take positions in Caf and Fifa. Few would have saw him climbing to the top post of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) just one year after entering mainstream football administration. On December 17, Chiyangwa was elected new Cosafa president after the withdrawal of South Africa’s Danny Jordaan and Seychelles’ Suketu Patel whom he succeeded.
The news might have come as a surprised the usually loud Harare businessman had been quiet and discrete about his participation in the Cosafa elections.
The development ranks out as one of the highlights of the year as Chiyangwa declared that his next ambition was to topple Caf president Issa Hayatou
4 Mighty Warriors’ performances win hearts of the world
The Zimbabwe senior women football team might have hit for 6-1, 3-1 and 6-1 by Germany, Canada and Australia respectively at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but they left the tournament with pride that could rival medal winners.
Everyone expected them to lose and so they did, but it is the spirit and will they exhibited which won them admiration and praise both at home and abroad.
Shadreck Mlauzi’s side fought hard for everything and never looked overawed by their more illustrious opponents.
They celebrated each of their three goals that came through Kudakwashe Bhasopo, Emmaculate Msipa and Marvis Chirandu as if they had won the tournament. Records show that they lost heavily, but their fight takes them up there with some of the best moments of the year.
5 Zim induce Caribbean collapse at Queens
Having been a punching bag of other International Cricket Council (ICC) nations, the Zimbabwe national cricket team finally came to the party in their final series of the year.
Having been whitewashed by India in the one-day internationals, before the 2-0 Test defeats to both New Zealand and Sri Lanka in Bulawayo and Harare respectively, they finally gave their fans some thrill with a win over West Indies on November 25. Before that the two nations had played out a draw in the tri-series that also involved Sri Lanka.
And going into that match both teams needed a win to take the available final berth against Sri Lanka.
Zimbabwe made 218 with the bat which look rather short for to produce a win.
But Tendai Chisoro and Sean Williams bowled Zimbabwe to a 5 runs win via the Duckworth and Lewis method after West Indies’ chase had been hit by rain with the tourists on 124 for 6 in 27. 3 overs.
It was Heath Streak’s first win since he took over from Dave Whatmore who was sacked in June after a spate of poor results. Cricket fans will remember this one for a long while.
6 Asia takes notice of Zim’s Scott
Scott Vincent gave Zimbabwean golf a glimpse of a bright future ahead as he overtook United States-based compatriot Brendon de Jonge as the country’s highest ranked professional golfer on the official world rankings.
After starting the year ranked 927th in the world Vincent enjoyed tremendous strides in 2016 skipping 627 places on the rankings to number 300.
In contrast, de Jonge, who had been the country’s torch bearer since the retirement of the trio of Nick Price, Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty, regressed after losing his US PGA Tour card, dropping from position 141 at the end of 2016 to number 495.
To cap off a remarkable year Vincent was named Rookie of the Year on the lucrative Asian Tour on December 22 after he finished a respectable 28th on the final Order of Merit Standings thanks to two top-10s in six tournaments, including a runner-up finish at the Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea in September.
7 Green Machine running smoothly
Caps United ended a decade-long drought of the Premier Soccer League title finishing top of the log of one of the closest races that also featured FC Platinum and Highlanders who finished second and third respectively.
One can pick and choose what could have been their favourite moment, but Caps lifting the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League trophy at Ascot Stadium on November 26 stands out for many.
It had been long for Lloyd Chitembwe and everyone seemed to agree they deserved this one. It was one of the most emotional moments for the Green Machine family and even their rivals were happy for them.