THE heroic exploits of Elliot Mujaji and the senior national soccer team, the Warriors, were the revelations of the 2003 sporting year while other sporting disciplines failed to rise to the occas
Mujaji, with the 2002 Sportsperson of the Year award under his belt, defied the odds by winning two gold medals in the men’s amputees 100m and 200m final at the 8th All Africa Games in Abuja.
His unrivalled curriculum vitae includes a gold medal at the Sydney Paralympics and two gold medals at the Italian Grand Prix in 2001.
But for all his efforts, the 32-year-old Shabanie Mine athlete got a paltry $1,2 million bonus from government.
The Warriors shrugged off the ‘nearly men’ tag to book a maiden appearance at Africa’s greatest soccer showcase, the African Cup of Nations which starts in three weeks time in Tunisia.
Particularly sweet about the result was that it was achieved and driven by local coaches Sunday Marimo and his two assistants Rahman Gumbo and Brenna Msiska.
Buoyed by the historic quali-fication, the trailblazing Warriors went on to thump Malawi 4-1 on aggregate to lift the Cosafa Castle Cup in November.
Eight times referee of the year Felix Tangawarima finally called it a day after reaching the Fifa retirement age leaving behind a glittering legacy that spanned nearly two decades.
Highlanders and Black Rhinos, the country’s representatives in continental tournaments, found the going tough and bowed out in humiliating fashion.
Rhinos were clobbered 6-1 by Moroccan powerhouse Raja Casablanca in the CAF Cup while Bosso received a thorough 7-1 aggregate drubbing by Tunisian giants Esperance in the second round of the Africa Champions League.
Usuthu finally discovered the Midas Touch that had eluded them in the past two years to dislodge Highlanders as the king of local soccer.
Energy Murambadoro capped a fine season by clinching the Soccer Star of the Year award becoming the first goalkeeper to lift the trophy since the start of the premiership a decade ago.
An era was ended at Zifa head-quarters when Leo Mugabe and Vincent Pamire were shown the door during the course of the year.
Mugabe, who ruled Zifa with an iron fist, was ousted in a palace coup at the beginning of the year.
Mugabe’s deputy Pamire, long considered to be a long-time disciple and the brains behind the palace coup, was swept away in an election in November in which Rafiq Khan assumed control of the association.
Tennis Zimbabwe boss Paul Chingoka added a feather to his cap when he was elected the new president of the Confederation of African Tennis (Cat) taking over from Senegalese Mamadou Ndiaye.
However, Zimbabwe’s stay in the Davis Cup remained on a knife-edge after suffering mixed fortunes throughout the year.
After losing 1-4 to Israel in Tel Aviv in June, Zimbabwe had to summon the artistry of Kevin Ullyett and Wayne Black to sail past Italy in September.
That victory ensured that Zimbabwe remains in Group One.
Discontent was to dog rugby for the better part of the year.
The cancellation of the first round tie against Madagascar in the rugby Africa Cup in July was a sad chapter in the history of the sport.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) said they had postponed the match because players had refused to play at the designated venue.
Players on the other hand said they had not refused to play the match but instead raised concerns about the condition of the pitch.
Rugby pundits were all out against the ZRU’s premature decision saying the cancellation of the match was part of the myriad of problems afflicting the union.
Cracks within the ZRU rank and file surfaced when then Sables coach Godwin Murambiwa resigned in June citing irreconcilable differences with the union.
Alex Nicholls who took over the reins barely lasted a fortnight, a sign that the mess in the union had reached a nadir.
It remains to be seen whether the Bryn Williams-led executive would bring the sport to an even better keel.
And in a major development in boxing, four boxers – Misheck Kondwane, Farai Musiiwa, Godfrey Musiiwa and Hastings Rasani relocated to Birmingham in preparations for international tournaments.
In hockey, Hockey Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) failed to raise enough money to upgrade the hockey stadia, Magamba in Harare and Khumalo in Bulawayo, which are no longer fit for international matches.
In the run-up to the 8th All Africa Games in Abuja, Zimbabwe did not play a single international hockey friendly match and this had a bearing on the dismal performance by the team.
The men’s team lost 0-10 to Egypt in the opening match before losing 0-5 to Nigeria.
The Cricket World Cup was finally co-hosted by Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya at the beginning of 2003 but with its fair share of controversy. Zimbabwean cricketers Henry Olonga and Andy Flower wore black armbands during the opening match “mourning the death of democracy” while England refused to play their tie against Zimbabwe in Harare.
But the tournament is also remembered for the demolition of Zimbabwe by Kenya in Bloem-fontein.
Tatenda Taibu etched his name in the history books when he was appointed vice-captain of the team, becoming the first black player to hold that position in the history of the game.