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Sport: The high and low points

As 2012 draws to a close, IndependentSport takes a look at some of the major highlights of an otherwise disappointing and uneventful Zimbabwean sporting year.

Compilation by Kevin Mapasure

The worst performers (International level)

The less said about the Warriors the better after another dreadful outing where they again failed to qualify for the Afcon finals. Like they almost always do, they raised fans’ hopes with a 3-1 home victory against Angola only to put in a bad away performance in the reverse fixture. Another chance went begging and few will rival them for the worst team performance for 2012.

Senior national cricket team
The national cricket team had little action to talk about, but put in some of the worst and embarrassing performances in New Zealand and at the T-20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. It lost every single match in all three formats in New Zealand and capped their dismal year with two crushing defeats to Sri Lanka and South Africa at the World Cup.

Olympics team
There was much qualified hope vested in the London Olympics team but they returned home empty handed. Of course most hope was in Kirsty Coventry but once she failed in her three medleys, it was clear Zimbabwe would return home with nothing. Those involved with the team, which took with it more officials than athletes, tried to sell the fans a warped notion that competing alone was an achievement but few were willing to buy that hogwash. The big disappointment was the injury to sprinter Ngoni Makusha prior to the Games. He was Zimbabwe’s only other genuine medal hopeful but once he was ruled out, chances of a podium finish diminished. Cuthbert Nyasango and Wirimai Zhuwawo tried their best but only managed to finish 7th in the marathon.

Some might find this quite controversial, but remember these ratings are based on performances on the international scene. DeMbare were reminded how much of a small team they are now on the continent when they were thrashed and booted out of the Caf Champions League by Esperance of Tunisia by an emphatic 7-1 goal aggregate after beating Liga Muculumana of Mozambique. While teams like FC Platinum and Motor Action fell by the wayside, more was expected from the champions.

U -19 Cricket team
Zimbabwe has almost always done well at the Under-19 World Cup. This was one of those few times that they have failed in Australia. They were not expected to win the cup but the way they failed is unacceptable. They lost to Papua New Guinea, hardly a name you can associate with the game at whatever level.
Narrowly missing out on a place in the worst five are the hockey teams that represented Zimbabwe in African club competitions recently.

Best performers
Gold: The Sables. The best performers of the year have never been easier to come up with and that award goes to the national 15s rugby team. But somehow it is one team whose achievements never get due recognition and it’s a pity most resources are channeled into football, a source of disappointment, while this team struggles. They won the Africa Cup this year while results did not come in other tournaments. One can understand where they are coming from and how they have given hope for a World Cup place in England in 2015. The Sables gave a tantalising glimpse into what they can achieve if given the support and money.

Silver: Brendan De Jonge hoisted the country’s flag high in golf on the international scene. While he did not win a major tournament, his performances deserve recognition.

Bronze: Rodwell Makoto. Due to the paucity of top performers where it matters, we will stick to just three in this category and third place goes to chess’ Rodwell Makoto. Although his discipline may be lacking, he is one athlete who has something to show from 2012 after winning the Zimbabwe Open, The South African Open and the Capablanca memorial in addition to the African Junior Championships.

Best coach
Because he led the team of the year, Brendan Dawson is coach of the year. He led the Sables to conquer Africa and subsequently gave the best hope yet of qualification for the World Cup finals. Shackled by a small budget, a drop in the ocean to what the Warriors get for all their failures, even without the best of preparations the Sables, save for the Springboks, are the best on the continent.

Worst coach
Another easy one and it goes to Rahman Gumbo for his role in misleading the Warriors straight into a home defeat to Guinea in a 2014 World Cup qualifier, almost killing the dream in its earliest stages. Klaus Dieter Pagels thinks he can revive it, 2013 will tell. But what Pagels cannot revive is the Afcon 2013 dream which went up in smoke after the Warriors were bemused by Munocho’s power and precision in Luanda after the Warriors had taken a Khama Billiat inspired 3-1 comfortable lead. Angola needed two goals and within 10 minutes, Manucho had delivered those while the Warriors toiled for 90 minutes without a single attempt at goal. How worse can a team play?

Best administration
For managing to bring out the best out of the Sables with very little in the coffers, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union deserves to be anointed the best administrators of the year. There is no money in rugby just like most other sporting disciplines, but still the administration managed to keep the game together and also succeeded under circumstances they would have been forgiven for failure. The Sables have emerged at the end of the year as a ray of hope for local sport.

Worst administration
For their failure to send the junior teams to fulfill obligations outside the country risking Caf bans, Zifa take this one with relative ease. And then for their refusal to get rid of Rahman Gumbo yet it was clear he was not taking the Warriors anywhere and waiting until he had suffocated the World Cup dream as well as killing the Afcon prospects, Zifa deservedly are the worst administration. Their mantra is cleaning up football but they will be the first to admit that they will always be judged by results of their teams and the Warriors have failed, dismally.

The big gambles

Klaus Dieter-Pagels; Zifa appointed Klaus Dieter Pagels towards the end of the year to preside over the Warriors on an interim basis and his task will be to rebuild the team with the exclusion of Asiagate participants. Some have cast doubt on that project considering that Pagels lacks experience at the top. The German coach has only coached at third division in his country but he has promised to transform the team into a formidable side playing a passing game. To help him instill that philosophy he has roped in Lloyd Mutasa, another gamble itself.

Sean Connor; Caps United attempted to borrow from the European structures of technical teams and they also hired an Irish Sean Connor to head that department. But that experiment exploded like a powder keg with results proving hard to come by. The entire set up that also included Lloyd Chitembwe, Joel Lupahla, Kennedy Nagoli and Richard Tswatswa was dismissed as Taurai Mangwiro and Mkhupali took over to guide the team to safety after the Green Machine had dipped its toes in relegation waters.

The big loss
Adam Ndlovu; Just days ago, on Sunday to be precise, Adam Ndlovu died in a car accident that left his brother Peter with serious injuries. He had just led his team Chicken Inn to a credible third spot finish in the Castle Lager Premier League. He will be remembered more for his contribution both at Highlanders and Reinhard Fabisch’s Dream team.

Kevin Curran: Cricket lost Mashonaland East coach and national team selector Kevin Curran who died in Mutare as his team warmed up ahead of a match in October.

They walked away

Tatenda Taibu; The national cricket team lost one of its best players in former captain Tatenda Taibu who dumped the bat to concentrate on his mission in the church. Taibu announced his retirement in July this year making the New Zealand tour, in January, the last he would represent Zimbabwe. He ruled out any chance of returning, dealing a hammer blow to the Test side where his talents were required as they build on.

Ozias Bvute; In the office side of cricket the game lost one of its vital cogs in Ozias Bvute who had presided over its new birth and resurgence. Bvute left to pursue other interests but he was behind the local game’s reinvention, especially on the financial side of business where he brokered several important sponsorship contracts for the game. His importance in the office was as important as Taibu’s in the field.

Attention seeking
Formula 2 star Axcil Jefferies thrilled those who love automotive sport. With his performances at that level which is only just behind the Formula 1, he has demanded attention which he thoroughly deserves. He became only the second driver from Africa to compete in Formula 2.

Goodbye and good riddance
It took so long but finally Joseph Mungwari left athletics administration, a move that many had clamoured for but met with resistance. Tendai Tagara took over as the new National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president. The simple fact is he had overstayed his welcome.

The double
Dynamos retained both the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League and the Mbada Diamonds Cup in stylish fashion. DeMbare finished level on points with Highlanders in one of the most intriguing races in the league but a superior goal difference made the difference. For all their beautiful football which captivated fans, Monomotapa found Dynamos a daunting proposition in the Mbada final with the Glamour Boys winning by a comfortable 2-0 score line. Denver Mukamba won the race for the Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year with Masimba Mambare of Highlanders and Ronald Chitiyo as runners-up.

Was Quelaton really serious about their stay in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League? Of their 30 games they managed to win just three, the same number as what Dynamos lost at the top. The relegated Bulawayo side scored 15 goals all season, the same number as what Dynamos conceded. Quelaton conceded a massive 58 goals, exactly the same number of goals Dynamos scored. After losing 22 games, with Dynamos winning 21, Quelaton collected just 11 points all season. What a misfit.

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