BY MIKE MADODA
THE year 1980 was a good year. On the first of January, just a few minutes after midnight, I was born into a world fraught with tension as the Cold War played itself out in the sports world with a US-led boycott of that year’s summer Olympics in the then Soviet Union, but a Zimbabwe brimming with pride and full of optimism. In many ways, it was a double celebration for my folks; the addition of a bouncing baby boy coupled with the country finally shaking off the yoke of colonialism.
Just like now, the biggest sports event in the month of January was the Australian Open. The women’s draw turned out to be an exciting affair with third-seeded Hana Mandlikova defeating Wendy Turnbull 6–0, 7–5 in the final to win the Women’s Singles tennis title in Melbourne. This was the last time at the Australian Open that neither of the finalists had won a major previously; The 1998 Wimbledon Championships would be the next occurrence of such a final, a span of 63 tournaments. Turnbull would also become the last Australian woman to reach the singles final — they are still counting.
It was a year in which cricket witnessed one of the great batting performances of all-time. A cavalier approach on the final day of the 3rd test vs Pakistan in Lahore from Aussie batsman Allan Border saw him bludgeon 153 in Australia’s second innings. It was a fine effort, but nothing extraordinary in itself, given that the match was a fairly high-scoring draw: only three innings were played, and 24 wickets went down in 398 overs, which is roughly a wicket, every 100 balls.
However, what made it an extraordinary feat was the prequel to his 153: in the first innings, Border had scored an unbeaten 150, making this the first and only time a batsman had scored 150 in each innings of a Test. Incidentally, Border batted at number-six in each innings, and his match aggregate of 303 is the second-highest by a number-six batsman in a Test.
The year 1980 saw two hockey shocks at the Olympics. At the Winter Games, an unfancied team of American college players beat the mighty Soviet Union en route to ice hockey gold. They called it the ‘Miracle on Ice’. Their story inspired a movie. But few could have imagined there would be an even greater sensation at the Summer Games in Moscow. Women’s hockey had finally been installed on the Olympic programme for the 1980 Games. Only six teams took part and the field was badly affected by the Olympic boycott. A team from the new nation of Zimbabwe, called up at desperately short notice, seized the day and took gold, beating the hosts, Poland and Austria to remain unbeaten in Moscow.
In December that year, the legendary Bayern Munich forward Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was named best European football player, beating German international teammate Bernd Schuster, who played for Barcelona and the emerging French star Michel Platini. Rummenigge was at the heart of West Germany’s second European crown and put in a starring performance in the final versus Belgium at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. With the game locked at 1-1 and extra time looming, Rummenigge picked out Horst Hrubesch and the ‘Kopfball-Ungeheuer’ (Heading Monster) as he was affectionately known, made no mistake.
But for Zimbabwe, 1980 will always be remembered as the year the nation attained independence after nearly a century of colonial rule and for football fans in particular, the year David Mandigora was crowned Independent Zimbabwe’s first Soccer Star of the Year, having led Dynamos to the first of what would be a record setting run of four consecutive league titles. Born at Kadoma General Hospital, incidentally the same hospital I was born, Mandigora, one of three football-loving boys in a family of ten, would go on to dominate the local football scene like very few players have.
The former Warriors and Dynamos star joined the Glamour Boys in 1973 as a sixteen-year-old and graduated into the senior team in 1977. Blessed with bags of skill and with an eye for a pass, Mandigora soon became a hit at Rufaro with his match-winning performances. Those that were privileged to have played with or against him, will tell you that he was relentlessly productive, able to find tiny pockets of space, his game marked by clarity, vision and a complete immersion in the team — he was the perfect team man.
His coaching career was no less glamorous. “Yogi” as Mandigora was affectionately known, led his beloved Dynamos to the semi-finals of the 2008 CAF Champions League, eliminating defending champions Etoile du Sahel, beating five-time champions, Zamalek, of Egypt and accounting for ASEC Mimosas, the Ivorians who had defeated Dynamos in the 1998 Champions League final. However, Mandigora would find Coton Sport Garoua no soft touch as the Cameroon side ended his adventure, but not before Dynamos had won global recognition for their pluck and endeavour in the face of what many may have seen as insurmountable odds.
Those that knew Mandigora intimately will tell you that he didn’t seem like a star – no airs, no graces, no frills, no fuss. “Yogi” was quiet, unassuming, humorous and often let his biting wit lead the way just as his skill and goals had done at the peak of his career. This quiet man who exited this world quietly this past Saturday, leaves a legacy, both on and off the field, that will continue to loudly reverberate, perhaps louder than the cheers that met his goal in that 1980 Independence Cup victory against Zambia.
We will remember him for that goal which got the Warriors back in the game after Zambia had taken an early lead and set the platform for the comeback completed by Shackman Tauro’s 89th minute winner. We will remember him as the first Soccer Star of the Year in Independent Zimbabwe, but above all, we will remember David Mandigora as a good man who shown brightest in a good year.
Follow Mike Madoda on Twitter: @mikemadoda