Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
THE year 2018 comes to an end on Monday, paving way for a potentially exciting 2019 in the sports fraternity where the country’s best supported national team – the Warriors – are on the cusp of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations while folks in Mutare are set to enjoy Premiership football once again, thanks to the promotion of a hugely promising project – Manica Diamonds.
Post Sport looks back to some of the events that dominated headlines in 2018.
Warriors’ hunt for Afcon ticket continues
The country’s senior men’s national team continued with their impressive start to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign but somehow faced a glitch when they lost to Liberia. Zimbabwe’s Warriors conspired to miss a glut of chances that derailed their march towards the 2019 African Cup of Nations and left the nation guessing about their chances of qualifying.
This came after Sunday Chidzambwa’s men surrendered their unbeaten run in Group G in a match in which they largely dominated and just needed a draw to become the 11th team to secure their place at the continental showpiece. Now the Warriors would have to do it the harder way in which they would have to avoid any errors against Congo in the final qualifier at home in March next year.
Tanganda, Old Mutual Vumba races held
Mutare played host to some of the nation’s prestigious long distance races – the Old Mutual Vumba Half Marathon as well as the Tanganda Half Marathon mountain run competitions.
A record 1 000 athletes competed at the seventh edition of the Old Mutual Vumba 21km Marathon that was won by Caniscious Nyamutsita and Rudo Mhondirwa in the men and women’s categories respectively. Nyamutsita touched the ribbon in 1 hour 10 minutes and 49 seconds, while Mhondirwa dominated the female category after posting a good time of 1.23.21
They were rewarded with a cash prize of $1 500 each. Unheralded Tatenda Hove was the first runner-up and Munyaradzi Jari was the second runner-up in the male category.
Caroline Mandu was the first runner-up and Bertha Chikanga was the second runner-up in the female category. In 2017, almost 800 athletes participated in the event which is regarded as one of the toughest marathons in the country due to the terrain.
Sakubva Stadium woes rage on
The sad story of long dragging renovations at Sakubva Stadium persists. Renovations at Sakubva Stadium, a 2018 Mutare City Council (MCC) project that failed to get corporate partnership from Chiadzwa diamond mining activities as largely expected, will now eat into the 2019 budget with construction works dragging longer than projected. Sakubva Stadium has been closed for renovations since early this year.
Initially, Mutare City Council had projected to complete the renovations by the end of October, but slow pace of works owing to limited availability of human and material resources derailed the plans.
Mutare Mayor Blessing Tandi, who cited the current price madness on the market as another factor that affected progress, recently said they are now expecting to finish the precast wall construction by end of February.
Exit Mutare City Rovers, enter Manica Diamonds
If the bad news is that Mutare City Rovers were once again relegated from the top flight league, then the good news is that Manica Diamonds were promoted into the Premiership. Mutare City Rovers were relegated from the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League after they lost to Triangle in a match played at Gibbo Stadium towards the end of the season.
Rovers went into that match with the faintest of hope of survival, and their fate was sealed with three matches still to be played. Rovers joined Shabanie Mine who were the first to be relegated and Nichrut as well as Bulawayo City.
Rover’s interim gaffer Ndega Matsika, however, promised a quick return to the topflight league.
“The performance was very good. We are relegated now but we are going to make a quick return to the Premier League and we are going to come back a stronger side,” he said
Rovers endured a tough season where they managed just five wins from 31 matches and for the greater part of the campaign, they have barely looked like they would lift themselves out of the relegation zone. Nonetheless, Manica Diamonds come in as a replacement for Mutare City Rovers in the Premiership.
That Manica Diamonds appear better financed than City Rovers gives hope to football fans in Mutare for better days ahead.
Norman Mapeza does it again
As expected, FC Platinum confirmed their dominance of the local league by lifting their second straight Castle Lager Premiership title on the final day of the season with a routine win over relegated Shabanie Mine in the Zvishavane derby at Maglas Stadium. Needing just to avoid a defeat to be crowned champions against their number one enemy, glory was never in doubt for this swashbuckling side coached by Norman Mapeza.
The trend-setting platinum miners became the first team outside the Harare and Bulawayo stranglehold to win two consecutive Premier League titles.
They also gatecrashed into the elite group of clubs to have successfully defended the title. The group has Dynamos, Caps United and Highlanders.
To date, FC Platinum has added another feather by becoming the only team outside Harare and Bulawayo to reach the group stages of the competitive Caf Champions League.
Kirsty Coventry appointed Minister of Sport
Kirsty Coventry, a former Olympic champion and a current member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC’s) executive board, was this year appointed Minister of Sport in Zimbabwe.
Her appointment charmed many including former Zimbabwe cricket captain Tatenda Taibu
“She is a sportsperson and knows about sport, being a person who has been there and done it,” Taibu said.
“I know her personally and I know that her heart is in the right place.”
The 34-year-old Coventry was vice-president of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee. She also chairs the IOC’s athletes’ commission.
She was appointed to cabinet by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as Minister of Youth, Sports, Art and Recreation.
Coventry won gold medals in the 200m backstroke at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and also has four silvers and a bronze, the most Olympic medals by an African athlete.
She shares the record of most individual medals by a female swimmer at the Olympics with Krisztina Egerszegi of Hungary.
Coventry retired after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games – her fifth Olympics – having won seven of Zimbabwe’s eight all-time medals. The other was gold by the women’s field hockey team at the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games. Coventry is known as the country’s “golden girl” for her Olympic success and was given $100 000 by then President Robert Mugabe after winning four medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, a huge prize for a Zimbabwean athlete. She gave the majority of the money to charity.
Chevrons, Mountaineers moment of glory
Eastern region cricket franchise Mountaineers have already begun to pursue the third first-class title in a row as they begin their Logan Cup defence.
After retaining the Logan Cup and reaching the Pro50 Championship final last season for the recent 2017-2018 season, Mountaineers have already begun the 2018-19 campaign as the favourites for both titles.
In fact, Mountaineers coach Shepherd Makunura has made it clear that the Mutare-based outfit have clear intentions to defend their title. The other major success story in the gentlemen’s game came with Zimbabwe’s historic triumph against Bangladesh which managed to charm the hearts and minds of many including the new Mountaineers general manager Wonder Chisango who credited the team for hard work and dedication.
Chisango was appointed the Mountaineers general manager following the ongoing restructuring within the Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC).
“The Chevrons win is actually a positive development for us as Mountaineers since we had some of our players in the starting line up. I think they made the whole nation proud by winning that test match away from home after 17 years. This is an achievement that deserves to be celebrated by every progressive Zimbabwean. We sincerely hope that they will be able to build from that and get more accolades in the future,” he said.
Zimbabwe thumped Bangladesh by 151 runs in the north-eastern city of Sylhet to claim their first away Test win in 17 years in one of the major achievements of the year 2018.
Post Sport wishes its readers, sportsmen and fans a successful 2019 sporting season!