DYNAMOS’ progression through to the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League is a triumph of determination over adversity, a tale reminding us all that the human spirit truly can overcome even the most difficult of obstacles.
Not only have the Zimbabwean champions defied Africa’s football hierarchy, most notably by defeating defending champions Etoile Sahel in the third round of the tournament, they have overcome the almost unbearable working and living conditions in a country that has fallen into economic and political disrepair.
On Sunday, in Harare, they defeated Egypt’s Zamalek 1-0 to set up a meeting with Coton Sport in the penultimate phase of the continental tournament.
It is not just a triumph for coach David Mandigora and his charges, but for all of Zimbabwe, who can be justifiably proud of their league champions.
A decade ago Dynamos qualified for the final of the CAF Champions League, losing 4-2 on aggregate to Cote d’Ivoire’s perennial challengers, Asec Abidjan.
And while there may be hope on the horizon given the recent power-sharing deal between Zanu PF and the MDC, this is still a country in which even managing to live a normal life is an immense achievement.
Let’s put all this into perspective with a real-life example: Dynamos’ players actually walked out of camp on Saturday, just 24 hours before their match with Zamalek, threatening to strike over a bonus row.
They were demanding $3m each but, due to the hyper-inflation suffered by the country, there is a daily cash withdrawal limit of $1 000 per person.
At the present parallel exchange rate, that is, wait for it . . . roughly less than US$1.
Within this context, the exhausted sporting clichÃ© of ‘giant killers’ simply fails to capture the enormity of Dynamos’ achievement.
Beating the defending African champions, Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel, who hail from one of Africa’s strongest economies and play in a domestic league that is one of the best on the continent, and then rubbing shoulders with Egypt’s Cairo duo, Zamalek and Al Ahly, the two most successful clubs in the history of the Champions League, is the stuff of dreams.
And now, to top it all off, they are just 180 minutes away from the showpiece event of African club football. Their opponents, Cameroon’s Coton Sport, are newcomers to the latter reaches of the Champions League, which should only serve to further lift the Zimbabweans’ confidence ahead of their first leg clash in Harare on the weekend of October 3-5.
The beauty of all this is that it once again reminds us just how unpredictable football, and sport in general, can be.
No matter who you are, or what circumstances you have to put up with on a day-to-day basis, determination, talent and the will to win can see you see you rise to the top. —— mtnfootball.com