In 2000, Eric Rosen staged an emphatic coup which saw him snatch 11 players from the now defunct Arcadia United where he was chairman.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
The players became the core of Rosen’s newly-established Motor Action Football Club, a team formed from the franchise he had acquired from Blackpool.
Thirteen years later, 13 players have dumped him at a time he needs them most, in the midst of a financial strife that has left the club on the brink of a sensational collapse.
But besides all the events that characterised the formation of Motor Action, it is worth noting a refreshing wave of professionalism that defined the Mighty Bulls, as they are known.
Boasting of their own stadium, a club house and two minibuses, they were a giant in the making, by Zimbabwean football standards.
After 14 straight top-flight football seasons decorated by the 2010 league title, 2011 BancABC Sup8r Cup and 2005 Independence Trophy, the “small giant” is facing the grim prospect of relegation, after having cemented their status in Zimbabwean football. Only four clubs have remained in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) for the past 10 seasons.
Dynamos, Highlanders, CAPS United and Motor Action have maintained their top-flight league status.
“Obviously, if we get relegated there is going to be a void in Zimbabwean football. We are already feeling that void because there are four clubs being promoted each season, which is a 25% chunk of the league. Having four new clubs every season is not good for continuity,” said Rosen.
Just three seasons ago, Bulls were celebrating their maiden league title, which afforded them a dance in the African Champions League in 2011 and a Mbada Diamonds Cup final appearance that saw them participating in the CAF Confederations Cup last season.
In these glory seasons, none of their followers would have ever imagined the Mighty Bulls’ fortunes would drastically plunge.
Currently, they have found themselves trapped at the foot of the PSL table with a mere three wins and five draws from 19 games.
They have lost the highest number of games (11), and scored the lowest number of goals (12).
With 13 players jumping ship mid season, the Mighty Bulls have turned to youngsters — most of them from Aces Youth Academy — for solutions.
Experienced players Dylan Chivandire, Reuben Machaya, Charles Mutero, Matawu brothers Clement and Louis, Charles Chiutsa, Blessing Sande and goalkeeper Francis Nicho, have ditched the club.
Bulls turn to young blood
Cheaply acquired teenagers like Walter Musona and Wisdom Mutasa have given Rosen hopes — although faint — of avoiding the chopping block.
“We had a terrible first half. Some of our senior players were not happy with the prevailing financial situation and they left. We have now roped in youngsters and hope they can help us in our fight against relegation,” said Rosen, who had been single-handedly bankrolling the club.
Concerted efforts since the beginning of the season to lure sponsors and partners have drawn blanks.
Rosen feels let down by the corporate world.
“Yes, in a way I would say corporates have turned their back against us at a time when we need them most. It is no secret that we have consistently participated in the league for the past 14 seasons. We are an established club with a track record of success, but now we are facing serious financial challenges with no one to help. It is a big letdown,” he said.
Mighty Bulls’ PSL dance
The 14 seasons saw a growing fan base that had a cheerleading brass band whose loud music would sometimes draw even the cheers of some of the most vociferous clubs.
The adoption of Mutare’s Sakubva Stadium as home-ground also characterised the Mighty Bulls’ eventful years in top-flight football.
A club that has boldly engraved their name in Zimbabwean football with a league title, Motor Action has also churned out national team players and celebrated players in Zimbabwean football.
While turning out for the Mighty Bulls, club legend Clement Matawu appeared on the Soccer Star of the Year calendar in 2003 and 2004 as a finalist, and was later crowned the country’s top player in 2006.
With 13 years of loyal service to the club, veteran goalkeeper and captain Marlon Jani is obviously a bitter man with the direction things are taking.
“As the captain, you enjoy winning trophies, but the disturbing moment comes when things are not going your way,” said the long-serving captain who turned 35 on August 8.
“We are in a bad position at the moment, but we must rise and get out of the relegation zone. Chances of surviving are still there. We just need to win most of the remaining games. I have enjoyed being captain of Motor Action especially during the 2010/11 seasons.”
Eleven games remain in this campaign and, they are left with only three games outside Harare.
After offering stubborn resistance to giants Dynamos on Thursday, long-serving coach Joey Antipas believes they can survive relegation.
“Time is running out, but we believe we can avoid relegation. Yes we are facing money problems at the club but the youngsters just need to grow in confidence and believe in themselves,” said Antipas.