FROM the rise and imminent fall of Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa to the Zimbabwe cricket team’s historic ODI series win in Sri Lanka and Rutendo Makore’s breakthrough move to professional football in Europe, it was a year of mixed fortunes for Zimbabwean sport in 2017
BY SPORTS REPORTERS
Standardsport looks back at some of the controversies, highlights, stars and disappointments which hogged the limelight in Zimbabwe sport in 2017.
Controversy of the year – Philip Chiyangwa
Who would have thought by the end of 2017, Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Chiyangwa would be a man clutching at straws in a desperate bid to remain in the biggest job in Zimbabwean football?
After all, for the better part of the year, the flamboyant businessman’s stock kept rising, especially on the international arena as he assumed some influential positions in the region and in Africa.
It appeared like his “Zifa-Cosafa -Caf- Fifa” dream scoffed at by naysayers was shaping up nicely and could be achieved in record time when he successfully spearheaded the campaign to unseat long-serving CAF president Issa Hayatou.
Chiyangwa even brought Fifa president Gianni Infantino into the country for his birthday, proving that he had taken a lofty seat in world football politics.
While he enjoyed international acclaim, the Zifa boss and self-proclaimed “god of Zimbabwean football” wantonly mismanaged the game, running it as if it was his own relic, which proved to be the beginning of his demise.
For an ordinary football lover in Zimbabwe, Chiyangwa’s eminence was nightmarish as he appeared more like a football dictator in the making by the day.
He allegedly transferred most Zifa funds and property to his business associates, among a lost of other allegations and descended on anyone who dared to criticise him or the association.
At one point he abused his powers and unashamedly rescinded Dynamos striker Christain Epoupa’s red card after the Cameroonian head-butted Highlanders defender Peter Muduhwa in September.
His world now seems to be crumbling under him after being recently reported to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission over alleged corrupt activities, while his suitability for the biggest post in local football has been brought to question.
In a nutshell, Chiyangwa is, as the popular phrase aptly puts it, a dead man walking.
A few weeks ago, Chiyangwa also faced the first mutiny of his two years in power from the electoral college who resisted his efforts to go ahead with an improperly convened annual general meeting at the Yadah Hotel Complex in Harare.
And with the elections coming in 2018, there is a general air of optimism that Chiyangwa will fall by the wayside.
The year began on a good note for Chiyangwa after he was elected Cosafa president in March having two months earlier overseen the Warriors’ qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon.
Following the Warriors’ mediocre performance at the continental showpiece, where the coach’s shortcomings were severely exposed Chiyangwa wielded the axe on the coach Kalisto Pasuwa.
In what ended up being a bizarre year for the Warriors, three different coaches — Norman Mapeza, Sunday Chidzambwa and even Wilson Mutekede — took charge of the senior national team on an interim basis.
Chidzambwa, who was last month finally named as the substantive coach, took charge of the team for the Cosafa Cup and the gamble paid off as Zimbabwe went on to win the Cup for a record fifth time.
Mapeza, who went on to win the Premier Soccer League title with FC Platinum, oversaw the Warriors 3-0 win over Liberia in their opening 2019 Afcon qualification campaign, while Mutekede led the side during the end of year friendlies against Lesotho and Namibia.
However, individually Chiyangwa’s upsurge in international football continued after his appointment as vice-chairman of the Caf Afcon Committee early in the month .
One of Chiyangwa’s most unpopular decisions in his tenure so far remains the banning of senior Warriors players Willard Katsande, Cuthbert Malajila, Nyasha Mushekwi and Mathew Rusike from national team assignments.
Their crime — leading a Warriors’ snub of Gabon 2017 sendoff dinner that had then acting president Emmerson Mnangagwa as the guest of honour following an allowances and bonuses stalemate in January this year.
Highlight of the year – National cricket team
There were so many candidates for the highlight of the year in Zimbabwe sport as local athletes continued to punch above their weight as the economic challenges prevailing in the country continue to have an impact on local sport.
From Warriors skipper Knowledge Musona’s memorable hatrick against Liberia at the National Sports Stadium, the Cheetahs’ qualification for next year’s World Cup, to the Warriors’ historic Cosafa Cup triumph, there were so many candidates for the highlight of the year.
However, it is the national cricket team, which provided by far the major sporting highlight when they delivered a historic effort to stun hosts Sri Lanka 3-2 in a One Day International (ODI) series in July.
It was a remarkable achievement for the Chevrons who appeared to be at their lowest ebb after starting the year on a bad note with a humiliating series defeat to Afghanistan on home soil.
Heath Streak’s charges, however, redeemed themselves in spectacular fashion with a glorious result away from home, which charmed the sporting world.
In fact, had it not been for some poor umpiring, Zimbabwe could have forced a draw in the lone Test match.
Nevertheless, winning that ODI series — the first time Zimbabwe has won a bilateral ODI series against a full member nation away from home since 2001 — was probably the most outstanding perfomance by any Zimbabwean team this year.
Disappointment of the Year – Charles Manyuchi
After a memorable year in 2016 in which he etched his name in the local boxing folklore by clinching the World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight silver title, previously held by some of the sport’s icons, Manyuchi endured probably his worst year since turning professional.
The boxing superstar crashed to a shocking first-round knockout defeat to Qudratillo Abduqaxorov of Uzbekistan last month in Singapore in May, which saw him relinquishing his coveted title.
Manyuchi was knocked out in just two minutes, 56 seconds, his third defeat in 24 matches and received a lot of criticism for his casual approach to the huge fight.
It was a crashing defeat, which overshadowed some of Zimbabwean sport’s disappointing moments such as the Warriors’ dismal Afcon perfomance and the Sables’ dismal Gold Cup campaign among others.
The 2016 Sportsperson of the Year has, however, vowed to redeem himself in 2018 when he begins his challenge to reclaim the WBC silver welterweight title.
Star of the Year – Rutendo Makore
Trailblazing Mighty Warriors striker Rutendo Makore broke new ground last month after becoming the first female Zimbabwean footballer to be signed by a European club.
The Norton-born star, who is aptly nicknamed “Madzimai” because of her affiliation to the Johanne Masowe apostolic sect, was signed by Spanish side Sporting Club de Heulva on an initial six-month contract after impressing during a trial stint with the club.
Makore would go on to make an immediate impact in the Spanish Liga Feminina as she put out an impressive performance by providing an assist in Sporting De Huelva’s 2-0 win at home to Fundación Albacete.
The former Black Rhinos forward was also a key figure in the senior national women’s team, the Mighty Warriors, where she was by far the team’s leading player during this year’s Cosafa Women’s Championships held in Bulawayo.
Makore ran riot during the regional tournament in September, scoring 10 goals to claim the Golden Boot award as Zimbabwe went all the way to the final before eventually losing to perennial rivals South Africa in the final.
The Mighty Warriors star also scored a first by becoming the first Zimbabwean female footballer to make the five-player shortlist for the CAF Women’s Player of the Year.
Although Makore did not make the final three-player shortlist for the Awards Gala, which will take place on January 4, it was still a massive honour for the talented player, who continues to be an inspiration for other upcoming female footballers.
Curiously, Makore’s achievements which come against the backdrop of the continued neglect of women’s football by the local football authorities, were ignored by the organisers of the Annual National Sports Awards.