HARARE – The tension that surrounds the world’s fiercest derbies is predictable and the Harare derby pitting Dynamos and city rivals CAPS United last Sunday was no exception.
Football followers had become disenchanted with the Harare derby due to the poor standard of football on display in recent years.
But to their credit, Makepekepe and DeMbare gave the thousands in attendance and those watching on pay-per-view channel SuperSport value for money with a splendid performance.
Like two gladiators fighting to the death, the two Harare giants went toe-to-toe, exchanging blows in an open contest which was a breath of fresh air, unlike the dross fans have witnessed over the years.
Together with Highlanders, these two teams are the shining beacons of the Castle Lager Premiership and if they put in more shows like this, then the domestic game can grow in leaps and bounds.
On Sunday, the sights, sounds and tension that enveloped the 35 000-seater Rufaro Stadium exuded the true tempo of a derby.
The usual vuvuzelas, made famous following the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa, booming car horns, singing and drumming, have become key elements at soccer stadia around the country.
The run-up to the famous Harare derby had rival supporters teasing each other over their teams’ chances.
DeMbare’s hiking of the gate charges to $5 for the cheapest ticket might have been a strategy to limit the numbers in the stadium without losing out financially on the part of the home team.
Dynamos’ entry into the stadium soon after their arrival at the match venue just before 2pm shook the Vietnam End — which was not filled to capacity — before the blue end of town started chanting “Mhondi, mhondi, mhondi (killer, killer, killer)” when Method Mwanjali and Archieford Gutu led their teammates around the playing ground when the Green Machine arrived at Rufaro.
The City End, which houses predominantly Makepekepe fans, roared back saluting Mwanjali “Yellow, Yellow, Yellow” in obvious support for their skipper who, together with Gutu, are on $100 bail each for attempted murder and malicious injury to property respectively.
Perhaps putting Mwanjali and Gutu in front was a strategy by the United camp to test how the crowd would receive the duo.
It must have worked, because throughout the 90 minutes, Mwanjali seemed focused and rarely put a foot wrong, while Gutu showed some brilliant moves when he came in for Moses Muchenje in the 61st minute.
Mwanjali reclaimed his armband when Muchenje was substituted, sending the City End stand into delirium.
There were however, some disturbing moments when a group of Makepekepe fans were ejected from the Vietnam Stand with the City End reacting promptly by sending some DeMbare supporters, who were seated within the sea of green, down the stands to join their colleagues — but not before their jerseys and flags were torn to pieces in the full glare of police details manning the stadium.
Probably that is what builds up the derby tempo because tension continued on and off the field of play as the match progressed.
Dominic Chungwa’s goal in the 70th minute was enough for Makepekepe to silence DeMbare who had enjoyed the Harare derby joy since 2009.
Dejection for the blue half of town was compounded when DeMbare coach Paulo Jorge Silva saw red on the stroke of full-time after clashing with match officials while Glamour Boys fans had already started trooping out of Rufaro in disgust, into the dusty Mbare environs.
The four minutes of added time were played with the controversial DeMbare coach watching from the terraces.
United fans remained, singing their voices out in the City End to salute their heroes after the final whistle in obvious anticipation of the second leg of the derby.
Veteran striker Leonard Tsipa, who had been replaced by Simba Nhivi in the 46th minute obeyed supporters’ demands, and came to salute fans in the City End, duly bringing Mwanjali who leapt over the perimeter fence to join the Kepekepe Bhora chants in celebration of the narrow but crucial victory which painted Harare green in an instant.
Such is the mould of derbies worldwide. Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur in North London, in the English premier league; Rangers v Glasgow Rangers in Glasgow, Scotland, Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid in the Spanish La Liga while Lazio v Roma in the Italian Serie A, Al Ahly v Zamalek in Cairo, Egypt, Kaizer Cheifs v Orlando Pirates of Soweto in SA, as well as Flamengo v Vasco da Gama in Brazil, rank as some of the fiercest derbies in world football.