Are Dynamos now just an ordinary team in Zimbabwe?

The history book of Dynamos Football Club, also known as DeMbare, might have many pages but the sheet of the class of 1998, is probably written in bold.

That year, Sunday ‘Mhofu’ Chidzambga’s charges were 90 minutes away from conquering Africa—in a fairytale CAF Champions League run which saw them reach the final of the continent’s premier club competition.

They faced Ivorian giants Asec Mimosas in the decider.

The first leg, played at the National Sports Stadium on November 28, ended in a goalless draw.

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in Abijan, played host to the second leg on December 12 —one of the most controversial deciders in the history of the competition.

Dynamos went into battle without influential captain Memory Mucherahowa, who was allegedly head-butted into unconsciousness by Mimosas players in a brawl before kick off. The hosts accused the Mufakose-bred midfielder of interfering with their warm up.

The setback meant that Mucherahowa had to follow the match —by far the most important in Dynamos’ history since the club’s formation in 1963 —on radio from a hospital bed.

Ultimately, Mimosas won 4-2 and were crowned African champions, dashing DeMbare’s dreams of conquering the continent.

Since the 1998 fairytale campaign, the Harare giants have had their high and lows but their fans believe they are still the most popular and successful team in the land.

Before they won a record four league titles in a row under Kalisto Pasuwa between 2011-2014, Dynamos reached the semi-finals of the Champions League under the late David ‘Yogi’ Mandigora in 2008, when their campaign ended with a 0-4 clobbering by Coton Sport de Garoua of Cameroon.

All of a sudden, Dynamos are a pale shadow of their former self in every aspect and one wonders if the glamour associated with the club for the last 59 years is still there.

The rate at which DeMbare, who at some point were arguably every local player’s destination, are now failing to attract some of the best players in the league, is alarming.

For decades, the general consensus in the blue half of Harare, was that it is every player’s wish to play for Dynamos, but events in the past few weeks have proven otherwise.

DeMbare lost one of the most promising midfielders in the country —Junior Makunike, to ambitious side Simba Bhora, ahead of the 2024 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season.

Makunike surprised many, when he refused to renew his contract with DeMbare —who will be taking part in the CAF Confederation Cup after their Chibuku Super Cup success last season.

Dynamos coach Genesis ‘Kaka’ Mangombe, reportedly even drove to Bulawayo to try and convince Makunike to renew his stay at DeMbare, but the former Mzilikazi High School student didn’t comply.

Simba also beat Dynamos to the signatures of two their targets —Walter Musona and Mthokozisi Msebe, formerly of FC Platinum and Bulawayo Chiefs respectively.

Last month, it was widely reported that highly-rated Warriors striker and 2023 Soccer Star of the Year second runner up Obriel Chirinda, was set to join DeMbare.

It appeared all systems go and Chirinda would be leading the Dynamos attack, but the Cowdray Park-raised star snubbed the Harare giants at the eleventh hour and joined defending league champions Ngezi Platinum Stars.

An audio recording obtained by Soccer24 revealed Mangombe fuming over the failed Chirinda transfer, accusing some clubs of “sabotaging” DeMbare and “preventing its dominance in Zimbabwean football.”

In the same audio recording, Mangombe also talks about DeMbare’s desire to sign Khama Billiat, saying the pint-sized former Warriors star would be donning the blue and white strip barring any late drama.

Billiat had been without a club since leaving Kaizer Chiefs when his contract with the Soweto giants ended in June last year.

He had reportedly agreed to join Dynamos, with the Moses Maunganidze-led DeMbare executive insisting they had everything needed to win the bidding war for Billiat, which initially included Manica Diamonds, CAPS United and Simba Bhora.

But to the surprise of many, Billiat arrived at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Tuesday night and was welcomed as well as driven from the airport by Yadah officials.

Khama Billiat arrives at the RGM International Airport on Tuesday night, to complete his return to local football after more than a decade in South Africa.

Billiat subsequently joined Yadah and penned a one-year deal with the Miracle Boys, turning his back on DeMbare in the process.

In the wake DeMbare’s failure to sign Billiat, former captain Justice Majabvi ignited debate on social media, when he insinuated that most players still wish to play for the club.

“Most players don’t know and understand how big Dynamos is, until you are playing for them,” wrote Majabvi on microblogging site X, formerly Twitter.

Mucherahowa agrees with Majabvi and reckons the Dynamos brand is still the strongest and most players still wish to be part of it.

“Well, I’m far away and I do not follow events regularly but I think the Dynamos brand is still strong,” Mucherahowa told Soccer24 from his base in Slough, United Kingdom.

“The difference between the Dynamos of our days and now is that the club is no longer the highest paying in the league, hence understandably, players simply go to the club which offers better remuneration,” he added.

The fortunes of Dynamos are undoubtedly winning despite the Harare giants’ rich history in Zimbabwean football.

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