from WELLINGTON TONI in Harare
HARARE – HAD it not been for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its rampaging effects, one of the oldest and most fabled sides in local football, Zimbabwe Saints, would be making its way back to the elite league.
Champions of the old Super League in 1988, before it was transformed into the Premier Soccer League (PSL), the side from the second city Bulawayo became somewhat a yo-yo side, dabbling between the topflight and the first division before their eventual demise in 2006.
Perennial leadership squabbles culminated in theirdownfall.
After more than 14 years in the doldrums, plans are underway to revive the Chauya Chikwata’s glory days. Former club chairperson and Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) president, Vincent Pamire, is leading theresurgence.
Saints are now registered in the Southern Region first division.
“All affiliation fees have been paid. We are taking things step by step,” Pamire said.
Lloyd Munhanga, one of the former administrators, kept the Saints brand alive in the last couple of seasons, albeit under another name, Chiwororo.
One of the team’s most famous products, midfielder Esrom Nyandoro, went on to win league titles in Zimbabwe with cross-city rivals, AmaZulu, in 2003, and many more titles in neighbouring South Africa with Mamelodi Sundowns.
“I hope they come back stronger,” an expectant Nyandoro said.
He is now a scout and coach of the Sundowns reserve side.
Formed in 1931, Saints has produced some of the most prominent administrators and coaches.
Apart from Pamire and Manhanga, others are Martin Mabvira, former national team coach, Gibson Homela, and the late famous wrestler, Max “Moon Dog” Kutsanzira.
Ronald Sibanda, one of the best midfielders ever to grace Zimbabwean football pitches, goalkeeper Muzondiwa Mugadza and skillful Mlungisi Ndebele are some of the yesteryear stars to don the blue-and-white strip.
Others are Nkosana Gumbo, Butholezwe Mahachi, Agent Sawu, Ephraim Chawanda, Howard Mago, Melusi Nkiwane, Joel Luphahla, Mtshumayeli Moyo and Chris Kahwema.
Together with rivals Highlanders, they defined the social fabric of the game in Bulawayo, famously known as the City of Kings.
They enthralled with a brand of possession-based football known as “carpet.”
Saints’ crowning moment was their sole league title under the success-fixated coach, Roy Barretto.
The mentor jumped ship to Highlanders where he won the title in 1990.
He resurfaced at South African giants, Orlando Pirates, where he won the title in 2002/03.
– CAJ News