Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
FOLLOWING the recent success of the exhibition match between the Zimbabwe Legends and their Barcelona counterparts, ZIFA and SAFA have agreed to stage a Battle of Limpopo showdown between football legends from the two neighbouring countries.
The deal was sealed last night after discussions between ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa, who is also the COSAFA boss, and his SAFA counterpart Danny Jordaan and details of when the match will be held are now being thrashed out.
Chiyangwa told The Herald last night ZIFA were also planning to ensure that a number of Warriors, who are likely to be inactive as some of the European leagues take a mid-season break, could also feature for the senior national team in a friendly match against an international opponent on the same day.
The ZIFA boss said the day would be a football festival, likely to be held at the National Sports Stadium, to also celebrate the significant changes that have occurred on the country’s political arena with a new President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, set to be sworn at the giant stadium today.
The huge political changes in the country, which culminated in the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday, have already been welcomed by the international community and Chiyangwa said football — as the national game — had to be seen to be playing a leading role in joining the celebrations.
“Football is a game for the people and it’s the most popular sport in Zimbabwe and South Africa and I was talking to my counterpart Danny Jordaan and we agreed that our game should be seen to be playing a leading role in celebrating the big changes that we have seen happening in this country,’’ said Chiyangwa.
“It is against that background that we have agreed that the Zimbabwe Legends and the South African Legends should play in a blockbuster match as part of those celebrations that have been happening across the country.
“As ZIFA, we are also exploring the possibility of having our senior national team playing on the same day against an international opponent so that we make it a full package of a football festival that will leave a lasting impression among the fans.
“Our Zimbabwe Legends game against the Barcelona Legends succeeded beyond all expectations and we want to ride on that by staging another big day of football and we believe that a match between our Legends and their South African counterparts will appeal to the fans.
“We have always had a long-standing rivalry with South Africa and when we play them it’s a Derby which neither country wants to lose when we play against each other and we have a number of Zimbabwean legends who have contributed, in a big way, to the success of football in that country.
“You also should remember that this year marks 25 years since Bafana Bafana played their first match after SAFA were readmitted into international football in 1992 and they beat Cameroon 1-0 in Durban through a goal by one of their legends Doctor Khumalo.’’
However, years of isolation had taken its toll on the South Africans and this soon told when they came to Harare and crashed to a 1-4 defeat at the hands of the Warriors, with Peter Ndlovu playing a leading role in that destruction, in one of the best displays by the Zimbabwe senior football team on August 16, 1992, at the National Sports Stadium. Ndlovu, who is the captain of the Zimbabwe Legends, scored a spectacular goal in that match, slaloming past the Bafana Bafana defence before providing the end product to send more than 51 000 fans packed in the giant stadium into delirium.
The match was part of the ’94 AFCON qualifiers. Rahman Gumbo and Vitalis Takawira scored the other goals for the Warriors while Phil “Chippa” Masinga scored the consolation for Bafana Bafana. It was during that period that the South Africans got their nickname when their fans, riled by the way their men were being outclassed on the big stage, called them boys who were playing against real men in the jungles of African football.
Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela played in that match as a defender and was one of those who were left in a maze of confusion after Ndlovu worked his magic to score that wonder goal for the Warriors.
After the match, the late Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo provided the quote of the day when he said that Doctor Khumalo was too beautiful to play football and that was why the Warriors had found it easy to contain him despite all the buzz that followed him when he arrived with his Bafana Bafana teammates.
“We have shared so much in the past 25 years as neighbours and rivals and it was only fitting that we should organise a match between the Zimbabwe and South African Legends,’’ said Chiyangwa.
Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor