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2022 excitements, disappointments


FROM the ban on Zimbabwe by Fifa to the national cricket team’s many upsets, it has been an eventful year packed with both excitement and disappointment in local sport and Independent Sport reviews some of the key moments in selected sport codes over the last 12 months.

Football on its knees.

After months of speculation emanating from the Sports and Recreation Commission’s (SRC) move to dissolve the Zifa board last year, Fifa finally wielded the axe on Zifa on February 24 this year.

Fifa insisted that what the SRC did constituted government interference.

 Fifa had warned the SRC in earlier correspondence that suspending Zifa over mere allegations that have no proof would culminate in a ban.

 “We had to suspend two of our member associations; Kenya and Zimbabwe for government interference in the activities of the football associations,” Fifa president Gianni Infantino said announcing the suspension.

Since then there have been pleas for the SRC to reverse its decision from football stakeholders in the country, yet the supreme sports body has insisted on its own roadmap to clean up football. They recently released findings of a forensic audit, which unearthed financial irregularities.

But more importantly any hopes of Zifa getting readmitted into the Fifa family any time soon were doused by SRC chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa who told the media only this month that getting the suspension lifted was not one of their priorities at the moment.

The year had started on a promising note for football with the Warriors participating in the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon.

Zimbabwe, led by FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza, kicked off the campaign with a commendable show against Senegal only to fall to a penalty goal scored by Sadio Mane late on.

That performance brought increased expectation ahead of the second match against Malawi.

It had been a long time since a football match hogged so much limelight in the country yet the result was the most disappointing. Zimbabwe took a 1-0 lead into the half time following a goal by Ishmael Wadi, only to be undone by two goals from Malawi’s Garbadino Mhango in the second period.

With two results Zimbabwe were eliminated from the competition and had only pride to play for in their last Group match against Guinea. The Warriors raced into a 2-nil lead through goals by Kuda Mahachi and Knowledge Musona before Nabi Keita halved the deficit.

Zimbabwe held on to claim their first win at the Afcon finals in their last three appearances. With the ban coming in February, it was generally a quiet year for the national teams. There was life in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League, with the league returning to run its full course.

It was a generally competitive campaign and as usual punctuated by the firing of coaches. The most notable casualty was former Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari, who was hired by Ngezi Platinum Stars after they had parted ways with Rodwell Dhlakama but the ex-Manchester City striker lasted 13 games before he was shown the exit door.

Highlanders dismissed Mandla Mpofu before hiring Portuguese mentor Baltemar Brito, who once worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

Dynamos on the other hand stuck with Tonderai Ndiraya until the end of the season before he too was chopped off to make way for Herbert Maruwa. Meanwhile there was usual peace and prosperity at FC Platinum with Mapeza leading his team to their fourth topflight title on the trot.

Chevrons year of upsets

It was a World Cup year for the national cricket team and they needed to make an impression.

But in their earlier months of the year it all looked gloomy with the Chevrons producing poor results.

The team lost a home series to Namibia in Bulawayo before also losing to Afghanistan in Harare, which triggered a change in the coaching personnel.

Indian Lalchand Rajput was taken out and given a new role.

Dave Houghton, who had just returned home from England to work in the domestic league took over ahead of the T-20 World Cup qualifiers against Associate sides. Zimbabwe managed to qualify for the global showcase in Australia with Netherlands.

Before their trip to Australia they hosted Bangladesh for white ball series with the Chevrons winning both the One Day International and T-20 series.

Suddenly everything looked bright and beautiful with India coming in after Bangladesh’s tour.

Harare Sports Club was starting to fill up again and cricket was threatening to upstage football as the most followed sport in the country.Zimbabwe suffered a series whitewash defeat losing by 10 wickets, 5 wickets and 13 runs.

But it was the third match, which was particularly thrilling especially for the home fans as Zimbabwe threatened an upset chasing 290 for victory from 50 overs. Brad Evans had taken a fiver, finishing with 5 for 54 as Zimbabwe struggled to contain India’s super star batters, especially Shubman Gill, who clobbered 130 runs.

For Zimbabwe it looked a forlorn chase until the outstanding Sikandar Raza arrived at the middle. Raza hit, 115 which featured nine fours three sixes.

Soon after the India visit, Zimbabwe embarked on a trip to Australia for three Super League matches.

This was just a year of upsets for the national team as after going down 2-0 in the three match ODI series, the Chevrons made international news when they claimed a 3-wicket triumph against an Australian side that paraded its best players. Ryan Burl had figures of 5 for 10 from just three overs.

They returned to Australia weeks later, this time for the T-20 World Cup.

In the first round Zimbabwe defeated Ireland in the first match before losing to West Indies and only to claim a ticket to the Super 12 after accounting for Scotland.

In the Super 12 Zimbabwe played Bangladesh (lost), India (lost), South Africa (no result) and Netherlands whom they also disappointingly lost to. But somewhere in between those matches they caused a major upset by defeating one of the tournament favourites Pakistan by 1 run. But with just four points to their name they bowed out of the tournament.

The Razzmatazz show

Sikandar Raza was the shining light for Zimbabwe and he made history by becoming the first local player to win the ICC Player of the Month Award for the month of August.

Raza scored 753 international runs at the Harare Sports Club during 2022 – 540 in nine one-day internationals (including three centuries), and 213 in six T20Is.

On being crowned the ICC Men’s Player of the Month for August, Raza said: “I’m incredibly humbled and honoured to have won the player of the month award from the ICC – more humbling that I’m the first Zimbabwean to ever win such an award," he said.

The Good Shepherd is gone

After such a stellar year for Zimbabwe Cricket, the year has ended with the worst piece of news after national team fielding coach Shepherd Makunura finally succumbed on Thursday December 15 after battling illness for a prolonged period. Makunura, who was 46, died while in hospital and was buried on Saturday December 17 in Harare. Having won four Logan Cup titles, his dream was to follow in the footsteps of Steve Mangongo and Walter Chawaguta, the only black Zimbabwean coaches to preside over the national team.

Zim Rugby’s year of mixed fortunes

The year 2022 started with very high hopes for Zimbabwe rugby as the Sables were aiming to qualify for their first Rugby World Cup since 1991.

Zimbabwe was the first and only African team at the first two editions of the World Cup in 1987 and 1991 and with the Zimbabwe Rugby Union pulling all the stops to ensure that the team had the best preparations it seemed the long wait for a third World Cup dance would finally come to an end.

Sadly, despite the almost perfect preparations, which included participation in the Currie Cup First Division, and a high profile Test match against Netherlands, it was yet another failure, for the Sables.

Zimbabwe were made to wait another four years to try and qualify for the country’s first Rugby World Cup since 1992, following defeat to perennial tormentors Namibia in France in July.

After defeating Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup, which was also being used as a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup finals, the Sables bowed out of contention after losing 34-19 to the Namibians in the semi-finals

The Namibians, who have been to every World Cup since the 1999 edition, went on to claim the ticket after a comfortable win over Kenya in the final.

Although the Sables failed to qualify it was not all doom and gloom for Zimbabwe rugby.

The Cheetahs qualified for the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens held in Cape Town, South Africa in September after finishing as runners ups in the Rugby Africa Cup Men’s Sevens in Uganda early this year.

The major highlight for Zimbabwe rugby was provided by the national Under-20 rugby team after they beat rivals Namibia in a tightly contested final to win the Rugby Africa Under-20 Barthes Trophy in Nairobi in April.

By winning the Rugby Africa U20 Barthes Trophy, the Junior Sables earned the ticket to represent Africa at next year's World Rugby Under 20 Trophy which will be held in Spain.

The Junior Sables, who last won the continental competition in 2011, then ensured they finished the year on a high by finishing as runner-ups at the World Rugby Canada Conference in August, managing impressive wins over the hosts and Chile before losing to the eventual winners Uruguay.

Vincent’s star shines bright

Zimbabwe’s top-ranked golfer Scott Vincent was the year's star performer in the sport after clinching two wins and finishing top of the Asian Tour’s International Series Order of Merit which earned playing privileges for the 2023 LIV Golf League season.

In early June Vincent recorded his breakthrough Asian Tour victory at the inaugural International Series England.

It was his second victory in two weeks as he also claimed the Gate Way to the Mizuno Open on the Japan Golf Tour, which secured him a place in The Open Championship for his first Major.

Thanks to his fine season and success in the International Series England, Vincent has been able to play on the LIV Golf Series – which ended last week with the LIV Golf Series Team Championship in Miami.

Vincent is the country’s highest ranked player on the Official World Golf Ranking in 91st position and is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Zimbabwe’s all-time greats Nick Price, Mark McNulty, Tony Johnstone and Dennis Watson.

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