HARARE-ON the 10th anniversary of that mass player exodus from Dynamos, which left the Glamour Boys paralysed and resembling a stricken Titanic about to sink, it is ironic that the footballer — whose priceless goals averted the crisis from exploding into a disaster — should come along tasked with providing the role of Saviour. Evans Gwekwerere is no longer that rookie who, just a month short of his 21st birthday, introduced himself to the domestic Premiership with a big bang at Rufaro on March 30, 2006, by scoring a winning goal — which carried its weight in gold — and doused the fires of strife that were threatening to engulf the Glamour Boys.
In his football adventure in the past decade, Gwekwerere has never scored a lot of goals, but none as important as that late strike that afternoon, on a defining day for DeMbare, when a different result than that priceless victory which his goal bought, could have possibly spelt doom for the Harare giants during a tricky period at the club.
On a strange afternoon for Dynamos fans, they saw more than half-a-dozen players who, in the club’s last competitive matches — a do-or-die battle against relegation on a rain-swept Mucheke on the final day of the previous season had distinguished themselves with a 2-1 win against Masvingo United — now wearing the colours of the team in the opposition corner.
Such was the strange scenario that afternoon as the DeMbare fans knew more about the players fighting in the opponents corner, than those representing their beloved team, and some analysts have even said that game, had it been won by Shooting Stars, could have tested the loyalty of thousands of the Glamour Boys’ fans.
Goalkeeper Matthew Wurayayi, defenders Trymore Mtisi and Fidelis Mangezi, midfielders Leo Kurauzvione, Mtshumayeli Moyo and Elliot Matsika — scorer of that second decisive goal against Masvingo United in the Glamour Boys’ last league match — and forwards Esau Amisi and Clive Mwale, had transformed themselves, in the months that followed the trip to the country’s oldest town, from Glamour Boys into Shooting Stars.
Unhappy that their welfare had been compromised by a leadership they accused of having very little interest in them, and wooed by the promises of better working conditions that the Wild Boys promised, the players decided to join the Premiership newboys in a mass migration last seen when Black Rhinos poached some of the best footballers from both Dynamos and CAPS United in 1983.
The following year, the army side ended DeMbare’s four-year stranglehold on the league championship, a trophy the Glamour Boys had turned into their property since Independence, but in 1985 the country’s biggest football club flexed its muscles again and won back the league championship, their fifth triumph in the marathon in six years.
That year, Gwekwerere was born.
But little did his parents know that their little boy would one day, about 20 years from then, find himself playing a central role, in the affairs of these Glamour Boys, at a time of strife when they were crying out for a hero with the strength to douse the flames and carry them forward.
In the final moments of a tight game, before a capacity crowd at Rufaro, which appeared to be heading for a draw until a few minutes, Gwekwerere struck a decisive goal that powered Dynamos to victory and provided their fans with just the result they needed, if ever they had been in doubt, that the Glamour Boys — even with all those strange faces in their line-up — was still the team of their dreams.
A long ball was pumped into the Shooting Stars’ area and Gwekwerere, powered by the enthusiasm of youth and the desire to make a name for himself, chased it, outpacing Mangezi down the right channel of the Wild Boys defence and drawing Wurayayi from his goal area in a vain effort by the goalkeeper to cut the angle.
Rufaro held its breath and Gwekwerere, making a mockery of his inexperience at this level, and the pressure that came from the expectations of that crowd, was coolness personified as he found his pocket of space to drill the ball home and, in an instant, turn himself into the hero of these Glamour Boys.
It was the start of a beautiful romance between the club and the player and seven goals, in seven games, saw Vietnam even composing a song for him “Gwekwerere Bhora” and such was his impact that, by July, he was gone — taken away by former South African champions Moroka Swallows as their marquee signing for the new season — amid expectations that he was the real deal.
But it never worked out for the man the Dynamos fans called “Earthquake”, with some blaming his love for social attractions, which saw him dominate the headlines for all the wrong reasons, for destroying his focus and, ultimately, his ability to score goals.
By the time he returned to DeMbare, in 2010, it was clear he was no longer the same, burdened by weight issues and lack of confidence, and the following year, he even crossed the floor to join bitter rivals CAPS United, but his moments were few and far between and, it appeared, during his stay in South Africa, the domestic Premiership had grown to a level he could not compete in.
Now a nomad, he went to Botswana, Mozambique and anywhere he could get a contract until he, recently, traced his footsteps back to Dynamos, a third dance with the Glamour Boys and — just like when he first arrived in 2006 — he finds a club that is battling to find its soul, a coach who could be fired should they fail to win the Harare Derby on Sunday and a Rufaro crying out for a hero.
The Glamour Boys’ management have been working overtime, to get his reverse international clearance from Mozambique, so that he features in the Harare Derby and coach Paulo Jorge Silva, who has been crying out for a trusted marksman, believes there is something special in the man who turned 31 on Wednesday.
Just like that day, 10 years ago, the stage could not have been any bigger for club and player to revive their romance given that CAPS United, just like Shooting Stars back then, represent the opposition — in the eyes of the Dynamos fans — which should be crushed at all cost.
Whether Gwekwerere can do it again, if he plays on Sunday, and prove that lightning can, indeed, strike twice, only the football gods know.
Since his first exit, the Glamour Boys have won five league titles — including four on the trot — have never finished outside the top two in the last nine championship battles and have never lost to CAPS United in a league match since April 2009. But his return, at a time of challenges at the Glamour Boys, provides a fascinating storyline for the Harare Derby and, if you hear the DeMbare fans singing “Gwekwerere Bhora”, you know that something has happened and music didn’t die with Papa Wemba or Prince.