Praying for Chipangano!

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IN the melee, the thrills, the drama and the agony of the 2017 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) is a story that, when fully unravelled, will no doubt break the hearts of many, including those of neutrals.
This is the story of a team that, almost every other season, invokes love and hatred in the same breath — Hwange Football Club, on the verge of relegation and with it, possible extinction.
There are some teams that are just needed to be in the PSL either to cause commotion or to bring fun to the game.
Hwange FC has done just that in equal measure.
Definitely the big three — Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United — are the pillars of local football.
However, there are other teams that help make competition interesting.
Hwange FC, popularly known as ‘Chipangano’, is one of them.
For years, the team has been consistently on the local football landscape.
The Colliery Stadium, home to Chipangano, has been a known as its fortress.
That has not been the case this season as perennial failures at the Colliery came out with maximum points.
Dynamos and CAPS United brag about collecting maximum points in Hwange — a rare feat given Chipangano’s consistency at home.
The Colliery has been one of the most difficult venues for most teams.
Highlanders are the latest team to suffer at Chipangano’s citadel.
They lost 0-3 last month as the coal miners continued with their desperate fight to escape relegation.
Even as life departs from this glorious outfit, the statistics are just staggering.
Highlanders are the only big team to be trounced at the Colliery while Dynamos, CAPS United and FC Platinum collected maximum points.
Ngezi Platinum Stars are the only team to score three goals past Hwange this season.
Hwange are the oldest football club in the local premiership and it will be sad to see them plying their trade in the ZIFA’s Southern Region First Division next season.
With their history dating back to 1893, when the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls railway line was being constructed, the team has come a long way.
History has it that one Albert Geese played a certain game that involved kicking a round object with his feet after work much to the awe of the local population who had never had contact with a football.
Geese and fellow miners used to play choule (small sided soccer game where one person would be fighting to win the ball from opponents who would be playing a limited number of touches) at a ground near Kamandama Riverside.
That marked the birth of this great club.
The club has won its fair share of honours along its illustrious history, beating a star-studded Callies 6-1 to lift the Castle Cup in 1972.
In 1973, Dynamos were beaten 1-0.
In 1991 Chipangano lifted the ZIFA Cup, beating Cranborne Bullets 3-1.
The club has produced some of the biggest names in Zimbabwean football like Takesure Chinyama, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Aaron Katebe, Francesco Zekumbawire, Farai Visimayi, Nation Dube, Posani Sibanda, Newman Sianchali, Gift Mbweti and Gilbert Zulu are some of the names that have illuminated the local game.
The list of gems unearthed in Hwange is endless.
It is sad that a club, so experienced in football, is involved in a relegation matrix and seemingly losing the battle.
The presence of Hwange in the top flight made the distribution of football in the country balanced.
For a club that has the biggest running expenses that includes travelling and accommodation fees, they have managed to upset their opponents at will.
They travel by road to other venues around the country and always fulfill fixtures.
With two games to go, Hwange must win at home against Harare City at the Colliery.
Both teams are in a relegation matrix.
However, Harare City, having won the Chibuku Super Cup last Saturday, boosted their confidence of surviving the relegation axe.
Shabanie Mine are another side in the relegation nightmare.
The asbestos miners have added flavour to domestic football, putting Zvishavane on the football map before the existence of a well-financed FC Platinum.
After rejoining the topflight this year, Shabanie Mine may retrace their footsteps to First Division if they don’t win the next two fixtures, of course depending on how Harare City, Yadah, Bulawayo City, Hwange and Black Rhinos play.
Shabanie Mine have produced one of the greats in Francis Chandida, Thomas Makwasha, Asani Juma and Zvenyika Makonese, among others.
They travel to Bulawayo to face How Mine at Luveve on Sunday in their last ditch efforts to play in the topflight next season.
Already, Shurugwi-based Nichrut have been confirmed to play in the topflight and if Shabanie Mine survive, Midlands Province will have four teams in the premiership.
The relegation battle will be over on the last day of the season as Bantu Rovers are already confirmed together with Tsholotsho Pirates who will be in the ZIFA’s Southern Region First Division Soccer League.
Bulawayo City are in the second season in the top flight.
The municipal-run club, just like Harare City, find themselves in a relegation fix.
Yadah are not yet safe, just like Black Rhinos who have been log pacesetters in the first half of the season.
The two last matches are a must win for all teams in relegation mode.
This season, four teams will be relegated, while four will be promoted.
So far, Herentals College (Northern), Bulawayo Chiefs (Southern) and Nichrut (Central) have been promoted.
Mutare City Rovers are on the brink of rejoining the topflight after missing in action for one season.
Let’s all pray for Hwange, that difficult-to-ignore team, for the greater good of the game.

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