The demise of Masvingo United and Shabanie Mine might have been overlooked but the Premier Soccer League Soccer has not been the same since their relegation.
Exactly 96 kilometers separate, the two teams were at one time embroiled in a nail-biting tussle for Mashava born defender Zvenyika Makonese.
The player had double dibbed signing for both clubs though it was Shabanie Mine who eventually acquired his services.
Una-Una and Chinda Boys, as the teams were affectionately known respectively, provided undoubtedly captivating competition in the local top flight league. Their fervent home support base also leaves fond memories with their uniqueness, though violence soiled their vibrancy at times.
Evidence to their vibrancy, they only played second to Dynamos and Highlanders in terms of home match attendances.
However, the brands have only sunk into oblivion.
Masvingo commanded huge following within Masvingo and its surroundings, the Mucheke bus terminus marshals, Mhunga buses workers, vendors and some sympathizers within Mucheke suburb adjacent to their home ground Mucheke stadium.
Masvingo used to ferry all their supporters free of charge using at least two full Mhunga buses and in away matches, they will be having not less 300 fans behind them.
Shabanie drew their fanbase from the mine suburbs Kandodo, Nil, Birthday, Noevale, Advalorem and Maglas, from which the home ground pitch was later named after.
The two teams once reached a 5432 attendance, one of the best in 2003 when Masvingo lost 1-0 to Shabanie Mnie courtesy to a solitary strike by Clarkson Dzimbiri at Maglas Stadium.
Recalling the match, Wesley Weston, a key member of the Shabanie since the turn of the millennium recalls how the two teams got topflight football buzzing.
“The fact that it was a derby, the 97km which separated the two towns was nothing to revelers. Nobody wanted to miss the two teams clash just to witness vast skills, talents and the noisy supporters’ unquantifiable decibels of whistling, drum beating and singing,” Weston said.
“Shabanie by then were composed of Asani Juma, Thomas Makwasha, Max Ruza, Gerald Phiri, Misheck Makota, Francis Chandida, John Phiri, Ernest Gava to mention a few while Masvingo was proud of Godfrey Dondo, Tafadzwa Dube, Lloyd Hlala, Claudious Gunduza, Hebert Dick also to mention a few. These guys were just a marvel to watch,” he added.
Despite crumbling like a castle of cards, both sides had their fair share of successes.
In 2005, Masvingo United won the OK Grand Challenge Cup.
That same year, they ended the season on second position, narrowly missing the prestigious gong following a season finale loss at the hands of Dynamos who needed a straight win to elope relegation.
Shabanie Mine, on the other hand were a powerhouse whose astute and robust system molded a number of fine players, some of which have made fond memories on the domestic front.
In 2001 Shabanie won the BP Cup, before they clinched the prestigious BancABC Cup in 2013 under the tutelage of Luke Masomere.
Since then, their downfall has remained a curious case.
It has rather been roller coaster of mismanagement and incessant power wrangles.
Back then Masvingo thrived from the pockets of Tanda Tavaruva buses also known as Mhunga and while Shabanie Mine Siphoned from the African Associated Mines (AA Mines).
Mhunga and AAMines later collapsed to cast a dark cloud on the future of these two sides.
It has not been the same since their relegation as both sides continue to hang by a thread as they languish in the ZIFA Eastern Region and Central Region Division One Soccer League.
Masvingo United were relegated in 2008 and attempts to bounce back have suffered a still birth.
Shabanie Mine returned in 2016 but their pockets were not deep enough to help them last the distance.
They were discarded from the topflight in 2018.
The departure of Mhunga
Since its formation in 1997, Masvingo United was bankrolled by popular businessman Tanda Tavaruva in partnership with Magwizi and Tsungai transport though the latter was quick to throw in the towel leaving the former in full control.
Tavaruva who owned the Mhunga Bus services transformed the team into a football powerhouse in the Premier Soccer League from 1997 to 2008 channeling a lot of resources towards the welfare of the players and technical team.
In their illustrious journey, Una-Una became a fiery force to reckon which attracted quality players some of which included Ferdinand Mwachindalo, Joe Kwangwari, Edmore Ngara, Musareka Jenitala, Nkulumo Donga and Clemence Zuze.
Who knew their prowess would be called to time in 2008?
2008 was a terrible year for the country, businesses plunged and Mhunga was not spared!
From then lack of sponsorship has seen the Una-Una become a pale shadow of themselves, with ownership wrangles between the community and individuals largely contributing to Masvingo United’s failed resuscitation.
Petros Mutema, once took reigns and rebranded the team to Zimanzi Masvingo United but he was reportedly forced to quit by the marauding supporter’s association, a feat that led to splits leading to the birth of two other side; Masvingo Pirates and Masvingo City a few years later.
Zimanzi Masvingo gained PSL status in 2010 but did not last the distance, owing to a massive player exodus and again massive financial constraints.
Since then the team has made many efforts to bounce back but they have hit a brick wall as sponsors find it hard to win hearts of the fan base who ‘think’ they have power to anoint and dethrone at the club.
Well-wishers such as Phillip Shumba once took the burden of bankrolling the club but quit for varying reason, leaving the Masvingo giant on the verge of collapse.
CommuTalk caught up with one of Masvingo United’s former executive member who however commented on condition of anonymity, revealing that lack of professionalism and beliefs in juju affected the team.
“I cannot say much but revealing information to do with this club sends shivers down my spine. I fear for myself. We had troubles of our own mainly financial problems but the beliefs in juju and lack of professionalism by some of the officials pushed sponsors and potential sponsors away,” said the former team official.
” The fall of our team is a product of our own making. We let the club into the hands of the wrong people, who didn’t know how to commercialize the club and lacked professionalism,” he added.
It’s not all rosy for both Masvingo United FC and Shabanie Mine FC as they are supposedly bankrupt and struggled to pay their affiliation fees for the 2020 season.
Una-Una got assistance from Masvingo City Council and how they will foot all the seasons’ expenses, accommodation, travelling and camping costs remains a mystery.
It remains to be seen how the Hubert Fidze led Masvingo United will navigate the club through the post Covid-19 season towards the dream to re-enter topflight football.
Amid the challenges, Zvishavane soccer revelers are enjoying local matches from FC Platinum while contingency remains a story for another day in Masvingo.