Sunday, March 30, 2014

Highlanders, Bulawayo football needs Delma Lupepe

They destroyed him, and the whole Southern region killed his passion and desire. They murdered football when they chucked out Delma Lupepe out of football and we danced. It was an emotional and miscalculated move borne out of selfish motives and uneducated belief that he was an unnecessary evil.
I will tell you the truth. He was not evil at all and to appease a few, I would admit he was a necessary evil. His demise spelt a bad era for the game, tribe, politics, the region and the nation as much as the disappearance of Zimbabwe Saints was to Bulawayo. If you know or remember, there was never a passion like when Highlanders was playing against Saints. The rivalry was a result of the history of the clubs.

The tribal tension sandwiched with the Shona language in Matebeleland spiced the events. Besides, there was always a political connotation of Bosso (PF-ZAPU) and Chikwata (ZANU (PF)). Remember that Highlanders went as Matebeleland Highlanders for a long time during the peak of the political tensions and the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe. Zim Saints Chiwororo was Mashonaland United. That made for the exciting times in the game and overplayed itself in times of peace.

Either way, the power and excitement of the Saints teams that dominated the scene in the 1988-89 era overpowered the dominance of Bosso in Cup ties even though Tshilamoya recaptured the glory days by the dominance of the league thereafter.

The times of Zimbabwe Saints came to an end with the emergence of Amazulu Football Club which was immediately followed by the re-introduction of Railstars. At the best of times, the four teams were in the top league simultaneously. The financial muscle of Amazulu intimidated other teams as Chikwata lost focus getting attracted to the money Lupepe flashed cash to acquire the best talent. That process was neither evil nor flawed.

The Saints leadership began squabbles that dragged the team down the drain and it looks like for good. They jostled to bleed their team dry and their success at that resulted in the biggest football tragedy of our time. For many, Delma's money was evil, but it was not. It was rather the root of the evil. In many times in history, one finds that the nature of Highlanders' structures did not allow people of his calibre close by, unfortunately.

The first time I heard of Amazulu, I was at Highlanders training grounds as a fringe reserve goalkeeper. The late Cleopas Dlodlo was having a private conversation about a group of people that included himself and Ezra Tshisa Sibanda being part of it. The truth of that was never established, but if true, the wisdom of those people was in taking Delma along as he became the sole proprietor of the franchise.

Outside football, Mr Lupepe was known as an astute businessman with a strong passion for what he did and his assets. He guarded everything he had jealously. After all, I should know. Many times I found myself negotiating with him personally, bypassing the team's management executive. I must admit this had its own flaws.

I first met him in trying to establish a joint football academy. My KFA needed a sponsor and we agreed on so many aspects until his business manager failed to honour our agreement and proposed to change KFA to AFA, with me a 20% shareholder. The deal fell through. At the high demand of the then unknown Farai Mujokoro, we had to sit and discus fees as he wanted to have the player for free since he had no official contract with the academy. We set a fee which he paid without fuss.

My last contact with the man was during the days before I joined Bosso as a Technical Advisor. We had many options tabled and agreed on. The club's executive threw the spanners into the works. He later chased me for my services through Jerry Mafripa, at a time I could not take his job. Then I contacted him when I wanted to have Mujokoro follow Thabani Masawi to Albania.

That call made us enemies for a moment. He asked me why I thought that was possible. My response was that I thought as a friend of mine, we could do business. That was the worst choice of words from me. He flipped and was very frothy. "There are no friends in business.", he said and banged the phone.

I knew the man who was passionate and fond of the game, that he was a Highlanders fan. He was a life-member of the club. In all their pain and trouble, Highlanders need Delma Lupepe. They have needed him all along. It is not that he will hijack the club. For a period of time, his tested acumen in the cooperate world would benefit him and the club. My experience with Highlanders is their disgust at the thought of an individual benefiting using the Bosso name and logo. They must get over that.

One man told me that his business empire was in doldrums and was slightly above water. That cannot be a better excuse to ramp him in and let him harness and harvest the club's potential. He will greatly benefit of course and the club will remain at a higher level long after he is gone.

Delma Lupepe will stretch that brand to the maximum. In my book, What Highlanders Need Right Now! available on Amazon.com, I explained how Bosso needed some very selfish and yet astute business people with a passion for the team and the game to utilise the massive size of the brand. Brushing the stupid inferiority and timid excuses away, this is one clever man who can be very useful for the love and worthy cause of iBosso. At the end of the day, at least he may be motivated enough to bring Amazulu back, if not Saints.