Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
For all the drama and chaos at Barbourfields on Saturday, including the regrettable sight of Benjani, Mwaruwari is forced to scale the bar to make his way to the stadium, was a silver lining on the shame that followed the beautiful game.
Domestic football, which for many years loses the magic that brought thousands of fans to the stadium, again found its soul with an exciting rebirth of its novel with supporters.
It could only be for this game, an ironically neutral place for the two teams in action, but still it was such a wonderful sight.
And a timely reminder if we ever needed empirical evidence that local fans still have a very strong commitment to football, and everything they cry is a good game.
Unfortunately, mediocrity, which was synonymous with most of the Premier League domestic matches, tested this wonderful romance to the brink and made many stay home, not come to the stadiums. The drop in attendance rates has become the norm in our local leagues, including premieres, and a series of matches played in virtually empty stadiums.
The struggle of traditional giants, especially the way Dynamo has lost their way in recent years, when they are lame from one crisis to another, also did not help. And the poaching of every worthy football player on the stage with South African clubs also marked the number one sports discipline in the country when there was a gradual suction of life from its arena.
In a few cases, the game attracted 10,000 fans, it was perceived as an isolated story of success, an island of hope in a turbulent ocean of hopelessness. But then, on Saturday in the Kings City, something has changed.
For many experienced observers who have long watched this game, it looked like a return to the 80's and 90's when home football was a powerful attraction to the cashier, and in the stadiums – the order of the day.
Returning to the time when fans will start to arrive at the stadiums already at 10 am and by noon the earth will be filled with lively life with the stands, painted in beautiful colors. During trips to local stadiums there was a weekly pilgrimage of thousands of fans, whose strong attachment to the game did not know the boundaries and whose loyalty to the clubs was without a doubt.
And when the seven came to the stadiums as a unit – father, mother and children – and life was very good for home football with a lot of money coming from the gate and in its system. Of course, there was always a feeling that the game on Saturday is different.
Orlando Pirates, a South African football player with a very large base of support in Bulawayo, was in the city for the first time in his 82-year history. They are very fond of these sea robbers in the city of kings, where mountaineer admirers always shared their identity with these pirates – they found similarities to their black and white colors and formalities before a match similar to crossed bones.
And they had Kaha Mahachi, the midfielder of the "Warriors," who began his football trip in this city, long before he became a buccaneer and even tried his luck in the French club of Monaco. They also had fast-paced Marshall Munec, who made waves for warriors, and whose talent, apparently, was doomed to Europe sooner rather than later.
The officials of FC Platinum also knew about the huge interest generated by this game and issued 23,000 tickets that were sold out for the first time in the club's history. Given the mass crowd, which, unfortunately, could not get into the filled stadium and returned home, observers believed that even a stadium for 60,000 seats would be filled up to Saturday.
Pirates have never seen anything like that, even for home matches, when the opposition is not the head of the Kaiser, not to mention the trips in Africa. Finding yourself so much loved, more than three quarters of the fans inside the stadium in a match played outside of South Africa were a journey into the fantasy world for them.
That is why they needed time to get around the stadium, after the game, giving honor to thousands of admirers who paid to come and cheer up their affair with Soveto, a bay in which hardcore bosom supporters live. The debate will be raging for days, if not weeks, why most Bosso fans chose to sing in the corner of pirates that day, and would it not be advisable to support a team flying the Zimbabwean flag.
And there will be others who will sympathize with FC Platinum because they are forced to feel unloved in the game, where they were home.
But similar debates can wait another day, because for those who really love home football, on Saturday it was important to see a revival of romance between this game and its admirers.
"I think that we recently saw something like, from the numerical point of view, before or at the turn of the millennium, when Boss has won four direct titles," said The Herald vice president of ZIFA Gift Banda.
"It's just amazing, and it shows that fans still love their football, and all they need is a package that makes them attractive to them to return to the stadiums in numbers.
"For us, as ZIFA, this is a lesson when we are preparing for a big match against Congo Brazzaville in March in terms of how we need to organize such a great game and how to deal with all the challenges we can face."
Domestic football, fighting for the conquest of hearts and understanding the fans that he lost on this path, could not ask for a better start to the New Year. Of course, chaos at the gate on Saturday will always be one of the negative areas that would spoil what would be a perfect day.