By Robson Sharuko
LLOYD CHITEMBWE’S 20-month stint as CAPS Uni-ted’s head coach ended when he left the Green Machine yesterday after his contract was terminated, by mutual consent, following a poor run of results that has torched a rebellion among the club’s fans.
The former Zimbabwe international midfielder, who also starred for CAPS United as a player, had been Makepekepe’s head coach since being hired on January 5 last year to replace the nomadic Jostein Mathuthu.
Chitembwe had four months left on his rolling one-year contract but, although the CAPS United management yesterday offered him two more games to try and find the elusive winning touch, the coach decided it was time to move on.
Following discussions between the two parties, for the better part of the morning yesterday, it was agreed that the remainder of the contract be terminated, by mutual consent, with Chitembwe also leaving with some of the key figures in his technical team.
Team manager Wilson Mutekede, who has been Chitembwe’s closest lieutenant, also left CAPS United and so did assistant coach Mike Madzivanyika while welfare manager Shakespeare Chinogwenya’s post has been abolished.
Goalkeeper’s coach Richard Tswatswa will not be affected by the changes. The team’s medical crew — led by Harare doctor Mordecai Sachikonye — will also remain in charge of the department and has not been affected by the changes.
Chitembwe is expected to address the CAPS United players, at their training ground at 9am today, where he will officially advise them of the changes and why he believes that’s the right path for the team to travel right now.
Although Chitembwe has done well in knockout competitions, leading CAPS United to the BancABC Sup8r Cup final and taking them to within just one hurdle of a place in the group stages of the Confederation Cup, his team’s league form has been poor.
CAPS United have only won four of their 13 league matches, drawn as many games and lost five and currently lie in ninth place on the Premiership table —just five points clear of the relegation zone.
A 2-2 draw against Kiglon at Rufaro on Sunday, coming on the back of a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Motor Action, proved too much for some of the CAPS United fans who mocked Chitembwe with gestures of goodbye.
Police had to disperse scores of CAPS United fans who had gathered outside the main entrance, into the Western Stands, demanding Chitembwe’s head. Relations between Chitembwe and a militant section of the Green Machine fans had deteriorated in recent weeks and yesterday the coach decided that the time has come for him to move on.
“It’s a split by mutual consent and it is related to the situation that our team finds itself in right now and, as the head coach, it is only fair that I should take responsibility,” said Chitembwe.
“The results were not coming our way and I have the responsibility for the results on the pitch and I take full responsibility for them.
“The atmosphere was no longer conducive and it was now clear that my presence in the team was now creating unnecessary friction among a lot of people and it was starting to affect my private life.
“It was beginning to take a toll on my private life and I think by stepping aside it will give me an opportunity to rest, have my private life back, live again like an ordinary man, a normal and responsible family man.
“Coaches move for one reason or another and if a coach like Rafa Bernitez can be fired, or whatever, and leaves Liverpool what is then so special with Chite-mbwe that he can’t also leave his job?”
Chitembwe said he was disappointed that his romantic flirtation with CAPS United, as its head coach, had come at a time when the team was struggling.
“If there is a disappointment, then it has to be the fact that I’m leaving while the team is struggling because I would have loved to leave while the side is doing well,” said Chitembwe.
“In the circumstances, I think any reasonable man will realise that I did my best and I have to say that I enjoyed fantastic support from the directors of the club, my players and the true CAPS United fans.
“There is nobody really to blame for where we are because we are in a process, trying to rebuild the team, and you can’t cut corners in the process and it has to take its full course with the players blending.
“We have a vacuum right now since the departure of the key players to South Africa, but hopefully things will work out because CAPS United needs to be stronger and they need to keep fighting for honours.
“I think I was blessed to lead a technical team that had many people with vast knowledge in football, but I knew from the first day I arrived that there would be a day when I would have to leave.”
CAPS United’s operations director Farai Jere said the termination of their relationship with Chitembwe was one of the toughest decisions he has taken during his time at the Green Machine. Jere had a close working relationship with Chitembwe.
“It had not been in our plans for Lloyd to leave right now because we worked well with him and we believed that we are just going through a spell where the team has been unlucky rather than poor,” said Jere.
“The team that has been playing in the league has not done well and even when the key players who left for South Africa were here, it was the same story because we won just three out of eight games while our rivals Dynamos won their first eight.
“Inevitably when we struggle, and Dynamos do well, there is pressure that comes from the fans because they want results and although our decision initially was to give the coach two more games, hoping that it could all change for the better, we ended up agreeing that we should part company.
“Maybe the change in leadership in the technical department will bring in the luck and, in due course, we will announce the man who will come in and become the new CAPS United head coach.”
Jere said the pressure for good results, which comes from supporters including a group of militant fans ready to throw missiles for their cause, was normal in a club like CAPS United.
“All that the fans are asking for are good results and when that is not coming they don’t need an invitation for them to show their disappointment, especially when it is a big club like CAPS United,” said Jere.
“We don’t condone hooliganism, but we should also understand the emotions among the fans and we should understand their disappointment when we are letting them down with the results.
“As directors, we believe that while the team would feel the impact of the loss of the players who left, we did possibly everything we could to invest in other players and, given the material we have, we should be doing better than the results we are producing right now.
“We supported Lloyd all the way and, last year, he was brilliant and we finished in a very good position in the league but this year things haven’t gone as well as we wanted and that’s unfortunate.
“The league is the most important competition in any country and Steve Kwashi and Charles Mhlauri are heroes at CAPS United because they won the league championship but right now, with the way things were going, there was no hope of winning it.”
CAPS United have only won once in the league since losing their key players to South Africa and that win came against bottom club Bantu Rovers. The Green Machine’s chief executive, Maxwell Mironga, said their divorce was a bitter pill to swallow.
“We will always treasure the fact that Lloyd brought back discipline among our players,” said Mironga.
“We worked well as a family but, after a good spell last year, the fans wanted more and the fact that the team struggled did not go down well with the supporters. We wish him well.”
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