By Eddie Chikamhi
HARARE- The CAPS United family papered over the cracks that have emerged in their camp with a public display of unity yesterday in which problem child, Evans Gwekwerere, was paraded as an integral member of the Green Machine.
Two days after Gwekwerere was frozen out of a practice game, as punishment for missing the Monday training session, and the leaking of reports that CAPS United had undertaken to suspend the striker, the Green Machine put up a display that would have cheered public relations experts.
The Herald exclusively reported yesterday that Gwekwerere was on his way out of the Green Machine following his latest brush with the club’s strict disciplinary charter. But what was supposed to be a routine CAPS United weekly media conference in the capital yesterday, turned into a forum for the Makepekepe family to trumpet its shaky unity.
Reports that have been circulating in the football circles and on the social media networks have suggested that there could be a serious problem between Gwekwerere and assistant team manager, Lloyd Chitembwe.
Chitembwe is a strict disciplinarian. Gwekwerere confirmed to The Herald on Wednesday that he was uncertain about his future at the Green Machine and would seek an audience with the club’s directors.
CAPS United vice president, Farai Jere, has been out of the country since Monday and is not expected back until after two weeks while club president Twine Phiri could not be reached for comment. Chitembwe attended yesterday’s media conference to show his full support for team manager Sean Connor and dismiss speculation that the duo has fallen out and two centres of power have now been created in the Green Machine technical team.
Chitembwe, the most decorated CAPS United player of all-time with three league championship medals, also clarified his relationship with Gwekwerere and the striker’s position with the club. Gwekwerere, who was not initially part of the media conference yesterday, had to be called to come and address the journalists. Chitembwe said the former Dynamos striker, a firm favourite with the Green Machine fans, is in the technical team’s plans for this year.
“My relationship with Evans is that of player and coach. It is my responsibility as coach to give instructions to make sure that we do things the way we want as a team,” said Chitembwe. “Obviously I understand that players sometimes go through frustrations and we try to help them. What is important is for people involved to manage the pressure and the emotions well.
“The reason why he is still at CAPS United is because I still want him to be there. We know what he can do as a player and no one can doubt his potential. We really need to manage that potential so that at the end of the day he reaches his goals.” Gwekwerere also insisted he will see his contract through to December when it expires.
He revealed that he has been dealing with personal problems of late, which made him unavailable for training last Monday. Chitembwe and Connor both insisted they will not press the panic button under pressure from a militant section of the club’s supporters. They pleaded for a conducive environment space following last week’s incidents of violence that marred their game against Chicken Inn at Gwanzura.
The technical team’s appeals come as Makepekepe prepares to renew their rivalry against bogey side Motor Action in a Castle Lager Premier League match at the same venue on Sunday. Makepekepe are looking for their first win of the season to take away the pressure from the Green Machine family following a disappointing start in their first two games.
CAPS drew 0-0 with Shabanie Mine in their opening match at Maglas two weeks ago but suffered a shock 2-0 defeat to Chicken Inn in the second at home, which drew the ire of a section of the club’s supporters leading to the abandonment of the match in injury time. Connor conceded he was already feeling the pressure but came out strongly yesterday saying they will not be swayed from the targets set at the beginning of the year to win silverware for the club.
“Every time we lose there’s bound to be pressure on the table. It’s part of the game,” said Connor. “As the technical team, we reacted calmly (to the violent behaviour of the fans) because Lloyd and I realised that this wasn’t going to happen everyday. We have not won the title in seven years and we haven’t won a trophy in two years. So we are not going to panic after the first two games of the season. My self-belief and my desire to win override all that.
“I am quite happy to take criticism because it’s part of the job. Whatever results the team gets, the buck stops with me. Give us the opportunity to see if we can deliver some silverware and definitely judge me at the end of my three-year contract.” Their opponents Motor Action appear to have rediscovered their form following a trail of two wins in their last two games and Connor is certain they will not get an easy game.
The Mighty Bulls beat Gunners 1-0 away at Lafarge last week and then dismissed a weakened Dynamos team 2-1 in the semi-finals of the Independence Trophy during the midweek. The Northern Irishman said CAPS would need to draw lessons from their opening games of the campaign as they plunge into battle on Sunday. The CAPS United coaches have a big task to motivate their players.
“We are expecting a difficult game. We hear they won yesterday (Wednesday) and again last week so they are obviously a confident side,” said Connor. “I think what we learnt from last weekend is that no matter how good you think you are as a team or no matter how good the players are, if you don’t turn on the form to a certain level that might cause you some problems.
“So we are going to make sure that we have the attitude. That’s something that we have been working on with the players. We have to come and win every week.” The Northern Irishmansaid he was disappointed with the fans’ reaction to last Saturday’s defeat. Connor also cleared the air on the unity, or perceived lack of it, in the Green Machine dressing room and called on the fans to rally behind the team in good and bad times.
“As the technical team we are working very hard to get the results. We can control how we train and play but we cannot control how people react,” said Connor.
“What people don’t know is that I and Lloyd talk everyday about the team, about the players, about the system and the game in general. I have worked with so many coaches before and I believe this guy is good. He has the passion for the game and one thing I like about him is that he is free to express his opinion. I am happy with the dynamics in the technical team.”
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