By Petros Kausiyo
CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe has challenged his troops to repay the faith and support shown by their fans by playing especially for them when they host FC Platinum in a high-profile Castle Lager Premiership tie at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
Chitembwe yesterday paid glowing tribute to Makepekepe fans whom he said had been a fantastic lot that had exhibited loyalty and patience with their team.
The reigning Coach of the Year, who has in the last two assignments watched his side come out of probably their worst patch in this campaign, said the faith shown in the team by the supporters had helped them to remain focussed and to ride through a rough period that was characterised by a win-less run stretching over a month.
He is under no illusions about the tough task that awaits his charges against the platinum miners whom he said are among the favourites for the title. FC Platinum are lying fourth with 39 points and four behind leaders Ngezi Platinum while CAPS United who are still playing catch up and are at least six games behind the bulk of the top-flight find themselves uncharacteristically placed 16th with 18 points from 15 matches.
But it is the rough patch they have just come out of in which they fell to Bulawayo sides Chicken Inn and How Mine by identical 3-1 margins and lost to debutants Yadah 2-0 that Chitembwe reckoned their supporters stood by them “and deserve to be rewarded now’’.
Chitembwe said the four points they collected from a 1-0 win over ZPC Kariba at the National Sports Stadium and a 1-1 draw against basement side Tsholotsho away were signs of a huge improvement by his team.
He wants that resurgence to continue this afternoon against FC Platinum despite Norman Mapeza’s men being a tough proposition. “It’s an important game for us. Things have been taking shape slowly and I am sure we are progressing and we are better than we were a month ago.
“I can see some positives in the team, but this is one game that we will try to play for our fans. They have been there for us, they have been patient with us even when the results have not been coming. “A team of our standards is always expected to do more and we are aware of that,’’ said Chitembwe.
Chitembwe noted that CAPS United were undergoing a transition following their exit from the Champions League that also came at a price with some of the star performers of their maiden dance with the group stage, being snapped up by foreign clubs.
“Inasmuch as we are expected to do more, we are in transition. There are a lot of changes within the playing staff and once you have a huge turnover of players, cohesion can be a problem,’’ said Chitembwe.
CAPS United have lost star midfielder Ronald Chitiyo who left for Tunisia, while Abbas Amidu, whose goals also helped carry them in the Champions League has also left.
Seasoned midfielder Tafadzwa Rusike remains on the sidelines as his season continues to be blighted by injuries. But big goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda is back from a long-term injury, while Warriors international Hardlife Zvirekwi has regained full fitness.
“Of course, Tafadzwa is still out but Eddie is back, Pfumbidzai is back, Makatuka is back, we are happy that Hardie is back to full fitness and the inclusion of Abasirim Chidiebere (Nigerian striker) is helping us as well,’’ Chitembwe said.
Chitembwe also spoke of his respect for Mapeza and the platinum miners. “FC Platinum are a very good side, with some experienced players, and they have a very good coach and there is every motivation for us to play against a very good team that is among the favourites for the league title.
“We know how it feels because we were in the same situation last season and we are aware of the pressure that also comes with being at the top,’’ Chitembwe said. Pure Platinum play have been an epitome of consistency with Mapeza’s men only losing once in 20 attempts and that defeat came at the hands of fellow miners and table toppers Ngezi Platinum who beat them 2-1 at Baobab on July 1.
Mapeza however, remains modest about his team’s chances insisting they will take the camping on a game by game basis. The Warriors coach said they were expecting a tough assignment against CAPS United who have turned the National Stadium into a fortress in the last two seasons.
“It’s not going to be any easy game for us. We really have to work hard to get a result tomorrow (today),” said Mapeza.
Today’s game presents giant striker Takesure Chinyama to remind Harare football fans of his pedigree, two years after his last dance with Dynamos in which he ended as their top scorer with seven goals having rejoined them in May 2015.
Mapeza appears to have found a way to blend the experience of Chinyama, Ali Sadiki and Mkhokheli Dube with the youthful Brett Amidu, Winston Mhango and Gerald Takwara which has put them in good stead to keep the pressure on the title chasing pack that also includes Chicken In and Dynamos. With the games coming thick and fast, Premier Soccer League chief executive Kenny Ndebele indicated that clubs would have to brace for more mid-week games as the top-flight body seeks to meet its target to complete the 2017 season at least by the first week of December.
An expanded Premiership which now has 18 clubs has not been helped by the non-availability of some of the key venues needed by the teams which include Rufaro, the National Stadium and lately Luveve which has now been closed for refurbishment ahead of the COSAFA Women’s Championships. The 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship will be the biggest yet with 12 nations set to compete for regional honours at the finals in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe from September 13-24.
The event will arguably be the most important ever for women’s football in Southern Africa as it brings together 11 of the 14 countries from the region, as well as East African guest nation Kenya. The Herald