By Grace Chingoma
After shaking off an audacious bid to prize away their coach Lloyd Chitembwe, former champions CAPS United have vowed to construct a strong squad that will battle to wrestle back the Castle Lager Premiership championship.
Chitembwe had been on the radar of CAPS United’s Premiership rivals ZPC Kariba, amid revelations that the electricity men had tabled an offer to try and lure the reigning Coach of The Year to Kariba.
It has also emerged that CAPS United would also have to reconstruct their squad with only four of their players — defenders Hardlfie Zvirekwi and Stephen Makatuka, goalkeeper Prosper Chigumba and striker John Zhuwawo — have contracts running beyond the end of this month.
The only other player who had a contract that was not expiring on December 31 was Justice Jangano.
But as they look to bounce back in 2018, CAPS United, who finished a distant fifth and 14 points behind eventual champions FC Platinum, had to first ensure that they secure the head of their technical department amid indications that ZPC Kariba had even interviewed Chitembwe.
Of the four players whose contracts with CAPS United are already in order, lanky striker Zhuwawo is on the verge of completing his move to South African Premiership outfit Ajax Cape Town.
CAPS United, however, needed to settle the issue of their coach before moving in to reconstruct their squad.
Club president Farai Jere, yesterday insisted that Chitembwe would be staying put at Makepekepe with the former Zimbabwe midfielder, a revered figure at CAPS United, being given a mandate to try and fight for the championship again and another dance with the Champions League.
Unlike FC Platinum and Harare City who would need to race against Confederation of African Football deadlines to submit their squad lists by December 31 and make final adjustments by January 15, CAPS United have at least three months to put together their 2018 side.
Jere, however, said CAPS United would not take chances and leave it until late to assemble their squad with the Makekepepe boss revealing that they were also looking to work with a leaner squad of 25.
The CAPS United president acknowledged that he was aware of the interest around Chitembwe but maintained that the coach who defied odds to lead the Green Machine to a maiden dance with the Champions League group stage was staying at the club.
“Lloyd signed a three-year contract last year, so he has two years remaining. He has committed himself for these years, so he is going to be at the club. His blood is CAPS United.
“Remember, last year he got better contracts from countries such as Botswana but he chose to remain with us and went on to win the league title. “It’s not like I am answering for him but I know.
“In our plans we had for this year, winning the league again was always going to be a bonus. We were focused on the Champions League participation and then next year, regroup for the league title so that come 2019, we return to play in the Champions League.
“By then we would have saved for the adventure. It was not going to be financially feasible to play twice in Africa in a row. So we are happy with the way we performed this season and everyone is ready for the new term,” said Jere.
The boss believes that the fact that the former Coach of the Year was courting attention elsewhere “means he is now a force to reckon with on the domestic scene’’.
“It is actually good that some clubs are approaching our coach, this means that they acknowledge the great job he has been doing with us. Ever since I brought him back to CAPS United, his stock keeps rising so naturally as a club we are also elated.
“This also helps him with individual evaluation to see what he is worth as his career progresses. Obviously, after hearing what the ZPC Kariba guys are offering, it helps him to review his package with us of which we have no problem with that,” said Jere.
Jere was yesterday expected to hold a meeting with Chitembwe to discuss on the players’ contracts as well the as plan for the new season. Contracts of key senior players are expiring at the end of this month, a situation which has heightened fears of a massive exodus at the 2016 champions.
But Jere maintained that “everything is under control’’ with hope that they would be able to renew most contracts.
CAPS United are however, looking at clearing the various amounts they owe to their players before getting down to business of contract renewal. “The players that are owed their money will get their dues before Christmas.
We have been in a difficult financial position this year, something which is obtaining in the country but was worsened by our participation in the Champions League.
“If we hadn’t participated, we couldn’t be owing anyone anything. But we are expecting our funds from CAF any time from now, since the Champions League was only concluded last week. So once this tranche of funds is released it shall be given to the players.
At this stage of the season, a number of players’ contracts do expire but we are confident that we will retain most of our players. We are going to register 25 players for next season and we have identified some of the players we want.
“We are alive to the fact that we might lose one or two players to international clubs. We are prepared for that, but what we are not anticipating is losing our star players to the local clubs.
Already we have lost John Zhuwawo, I am reliably informed that he has been snapped by Ajax Cape Town of South Africa. “As for Dominic Chungwa, he is our player.
His contract is expiring but I am confident that as long as he remains playing in the local league, he will be playing for us,” said Jere. The Herald