By Eddie Chikamhi
After surviving a genuine scare in the first round of the Mbada Diamonds Cup, holders Dynamos will not leave anything to chance when they clash with youthful Gunners in a quarter-final tie at Baghdad tomorrow.
DeMbare will also be looking to maintain a positive attitude as they plunge into the battle after learning that their star defender Guthrie Zhokinyi was slapped with a life ban for his alleged involvement in the Asiagate scandal.
Zhokinyi was named in a 19-member squad after the team’s morning training session, but as it now turns out, he might not be able to make the trip to Kwekwe today as the ban immediately took effect yesterday afternoon.
A dark cloud still hangs over the team as five other key players are in the firing line, with only defender David Kutyauripo being exonerated. Midfielder Tawanda Muparati, Cliff Sekete, Martin Vengesai, George Magariro and Milton Makopa are still waiting to hear their fate.
Assistant coach Tichaona Diya yesterday said the team has been soldiering on bravely since the scandal began to rock the headlines again this week.
DeMbare are one of the most affected Premiership teams by the Asiagate scandal and with the penalties still to be pronounced on the other players and officials, the uncertainty should have traumatic repercussions on the implicated players.
Diya said they are praying that the players would not be bowled over psychologically when they troop onto the pitch, as they appeared in good spirits during their training despite the axe hovering over their careers.
“I wouldn’t want to dwell much on the Asiagate issues. Instead we are concentrating on building a strong team that could beat Gunners on Sunday,” said Diya.
“We have been talking with these players the whole week. That is our job as coaches and obviously we would also be consulting others on how to help these youngsters to handle such complex issues.
“Otherwise we haven’t seen any problems during the training sessions. Everything appears normal and it seems everyone is ready and eager to play. We just want to be positive. If we remain positive everything will work out,” said Diya.
DeMbare survived a scare in the first round when they needed a penalty shootout to eliminate minnows Quelaton at Rufaro. The relegated Bulawayo side had forced a late equaliser to earn 1-1 draw in regulation time.
With no serious injury worries in the camp, they still expect a good outing and the coaches would have to decide on who should carry the captain’s armband in the absence of Zhokinyi.
Veteran midfielder Murape Murape has been included in the squad which also has Farai Mupasiri, Simba Sithole, Denver Mukamba and Warriors trialist Partson Jaure, who scooped the Man of the Match award in the first round against Quelaton.
The Glamour Boys will come up against their former son Moses Chunga who is now in charge at Gunners. Dynamos humiliated Gunners 4-0 the last time they met in a league match and ironically it was Chunga’s first game on the bench.
But Chando Kupisa have struggled for form this season after losing several key players including Cliff Sekete, who is now at Dynamos. However, they managed to pull through to the last eight courtesy of a 3-2 win over Chicken Inn. Diya said DeMbare will not afford complacency.
“Cup games have always been tricky affairs. Obviously Gunners wouldn’t want to lose to us again, but as the defending champions we have a big challenge to retain that trophy.
“The head coach has been speaking strongly to the players in terms of our attitude towards games. Usually players tend to underestimate small teams, but these are dangerous opponents, more deadly than the so-called big guns.
“So we will not be complacent. The players know what we are expecting from them and we are ready for the challenge,” said Diya.
Gunners captain Pardon Chinungwa who missed the league encounter between the two teams said Chando Kupisa have learnt their lessons and will come out firing in all directions. Gunners would need to go all the way in the cup tournament to atone for their poor run in the league this season.
Midfielders Tapiwa Dephistara, Valentine Ndaba and striker Ismael Lawe who scored the winner will be looking forward to continue from where they left off in the first round.
“This is a new game altogether. I think we are well prepared for them and it is important that we remain focused. Of course we lost heavily when we played them the last time, but that is now a closed chapter. I am happy we have youngsters who are eager to learn.
“I am sure we have all moved on because some of these youngsters lack experience, but as senior players we always encourage them to grow in football,” said Chinungwa.
Harare giants CAPS United will get the ball rolling this afternoon as they take on Buffaloes at Gibbo as the Mbada Diamonds Cup returns after a two-week Premiership sabbatical as the nation has been focusing on the Warriors qualifiers against Angola.
CAPS have been on a recovery path of late following a bad start this year and they kicked out Motor Action in the first round courtesy of Hardlife Zvirekwi’s late strike at Trojan.
But Buffaloes coach Saul Chaminuka told The Herald that he is not intimidated by Makepekepe’s newly found form.
“CAPS are currently playing well and we are struggling especially in front of goal. But this is a new game and I think it is CAPS United who are strangers at Gibbo because we have played there before when we were in the Division One Eastern Region,” said Chaminuka. The Herald
Today: FC Platinum v Shabanie Mine (Mandava), CAPS United v Buffaloes (Gibbo)
Tomorrow: Dynamos v Gunners (Baghdad), Highlanders v Monomotapa (Colliery)