By Eddie Chikamhi
As CAPS United prepare for the make-or-break Champions League tie against five-time champions TP Mazembe, the Zimbabwean rank outsiders have many lessons to draw from Leicester City who have defied the odds in their fairy-tale run in the UEFA Champions League.
Leicester continued to hog the limelight when they beat Sevilla of Spain on Tuesday night to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their 133-year history.
Their story is almost similar to CAPS United who now find themselves at a key moment of their campaign after holding five-time African champions TP Mazembe to an away 1-1 draw in the first leg of the group stage decider.
The Green Machine confounded bookmakers and many football critics with a brave fight in Lubumbashi.
TP Mazembe have an imperious home record and have not lost at their fortress in African competitions in the last 35 games.
Lloyd Chitembwe’s men deserve all the credit for not collapsing under fierce pressure from the hosts who benefit a lot from some questionable decisions and were given eight minutes added time to try and find a winner.
The good news for CAPS United is that key defender Ronald Pfumbidzai is back from injury, but they will be without suspended Ronald Chitiyo.
The club’s chief executive Cuthbert Chitima said the feat by Leicester demonstrated that football is not about previous records.
“There is no need to bank more on history in this game. You have to look at what is coming ahead and plan accordingly. In our case, if we had to consider the records, then we shouldn’t have gone to the DRC for the first leg because these guys are five-time champions and we have nothing in this competition.
“It’s football. They also started from scratch to be where they are today. But as it stands, it’s not over. Obviously they will come to us fighting hard so we have to be prepared for that,” said Chitima.
CAPS United will be assured of at least $550 000 if they make the group stage with the winners of the tournament this year set to pocket $2,5 million.
TP Mazembe, who last won the tournament in 2015, missed the group stage last year and their new coach Thierry Froger has been given the task to take the team back to the top.
The French coach admitted CAPS United gave them a harsh reality check at home, but wants his charges to overturn the disappointment.
“It is a pleasure to discover a new competition and to discover my team for three weeks that we have worked together,” he said.
“Training is one thing and the championship is another.
“This match in front of CAPS United will be played on two half-times of 90 minutes. To pass this stage we have to think about playing by practicing the style of play that we learned at the workouts.
“What is problematic is the time I have to prepare for this game. I would have liked to have five weeks of preparation to be sure. For me, there are always more points of uncertainty when you prepare a team for only three weeks.
“To remedy this problem, we worked a lot on the collective, I hope that we will see a real collective team. It will not be a player who will win it for TP Mazembe, but all the players,” said Froger.
TP Mazembe are expected to arrive tomorrow afternoon on a private flight with a strong 100-member delegation.
Bernard Camille of Seychelles will be the referee and will be assisted by countrymen Hensley Danny Petrouse and Gerad Pool.
CAPS United have pegged gate charges at $5 for the cheapest ticket for Sunday’s game.
The club’s chief executive said the VIP tickets will cost $20 while those who want to watch the match from the VVIP tribunal will have to part with $50.
Bay 17 and Bay 18 have been converted into VIP Stands with Mazembe being given one of the stands.
A number of companies have been rushing to buy the VVIP seats as excitement grows in the country for what will be CAPS United’S biggest game.
“We would like to advise the nation and our beloved fans as well as our valued stakeholders that the CAF Champions League tournament is involving substantial amounts of money which are far beyond the club’s reach and capability.
“As a club that is participating in such a financially involving tournament, we humbly request for everyone’s involvement and contribution.
“We are appealing and seeking support from all supporters to come in their numbers, rally behind the team and contribute financially by paying entry fees that will be directed towards match expenses.
“We understand the harsh economic conditions currently prevailing, but you can still donate for a noble cause by buying a ticket and together we can make it,” said Chitima. The Herald