Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
CAPS United are battling a goalkeeping crisis ahead of the CAF Champions’ League Group B match against Al Ahli Tripoli at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow, with both their senior ‘keepers in the casualty room.
First-choice goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda and his deputy Jorum Muchambo yesterday did not train with the team. They are nursing ankle injuries. This leaves Prosper Chigumba as the only fit ‘keeper in the dressing room.
Yesterday, the former Gunners goalie was involved in all drills and workouts which included a shooting session with attackers towards the end of their morning session.
With a growing list of injury concerns, CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe is putting up a brave face. The club’s vice captain Dennis Dauda is also battling an injury which might rule him out of this match.
Veteran striker Leonard Tsipa is also still sidelined by an injury and was not part of the team which did duty in the 1-1 draw against Triangle at Gibbo at the weekend.
Skipper Hardlife Zvirekwi, who has been battling fatigue-related injuries, is expected to be fit for the match despite earlier indications he was out of the game.
The team’s technical team refused to divulge information on their injury concerns, with assistant coach Fungai “Tostao” Kwashi insisting they would rather focus on fit players.
“We have injuries, yes, but we are not reading much into that. The doctors are working around the clock with these players,” he said.
“The injuries are there, but some will recover. Some will not, but that is part of the game. But I am not going to give the breakdown of the injured players as well as their medical reports.”
But The Herald can reveal that the medical team has put in some measures to get big ‘keeper Sibanda on his feet for the game by temporarily managing his pain with relief injections.
The team received a boost when the duo of Ronald “Rooney” Chitiyo and Devon Chafa joined the rest of the team in training. On Tuesday afternoon, they trained with the national team but were released back to their clubs after that first training session. Kwashi said this match was more important than any of the group games they have played so far.
He revealed they had been telling their players they needed to remain grounded and not get carried away by last week’s 2-1 victory against USM Alger. He feels the Libyans, who began observing Ramadan this week, pose the real threat to their campaign.
“The preparations are going on very well. We are just telling the guys to remain down to earth.
“Yes, we won against USM Alger but we have already forgotten about that. Al Ahli Tripoli are dangerous. They are even more dangerous than USM Alger. They held Zamalek last week and they are a wounded lion.
“We are treating this match seriously. It is the most important match for us. We are giving them respect. They are not easy opposition at all. So we have to be up for it. In the Champions League there are no easy matches,” said Kwashi.
He said they were aware that their opponents have two good strikers who can cause havoc tomorrow. The Libyan strikers, Muaid Ellafi and Anis Saltou, have seven goals between themselves and are among the leading goal-scorers in the CAF Champions League.
They have, however, failed to score in the group stages. “Tripoli have two strikers who are dangerous and we really need to be careful in this game. It is going to be a fierce battle. We have a little bit of information about them and you know with modern football, you have to take stock and strategise.
“They are the champions of Libya for a reason and we will treat them as such,” said Kwashi. Kwashi says they don’t want to disappoint the nation which is rallying behind them and every player is aware they are representing the country.
“We are fighting for everyone. The Champions League is for everyone. We want to make the nation proud. We have faith in God and within ourselves and we believe we have favour from God and, despite the injuries, we know God is working for us,” said Kwashi.
The Libyans arrived on Tuesday and have since said their aim is to win this game and revive their CAF Champions League. Libyan coach Talaat Youssef is bullish that his team will win tomorrow’s game.