Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
SUNDAY Chidzambwa says Dynamos will give them the perfect test to gauge the progress of his new-look ZPC Kariba side in the pre-season when they clash in the quarter-finals of the Zimbabwe National Army Charities Soccer Shield at Rufaro on Sunday.
ZPC Kariba are playing in the tournament for the first time this year after the organisers doubled the number of participating teams this year.
Chidzambwa, who has made about a dozen acquisitions during the off-season to balance his side following the departure of key players like Dennis Dauda and Raphael Manuvire, believes he is assembling a competitive side. He has brought on board the likes of Wisdom Mutasa, former Kaizer Chiefs defender Lincoln Zvasiya and the ex-Harare City trio of Talent Chawapiwa, Timire Mamvura and Osborne Mukuradare. They have also signed Godknows Mangani and Takudzwa Mahori from CAPS United, Never Tigere from Dongo Sawmill, ex-Gunners and FC Platinum player Munyaradzi Kunyarimwe, goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya and the unheralded 20-year-old central defender Mario Samson from Division One side Lake Harvest.
“I think we have done reasonably well so far but we still have a long way to go. As you know we have so many new players that have joined us, so we need to work hard on a lot of areas to make sure we are compact.
“The signs are looking good but it’s still early yet to say much about our team. So far we have only played one friendly match against Karoi United and I think it is good we are playing Dynamos this weekend because for us to know exactly where we are lacking, we need to play against the best. I am sure this game will give us the appropriate platform to gauge ourselves,” said Chidzambwa.
A lot will be at stake as the organisers have promised improved prize money for the winners and both teams have promised to field their full strength squads. This is good preparation for both teams ahead of the new season, which starts early April.
ZPC Kariba struggled with their game but managed to finish 10th last year following a late surge that lifted them from the relegation zone with the arrival of Chidzambwa midway through the campaign.
The veteran coach, however, is not setting himself big targets as ZPC Kariba will be playing their third season in the topflight this year. The side is keen to surpass the second place finish they made in their debut season in 2014 when they gave away the title to Dynamos on the last day.
“If I were to choose what I would want to be at the end of the season, I would say I would want us to be champions and win all the honours. But then you have to work hard for these things and remember it’s only one team which has to be champions.
“We will try to work hard and do our best,” said Chidzambwa.
While ZPC Kariba will be playing only their second pre-season match, their opponents Dynamos have featured in a number of friendlies to date and it appears they have been improving with each passing game under their new coach Paulo Jorge Silva. Organisers of the charity match yesterday said they are ready to stage the opening match of this year’s tournament, with the other three games featuring Harare City/CAPS United, Highlanders/Chicken Inn and FC Platinum/How Mine set for March 6.
The DeMbare game was brought forward since the Harare giants will not be available next weekend. They will be off to Malawi on pre-season tour.
ZNA Charities secretary Fabion Chitungo yesterday said they held their final meetings with the stakeholders and are now anticipating a flawless tournament. Tickets have been retained at $3 for the rest of the ground, $5 for the Upper Western Stand and $10 for the VIP section.
“I can say we are ready for the first match of this year’s tournament. Everything is now in place. We had meetings with ZRP and all the other stakeholders and we are in the right direction. Of course in football there are rivalries and we expect them to be on show during the tournament. But as the ZNA we don’t look at it that way.
“We take it from the point of charity in the interest to raise funds for our various institutions that need help from the generality of Zimbabweans. So this is the platform that we have created for everyone to participate while also enjoying the entertainment that comes with football.
“We appreciate the support that we get every year from football and I can say it has gone a big way in helping the needy in our charities. Usually we ask for a wish list from these organisations and then provide from the proceeds but this year we have moved from this consumption-based approach to capital projects.
“Like at Tsanga Lodge, we have injected cash capital to start potato and fish farming and we are hoping they will be able to raise more money to support the day-to-day running of the facility from these self-help projects.
“We are building classroom blocks in Mbalabala in Bulawayo after we discovered that the students were walking very long distances to the nearest school,” said Chitungo.