Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter—
CAPS United will become the first team to plunge into four successive CAF Champions League battles against clubs that have either won the tournament, or emerged as runners-up in the past two editions, when they take on USM Alger of Algeria on Wednesday.The rare mid-week CAF Champions League battle will explode on Africa Day eve with the National Sports Stadium and the cheapest ticket for the match are going for $5.
“It’s a massive game and, obviously, there is a price for that because this is a top club in Africa which, as you have noted, has been climbing the ladder in the past few years to become one of the best football clubs we have on the continent,” CAPS United president Farai Jere told The Herald yesterday.
“This is serious opposition that we are playing against and their dream is to be African champions, which they almost became two years ago when they reached the final which they lost, but that’s the standard we have set for ourselves and that’s the company we now want.
“It means a lot for us and that is why we are promising the country, which we are representing, that we will try to ensure that we fly our national flag very high and we need that game against the Algerians to show the continent that we have come of age if there are any people out there who still doubt us.
”Of course, we lost to Zamalek in their backyard but that was a blip and I think our second half performance showed that we are quite a very strong side and this Champions League campaign means a lot to us and that is why we believe we have to win that game against the Algerians.
”We have never doubted our pedigree and that is why we went to Lubumbashi, where very few teams come out with a good result, and forced a draw and all that we are asking from this country is to support us and when we played Mazembe here the support was incredible.
”That is the kind of spirit we want to see on Wednesday from Zimbabweans and if they can come and fill the National Sports Stadium we will really appreciate that because we are not just doing it for ourselves but for our country.”
Jere also hailed ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa for the support he is giving them.
“He has made it clear that he wants success, that we need to win the match against the Algerians because it’s about our country and he has been very supportive and we want to thank him for that,” said Jere.
“The Algerians are also getting a lot of support from their football community but we expect that because if they do well then it would be Algeria which would have done well.
”That is the kind of spirit which we must adopt as Zimbabweans when it comes to such assignments and we showed great unity against Mazembe and let’s do it again.”
CAPS United have played three straight matches against a team which won the CAF Champions League two years ago, TP Mazembe, and Zamalek, who were losing finalists last year when they were defeated by Mamelodi Sundowns.
The two opposition they have faced, in their last three Champions League matches, have 10 titles between them.
Now, their next opponent is the team that lost in the final of the Champions League two years ago when USM Alger were beaten by TP Mazembe.
“These are not easy games, this is the best that you can get in terms of club football in Africa and we are happy to be part of it and to fight in these trenches,” said Jere.
”The people of this country love quality football and that is what these games can guarantee you and my prayers to them is that they should come and support us the way they did against Mazembe.
”When we played against Mazembe, you could sense that an entire country was behind us and people that we had last seen at a football match in years were there to support us and the unity was unbelievable.
”We had the Dynamos president asking his club’s supporters to come and support us and that was commendable and we owe it to them, those fans who came in numbers, and rallied behind our cause and we ask them to do it again next week.”
The match will be played in the afternoon and USM Alger, who are flying on a chartered flight to Harare tomorrow, will leave just after the match.
The Algerian giants have been transformed by the millions that have been poured into their coffers since tycoon Ali Haddad, whose net worth is estimated at around $300 million and owns hotels even in Spain, took over as the president in 2010.
Yesterday CAPS played a friendly match with Aces Academy where the coaching staff were also hoping to get better appreciation of the foreign players that are on trials.
Ghanaian duo of Wilson Andoh and Richard Addai together with Nigerian striker Abasirim Chidiebere have begun their trial period with the club.
CAPS United chief executive Cuthbert Chitima said no position has been reached yet with regards to the players.
“What happened is that the team has been so busy that the coach couldn’t get time to assess them properly.
“Come to think of it that these guys have not managed to train with the team two consecutive days without disruption. So we have arranged a friendly match today (yesterday) against Aces Youth Academy.
”They will be given a chance to play and hopefully the coach will take the opportunity to have a closer look in a game situation.
“We rest on Saturday but Sunday and Monday the team will train again and by Tuesday we might be in a position to say something.
“Two people from the USM Alger advance team are here to sort out the logistics for their team and I have been helping them to settle. It’s the team manager and another official. The rest of the squad is expected to arrive on Sunday midnight.
”Altogether they have a delegation of 45 people.”