Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
PREMIERSHIP giants CAPS United’s decent run in the Champions League continues to reap some rewards with the Green Machine being invited to Saudi Arabia for a three-day tour where they will play that country’s Pro-League club Al Taween.
CAPS United flew out of Harare yesterday afternoon after confirming the invitation which was extended to them via FIFA and UEFA match agents IAST Sports. Lloyd Chitembwe’s men will have little time to adapt to the conditions of the Asian country as they will go straight into action late tomorrow night.
IAST chief executive Aimar Rissan wrote to his CAPS United counterpart Cuthbert Chitima extending the invitation and the Makepekepe boss wasted no time in grabbing the opportunity which could yet open further avenues for their players to get contracts outside the country. CAPS United were full value for their maiden dance with the Champions League group stage, claiming the scalps of continental heavyweights Zamalek and USM Alger.
With the Champions League games being beamed live on television across Africa and Asia it is their fine showing which must have convinced IAST that CAPS United could provide a tough test to the Saudi Arabia Pro League clubs. Rissan in his letter to Chitima also confirmed that IAST were catering for CAPS United’s travel expenses for the international friendly.
“IAST Sports company is honoured to invite CAPS United to play a friendly match with Al Taween FC on 13 December 2017 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the King Fahad stadium. Our company will cover your local costs for 23 persons for three nights and air tickets. If you are interested to play this friendly let us know to do our arrangement,’’ Rissan wrote.
After grabbing the opportunity with both hands, CAPS United who were just about to warm up to the off-season break embarked on the tour yesterday but the Green Machine had contend with travelling in batches.
The first batch of the team left yesterday via Addis Ababa and the second group will leave today and is expected to arrive by midnight before they plunge into action tomorrow.
A delegation of 25 members including 17 players will undertake the trip in which CAPS United are also set to receive a match appearance fee. But conspicuous by their absence from the travelling party are CAPS United’s Premiership Golden Boot award winner Dominic Chungwa and midfielder Moses Muchenje.
Chungwa, whose contract is expiring end of this month, is understood to be club hunting in South Africa while Muchenje could not be located when the players were called to report for duty for the tour.
Former CAPS United striker Abbas Amidu almost set base in Saudi Arabia before opting to go to Egyptian side Entag El Harby. Amidu was on the wanted list of Saudi Arabian outfit Al Wehda (Mecca) before the player opted for the North African club.
Chitima said although the confirmation appeared to have come on short notice, the match agents had been working on the friendly for some time but had been delayed by the availability of suitable dates.
With the confirmation only being made at the weekend it meant CAPS United had to run around since Monday with the trip’s logistics including securing the government clearance through the Sport and Recreation Commis- sion. Chitima said they were also looking to market the CAPS United brand during the friendly.
“We are expecting good exposure from this trip which should give the players a perfect chance to showcase themselves and you never know someone might be lucky before we even get to Christmas. We took our strongest team and we will compete in this game. We have been advised that the match has been sold out and will be screened on the television there.
“Chungwa is in South Africa trying his luck at Polokwane and Moses, we couldn’t get hold of him. The guys from Saudi Arabia phoned us on Saturday, and we quickly phoned the players but we couldn’t get hold of him,” Chitima said.
Chitima said CAPS United had also begun the process of retaining those players whose deals were coming to a close but who are key to their requirements.
“We have already engaged the players with contracts expiring. We have agreed in principle, so we should be renewing by end of next week after returning from the trip.
“I am very confident that we will retain the majority of our players unless they join outside clubs like Chungwa who is in South Africa,” said Chitima.
Chitima said CAPS United would not be bothered by interests being shown in their players by their Premiership rivals as they were confident of retaining the bulk of their squad.
“We are a brand and we cannot compete with teams such as ZPC Kariba. Any serious player would want to play for teams like CAPS United, and these players know that it is not all that green on the other side,” Chitima said.
Edmore Sibanda, Prosper Chigumba, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Valentine Musarurwa, Stephen Makatuka, Goodwin Goriyati, Kudzi Nyamupfukudza, Zvikomborero Biseki, Abasirim Chidiebere, John Zhuwawo, Justice Jangano, Devon Chafa, Phineas Bamusi, Carlton Munzambwa, Joel Ngodzo, Crispen Machisi, Cabby Kamhapa.
Officials: Lloyd Chitembwe (head coach), Fungai Kwashi Assistant coach), Majaha Ndlovu (fitness trainer), Chagwenja (doctor), Leonard Tsipa (assistant coach), Tongai Mufandaedza (kit manager), Shakespeare Chinogwenya (team manager).