CASTLE Lager Premiership Coach of the Year Lloyd Chitembwe and childhood friend Norman Mapeza will have to temporarily put their ties aside as they fight for bronze in the Independence Cup third place play-off at Barbourfields this afternoon.
The match, which will be the main attraction at Independence Day celebrations in Bulawayo, is likely to be a tough battle of wits between two of the top coaches in the country at the moment.
Chitembwe and Mapeza grew up in the same neighbourhood in Chitungwiza before playing in the same team at Darryn T. But as has become a common thing in recent years, they find themselves sitting on opposing benches again this afternoon seeking to outdo one another on the field of play.
CAPS United lost the right to play in the final after succumbing to a narrow 1-0 defeat to bitter rivals Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
The Green Machine, who are battling to keep their camp intact in the face of simmering tensions over unpaid dues, need the win to maintain their momentum after making a positive start this year.
Makepekepe players are reportedly pressing for their winning bonuses which they are owed from last year and the management has had to put in a lot of effort to keep the squad motivated.
Chitembwe had the luxury to rest some of his key players like Hardlife Zvirekwi, Ronald Chitiyo and Leonard Tsipa in the semi-final and it appears the former midfielder will shuffle his team again this afternoon to avoid straining his players.
The Harare giants have a demanding programme ahead of them as they are scheduled to fight on two fronts starting from next month when they begin the CAF Champions League group stage fixtures.
Chitembwe insisted that Makepekepe will always be competitive while rotating his players.
“You know we have a very big pool of players. They can’t all play at the same time. According to the laws of the game only eleven players are allowed to play.
“So in as far as we are concerned we can’t have everyone play at the same time. We just have to make a choice and a decision as to who to play and who is not to play,” said Chitembwe.
FC Platinum on the other hand missed out on their fourth Uhuru Cup final appearance in six years when they lost a penalty shoot-out lottery to Highlanders at Barbourfields following a goalless draw in regulation time.
The Pure Platinum Play have had a good build up to the season and were disappointed to lose to Highlanders in the semi-finals for the second time this year.
Mapeza’s men have had a perfect start to the season but they are not doing well in knock-out matches. Sunday’s loss echoed the ZNA Charities semi-final defeat to the same opponents last month. FC Platinum were however, not happy with the defeat after they were denied what appeared a genuine penalty in regulation time.
But the match ended goalless and they went on to lose 3-4 on penalties.
The Platinum miners have made their presence felt in the Independence Cup in recent years winning twice since 2012 and also featuring in another final.