Robson Sharuko and Petros Kausiyo
THE first of a trio of West African recruits targeted by CAPS United to strengthen the squad that made history by powering them into their first appearance in the group stages of the CAF Champions League — Nigerian striker Abasirim Chidiebere — is expected in the country this week as the Green Machine’s preparations for the tournament go into full throttle.
Makepekepe will get their Champions League campaign underway with probably the toughest possible mission in Group B, a battle against five-time champions Zamalek in Egypt next weekend, in what will be the start of a marathon on the continent which will see them playing six games on the continent in seven weeks.
The Green Machine are also targeting two forwards from Ghana after the club’s leadership felt they needed to strengthen their strike force for the team not only to grab one of the two tickets from Group B, into the quarter-finals, but even go all the way to the final and try to become the first Zimbabwean club to be crowned African champions.
Chidiebere is scheduled to arrive in the country this week after the Nigerian forward, who has also played in the Tanzanian top-flight league where a number of top local players have been plying their trade, chose CAPS United ahead of FC Platinum because of the need to play in the Champions League.
‘’Aba is a very strong forward and you can check some of his goals on YouTube and you can see what I am talking about, he is ambitious and wants to play in Europe and believes that by playing in the Champions League he can get the stage he needs for him to showcase his skills and get spotted by scouts,’’ sources told The Herald.
‘’His handlers initially wanted to take him to FC Platinum because he wanted a side that is stable and run along very professional lines, but it appears he had a change of heart when CAPS United qualified for the group stages of the Champions League final and felt his interests could be better served at the Green Machine.
“A lot has been happening behind the scenes, even though neither party wants to reveal much at the moment, but we can tell you that things are moving at lightning speed and the two Ghanaians could also be here soon, if everything goes according to plan, and there could be fierce competition for places in the CAPS United attack which is only good for the club.
“The CAPS United leaders, in their analysis of the team, felt that the strike force needed to be reinforced if they are to make a big statement in the Champions League and with games coming thick and fast, with the club playing six games in seven weeks in Group B, it means they need a strong squad because there will be injuries here and there.’’
CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe has converted Abbas Amidu into a central striker, in recent weeks, and the forward has repaid his gaffer with a number of goals, including three in his last two domestic matches, including a beauty for his second in the 4-0 thrashing of Chapungu.
Amidu will now possibly have to compete with Chidiebere, who has played for Tanzanian side Coastal Union in the past and scored 15 goals in his first season, there having arrived in that country after being lured by a bogus agent and left to find a club on his own.
“I was lured by one of these fake agents who assured me of a club here in Tanzania, but immediately (after) I arrived, I discovered there was nothing as such,’’ he told the Tanzanian media.“I had to struggle in search of a club myself which I succeeded with the help of God. “In Tanzania, I am a household name.’’
Meanwhile, veteran striker Leonard Tsipa has bounced back into the CAPS United Champions League squad with the 35-year-old being the only addition so far to the Green Machine’s side ahead of the start of the group stage games next week.
Tsipa missed the action in the opening two rounds against Lesotho outfit Lioli in the preliminary stage and African giants TP Mazembe as he had looked set to seal a move away to Tanzania.
But when the move did not materialise, Tsipa stuck with the Green Machine, but he had already missed the first CAF registration window.Club chief executive Cuthbert Chitima revealed yesterday that Tsipa had now been added onto their Champions League squad.
“We had five slots and now after registering Tsipa we still have four more to fill. There is definitely need to add more players, but we will stand guided by the coach on who he wants in, but there is need to add to our depth going forward because there will be many games to play,’’ Chitima said.
CAPS United, however, do have a number of options including that of former Ngezi Platinum striker James Ngulube who is on loan from South African side Maritzburg United.But it is the inclusion of Tsipa, easily the most experienced player in the CAPS United ranks, that has been welcomed by both coach Lloyd Chitembwe and Chitima.
The duo of Chitima and Chitembwe, however, bemoaned the restriction placed on them by the Premier Soccer League, which stipulates that they can only register 25 players with the other five positions reserved strictly for Under-20s.
“The challenge that we have is that while CAF allow us to register 30 players for the Champions League, we cannot do so on the domestic league as we must register 25 and we have tried to appeal the decision but without fail.
“We feel it should actually be an incentive for any local team representing the country in these CAF competitions to be allowed to register five more players.
“But as it stands it means that if we exhaust all our CAF slots we will always have five players who can only play continental football, but will be ineligible for domestic duties,’’ Chitima said.Chitima, however, hailed the inclusion of Tsipa, the PSL’s Golden Boot award winner last season.
“I think his (Tsipa) coming is a blessing to us. He has seen it all and he will no doubt give us more options in attack,’’ said Chitima.Chitembwe is also not amused at having to be restricted to just using a 25-man side on the double onslaught on the local and continental fronts.
“I think we should be given chance to register five more players locally so that we can compete equally with other teams.“There will obviously be injuries and suspensions as more games take their toll and I think allowing continental representatives to register a few more players should be an incentive not a punishment as appears to be the case.“Teams should be rewarded for succeeding and not feel like they are paying a penalty for success,’’ Chitembwe said.