Eddie Chikamhi and Mbachi Mutukula-Maregere
DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo side AS Vita Club have declared they are ready to pin down Dynamos in their backyard as they look to enhance their chances of qualifying for the mini-league of the Champions League competition this year. The Congolese side arrived in Harare yesterday morning with a delegation of 30 members, including 19 players, and were led by the club’s secretary-general Patrick Baneshayi.
Team coach Jean-Florent Ibenge immediately declared they were not in Harare for holiday as they aim to reverse a miserable record in the premier club competition of late.
The Black Dolphins, as the club is known back home, have never qualified for the group stage of the Champions League competition and their dreams were always quashed in the first round in their last three attempts between 2011 and 2013.
Ibenge yesterday told the media on arrival at the Harare International Airport that they were determined to break the jinx and were ready to give Dynamos a good run for their money when the sides clash in the first leg of the Champions League first round clash at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
“We came here and we want to qualify. Vita Club is really popular in our country, but we did not get the results that we expected (in previous editions).
“Now we want to go and reach the group stage and do better than what we did last year. So, this match against Dynamos is really important for us because the previous years we were always eliminated in the first round.
“We want to reach the quarter-finals, at least,” said Ibenge.
AS Vita are one of the most successful clubs in the history of the DRC’s top-flight league, the Linafoot, with 12 titles under the belt alongside their Kinshasa neighbours DC Motema Pambe.
Only giants T.P Mazembe have done better with 13 championships. Vita Club came to Harare against a backdrop of morale-boosting wins in the last week after beating rivals Muungano 2-0 to take the lead of the Linafoot Group B league with 24 points after 11 games, ahead of SM Sanga Balende Mbuji -Mayi and Lubumbashi Sport.
Only last Sunday they were given a 3-0 victory in the boardroom after their derby match against DC Motema Pembe was abandoned 10 minutes into the second half due to crowd violence.
AS Vita Club had just taken a 1-0 lead through a penalty converted by their striker Lema Mabidi but the opponents’ supporters were not happy with the decision to award the spot kick and reacted violently.
Results could be going their way but their coach Ibenge appeared worried by the effects of the fatigue arising from playing too many games in a short space of time.
The Black Dolphins accounted for Nigerian giants Kano Pillars in the preliminary round with a 4-3 aggregate victory last month.
Mubele Ndombe, Lusadisa Basisila and Lema Mabidi gave them a good start in the 3-1 home win in the first leg.
They were still worth their ticket despite losing the return leg 2-1 in Nigeria. Ibenge has seven players in his squad who were part of the DRC side that reached the quarter-finals of the CHAN tournament.
They also have foreign players like Cameroonian goalkeeper Nelson Lukong Bongaman and Abdoul Aziz Djielbeogo from Burkina Faso.
Ibenge said he was aware of Dynamos’ strengths and had prepared his side accordingly.
“I know that the match will be tough and I hope we play a good game and hope to win the second leg in Kinshasa for our qualification.
“I watched Zimbabwe at the CHAN tournament in South Africa and I know there were seven or eight players from Dynamos in the national team.
“We don’t know exactly how Dynamos play but we saw the national team and we will see tomorrow (today) how they play but we expect more of organisation.
“But we came here to play and win the match. We don’t want to play defensive,” said Ibenge.
AS Vita squad
Nelson Lukong Bongaman (gk), Herve Lomboto Nguemba (gk), Landu Makiese, Patou Ebuunga Simbi (Captain), Dido Bafola, Rosain Paulo Mondo Mouegni, Thierry Kasereka, Firmin Mubele Ndombe, Heritier Luvumbu Nzinga, Munganga Omba, Etekiama Taguy Agiti, Ngudikama Emmanuel Christian, Chikito Lema Mabidi, Lusadisu Basisila, Patrick Mampuya Lema, Landu Phuaty, Ruddy Makwekwe Kupa, Lomanisa Mutambala, Yves Magola Mapanda, Mbala Ndombe, Abdoul Aziz Djielbeogo, Jeremie Basilua Makola, Kazadi Kasendu, Jerry Ekole Geyi, Mabele Bawaka, Blaise Kiaku Kianduanina