Eddie Chikamhi and Tedious Manyepo—
HARARE giants CAPS United are bracing for a date with destiny this afternoon. The Green Machine stand on the threshold of winning their first championship in 11 years following a brilliant season under Lloyd Chitembwe, but they have to overcome the last hurdle this afternoon against Chapungu at Ascot. It has been a long wait for them since 2005 when they won the last of back-to-back titles under Charles Mhlauri.
There is an air of expectation in the club’s ranks from the supporters, players, technical team and the management. But Makepekepe face a serious challenge from FC Platinum who are breathing down their necks with only two points separating the teams on the final day.
The platinum miners, who bolstered their intentions last week with a 3-0 thumping of Highlanders, will wrap up their campaign away as they date relegation-haunted Tsholotsho at Luveve this afternoon. The Green Machine hold the aces with 60 points in the bag, two ahead of FC Platinum who are on 58.
It will be crucial to note that a win by FC Platinum while CAPS slip up at Ascot will turn the script on its head. The final day in the Zimbabwe Premiership has lately been known to bring the unexpected as has happened in the recent past with FC Platinum, Harare City and ZPC Kariba who nearly landed the silverware only to lose it on the last hurdle.
However, CAPS United defender Ronald Pfumbidzai said Makepekepe are a seasoned club and would not let the excitement and the high levels of expectations spoil everything they have worked for this season.
“CAPS United are seasoned enough to see off the challenge. It is not going to be an easy game at all as we will be cautious through and through. “Chapungu are also tricky especially when they are playing at home. But we all know that we have to win the match to win the title.
“Everyone at the team wants to win the crown as most of the players do not know how it feels to be a champion. We will give the game our all to fulfil the mission which we have worked for the entire season. We want to win it for the fans who have always been with us,” said Pfumbidzai.
CAPS United beat Ngezi Platinum 1-0 in their last match to finish the season unbeaten at the National Sports Stadium. Chitembwe is expecting all his players to be available for selection as they welcome skipper Moses Muchenje who missed last week’s game through suspension to be back in the fold.
The same, however, might not be said of Tafadzwa Rusike who had recovered from the injury he suffered last week only to be involved in a car accident on Thursday evening. The midfielder was not seriously injured and could be in Gweru where the Green Machine have travelled with all their registered players in anticipation of the crowning moment.
Veteran forward Leonard Tsipa who has played a key role in leading Makepekepe’s campaign is expected to lead from the front this afternoon. Tsipa is currently the league’s top goal scorer and might be confirmed the Golden Boot winner ahead of FC Platinum’s Walter Musona and Gift Mbweti of Hwange if nothing dramatic happens.
But with both CAPS United and FC Platinum having a chance to win the title, PSL spokesperson Kudzai Bare said they are working on logistics to have both venues ready for the trophy presentations.
The league has also sought the services of an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter to deliver the trophy. “We have been working on that and in the event that it doesn’t work out the way we expect the stages will be set up after the matches at the two venues,” said Bare.
“So both venues will be ready because regardless who wins gold or silver there will still be presentations of medals and trophies at the end of the day.” CAPS United will still be champions even if they lose their game against Chapungu as long as FC Platinum do not claim three points from Tsholotsho.
Chapungu coach John Nyikadzino yesterday warned the Green Machine should not expect to get the title on a silver platter. The hosts have nothing to play for.
In the event that ZIFA’s resolution of having four teams relegated stands, Chapungu will be playing Division One football next season because they will still finish in the bottom four even if they win today.
The club, however, will survive the chop if the PSL win their battle with ZIFA. The league is standing by a ZIFA board resolution taken last year that two teams will be demoted. “Let me start by addressing the issue of relegation, our club gets instructions from the PSL and they were told from the start that only two teams will be relegated at the end of the season.
“So from the information that I was given by my superiors at Chapungu two teams are going, they haven’t told us of any changes. “That is why Triangle, who could have been in the mix if four teams were going to be relegated, played today (yesterday).
“They should have played on the same day with us if it was the case. So as far as I know it’s Tsholotsho and Mutare City who are in the puzzle. “So we are going to play for pride. We want to finish well at home considering that we lost our last match at home. But I must admit we are facing a mammoth task. CAPS United are a big team and they have been playing well this season.
“They beat us 3-0 in the first game of the season and I am one person who commented that they will be the team to watch out for this season, but some people probably thought I was flattering. But look where they are now,” said Nyikadzino.
Chapungu were yesterday sweating over the availability of veteran forward Philip Marufu and three other players who have been hit by injuries. Marufu, together with the trio of Hillary Mugoniwa, Nhlanhla Ncube and Rodwell Mhlanga, were by yesterday afternoon yet to be certified fit by the medical personnel.