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High stakes in Harare derby

IT’S that time again when two of the country’s biggest clubs — CAPS United and Dynamos — clash in the epic Harare derby showdown where history means nothing, current form can be a team’s downfall and pride inevitably produces a memorable spectacle on the Zimbabwe football landscape.

By Munyaradzi Madzokere

Rufaro Stadium reverberates again today as Makepekepe — who have failed to beat their archrivals in the Premier Soccer League since 2009 — seek to restore lost pride and remind their fans how to celebrate a sweet derby victory.

The Green Machine captain Hardlife Zvirekwi summed up what the Harare derby means in the green camp.

“Losing the Harare derby involves a lot of things; there is the emotional part where it hurts at an individual level and also the pride of the team. It’s high time we regain the pride of the team and win this derby.

“We believe this time around we are going to make it. As a team we have been playing well, we’ve been in good form. The team cohesion and understanding is quite high. The mentality right now is that the guys want to break the jinx because records are meant to be broken,” he told reporters during a press conference this week.

This encounter is awash with ingredients that could make it the best Harare derby to be witnessed in recent years, but in all fairness, the odds are currently staked heavily in favour of the green half of the city.

CAPS United seem to have captured fine form and are among the favourites to win the league.

Dynamos have had a torrid start to the season, but last week’s win away to debutants Mutare City Rovers seems to have restored a bit of sanity in the camp.

Dynamos’ Portuguese coach Paulo Jorge Silva — who has an ultimatum to collect nine points from three fixtures since the Mutare City match — may have his work cut out for him this week because Dynamos needs absolutely no motivation or fancy tactics for this high stakes match.

According to chief striker Roderick Mutuma, the current crop of Dynamos players cannot risk the shame of being referred to as the squad that ceded the derby bragging rights to CAPS United.

“Beating CAPS United is very important to us. They are our archrivals; we need to win — plus there is history there and we don’t want to be taunted as the Dynamos team that finally lost to CAPS United in the league. We are ready to die on the pitch so that our fans can go home happy,” he said. However, the DeMbare players did not look like they were ready to die on the pitch for the fans or their underfire coach Silva in the first two league games — losing 3-0 to champions Chicken Inn and drawing nil all at home to Triangle.

In the meantime, Makepekepe have a coach who has history in the derby as a player and as a coach in Lloyd Chitembwe — being the last coach to guide the former Cup Kings to victory seven years ago.

In Silva, the Glamour Boys have a coach who knows little or nothing about the history between the two teams.

But he gives his own opinion.

“It [the derby] is very important, everybody wants to beat CAPS. If you go to the place of CAPS United, everybody wants to beat Dynamos.

“It’s like the Benfica versus Lisbon supporters and Real Madrid vs Barcelona supporters, but I’m 99% sure that we will be able to beat them,” the Portuguese mentor said.

However, this could be the match that ends Silva’s flirtation with Zimbabwe’s most decorated club — should it end in defeat. On the other hand, it could all but ensure he gets more time — in case of a happy ending.

Silva’s bubbly mood which saw him finally lifting his ban on interviews with the media on Friday may have emanated from the hunger he saw for the first time in his players ahead of the epic battle. While it can be a bit difficult to easily believe Silva, considering his background, Chitembwe oozed confidence.

“It’s not a secret that we have quality in our team. They believe that they are good enough to withstand whatever is thrown at them. We have good players and they know what it is to play at such a grand stage and it’s not so difficult to motivate them.

“It’s quite a privilege because I have experienced the derby as a player and as a coach. I feel those experiences have been worthwhile and I just can’t wait to be part of this derby again,” Chitembwe said.

Chitembwe spoke with the confidence of a man still in possession of the blueprint from the April 2009 fixture, in which CAPS United triumphed 2-0.

The biggest anti-climax for DeMbare fans will be the news that returning striker Evans Gwekwerere has been ruled out of the en
counter as he is not match-fit, according to the Dynamos coach.

But focus will be on defensive linkman Dominic Mukandi, who crossed the floor form CAPS United to Dynamos during the off season, and is set to start against his former side.
For Chitembwe’s side, Method Mwanjali and Archford Gutu — a former Dynamos player — are available for selection and could make their first minutes since they were arrested for attempted murder and malicious damage to property three weeks ago.

Dominic Chungwa — another former Dynamos player, who has been in terrific form since moving to Makekepe — is a potential match winner in the derby, and so is veteran striker Leonard
Tsipa.

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