CAPS United begin their 2018 league season with a tricky derby against Harare City at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon following a difficult week overshadowed by a horrific incident, in which team captain Hardlife Zvirekwi lost part of his arm in a car crash on Monday last week.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
The Harare giants, who registered their team for the season on March 8, promptly deregistered Zvirekwi from the final squad in the aftermath of the accident, replacing him with Oscar Machapa, who had initially failed to make the grade.
Zvirekwi, whose career prospects are under serious threat, could be out for the rest of the season, as he recovers from the unfortunate accident.
Apart from Zvirekwi, coach Lloyd Chitembwe goes into battle without talisman Ronald Chitiyo, who is still recuperating from an injury, as well as Milton Ncube, while returning veteran defender Method Mwanjali is still fixing his papers.
But it is Zvirekwi’s omission which has raised eyebrows and fuelled speculation that the club had taken the initial step in dumping a player whose contract is in its final year.
CAPS United president Farai Jere defended the club’s position, insisting that Zvirekwi, whose return is in doubt, would be registered in the mid-season window.
“It’s a purely football decision because you cannot go into a season with a player who is not going to play. Zvirekwi remains a CAPS United player contracted to the club and he will continue to be paid his salary and enjoy his benefits,” Jere told Standardsport.
“I know people want to be malicious and read wrong things in all this, but I can assure you that Hardlife is not going anywhere. Mid-season, the club is going to register him again.
“Zvirekwi is coming back to play for CAPS United in the second half of the season and he himself is so positive about it. But while he is recovering, we have decided to give another person his place so that we have a full complement of players.”
The 2016 champions invested a lot during the transfer window, bringing in a number of players such as Mwanjali, Munyaradzi Diya, Steven Makatuka, Dominic Mukandi, Praise Tonha, Peter Moyo, Denver Mukamba, Brian Muzondiwa, Wisdom Mutasa, Machapa and Ncube in a bid to reclaim the title they lost to FC Platinum last year.
Jere believes Zvirekwi’s absence could affect the team’s quest for the championships
“It’s a big loss to the team. The boy has been our captain for years, easily the best player and he is an inspiration to the team. His absence has already affected the team’s plans for the title ahead of the new season. But, at the same time, the team is inspired to deliver a winning start to the season against Harare City for their captain,” he said.
In the absence of a natural option, Chitembwe has chosen Makatuka to captain the team.
CAPS United will not have it easy against Harare City, now under the stewardship of their former coach Mark Harrison, a Briton.
The City Fathers, relegated last year, received a kiss of life to bounce back into the top-flight league after How Mine pulled out early this month.
After adding the experience of Moses Muchenje [formerly with CAPS United], Elisha Muroiwa, Ryan Harrison and Kuda Musharu, Harrison is ready to enjoy his return to the local Premiership.
“We are just going there and enjoy, play a nice brand of football and see what happens. It’s quite ironic that my first game as coach after my return to Zimbabwe is against CAPS United,” Harrison said.
“I enjoyed working at CAPS United despite the financial problems at the club then. I had a great relationship with the CAPS United fans. I will wave at them on Sunday and I hope they will wave back at me.”