The 2013 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League gold and silver medallists, Dynamos and Harare City, will this afternoon lock horns in the semi-finals of the Independence Cup at Rufaro in what should be an indicator of the level of competition to expect ahead of the league commencement next week.
The tournament is held as part of celebrations to mark the country’s 34 years of independence, replacing the NetOne Charity Shield and will also see Highlanders and FC Platinum clashing at Barbourfields in the other semi-final.
The season precursor comes as a welcome respite from the game’s politics which had gripped attention as administrators jostled for office over the past three months, culminating in board elections held yesterday.
Dynamos, who again failed to make a mark on the international scene, bowing out to AS Vita, have already fired warning shots with their 2-0 dispatching of Highlanders in the Bob 90 Super Cup and a victory this afternoon will certainly increase the bounce in their step ahead of the season opener.
Bigboy Mawiwi’s Sunshine boys lost talisman Silas Songani to Danish top-flight side Sonderjyske, but they have made potentially potent additions in the transfer window.
The arrival of former Triangle gunslinger Misheck Mburayi, highly rated Takudzwa Chimwemwe from Twalumba FC and forgotten Francesco Zekumbawire to a roster already boasting of Martin Vengesayi’s pace and Osborn Mukuradare makes them a force to reckon with on paper.
Add the trickery of diminutive Phenias Bhamusi and Nathan Ziwini, who thrive on the flanks together with Mhleli Sibanda through the middle, then Mawiwi has enough armour to dream not only of another Coach of the Year gong but collective silverware.
“The target is to do better than last season. We know where we came short, learnt from our mistakes and we have been working on making those weaknesses our strengths.
“I have also noted how motivated the players are by the departure of Songani at a time people thought we should struggle in his absence. They realise that hard work can be rewarded and will be keen to follow his example.
“The match against Dynamos tomorrow (today) will give us a measure of how prepared we are for the season, but you also need to realise that you can’t make a conclusive judgment on a team with one game,” said Mawiwi.
DeMbare on the other hand will have their depth put to test early with a number of players out of the tie with “minor knocks”.
Deputy skipper Tawanda Muparati is still out with a knee injury and is joined on the sidelines by striker Simba Sithole and utility player Sydney Linyama.
Despite these worries the champions, according to manager Richard Chihoro, will be taking no prisoners, “we are going all out in search of victory.
“We are gunning for every tournament that we are participating in and the independence trophy is no exception,” Chihoro said.
In Bulawayo, Bosso will be without Kelvin Kaindu who continues his UEFA B coaching licence studies in the UK but will be back in time for their visit to Chapungu next weekend.
The Bulawayo giants will be eager to atone for the defeats they have suffered in pre-season tournaments — the CG Msipa Charity to returnees Chapungu and the Bob 90 Super Cup to old foes Dynamos.
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