The Sunday Mail
IN a largely eventful week that saw Khama Billiat retiring from international football and the Sports and Recreation Committee (SRC) suspending the ZIFA board, the build-up of the Chibuku Super Cup semi-finals was naturally pushed into the shade.
In fact, the two matches to decide teams that will contest the 2021 final even hung in the balance after the ZIFA leadership reacted to the suspension by withdrawing referees from mid-week Premier Soccer League matches.
The confusion has since been cleared as match officials are now available.
This has paved the way for the highly anticipated showdown between Harare giants Dynamos and inaugural Chibuku Super Cup winners FC Platinum at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
The encounter between a side that was the country’s dominant force in league championships — DeMbare — and the new kings of the domestic game — FC Platinum — could now provide a sweet ending to an otherwise tumultuous week in local football.
It is a duel that could be spiced up by a huge crowd turnout after the PSL acceded to pleas by fans and slashed entry charges to US$3 for the cheapest ticket. A maximum of 20 000 vaccinated fans, which is a third of the stadium’s capacity, are allowed to watch this blockbuster clash.
The two teams are meeting for the second time in the Chibuku Super Cup.
The last time they clashed Dynamos won 7-6 on penalties in a quarter-final duel of the 2015 edition. DeMbare went on to reach the final but fell 1-2 to Harare City.
Since then, the Harare giants are still searching for their first taste of the Chibuku Super Cup success.
However, there is a feeling this edition could be theirs, given the good form they have enjoyed since the group stages.
Dynamos are yet to lose in this year’s campaign. They have conceded only twice, through own goals, and their backers should be forgiven for believing this could be the year the Glamour Boys will finally strike gold.
Their coach Tonderai Ndiraya, who guided the club into the 2015 final before winning it with Ngezi Platinum Stars the following year, has a feeling he could do it again this time around.
“We (Dynamos) have not won this cup before and we have a great chance of winning it this year considering the way we have performed so far in the competition,” he told The Sunday Mail Sport.
But, he knows it will not be easy against the league champions, who have been turned into a monstrous outfit by the astute Norman Mapeza.The miners topped their group before knocking out defending champions Highlanders in the quarter-finals.
FC Platinum are seeking a third appearance in the final, having won the competition in 2014 before losing to Ngezi Platinum in 2016.
It is their fourth appearance in the Chibuku Super Cup semis.
“It will not be easy though against FC Platinum, but we will do our best to win the match,” said Ndiraya.
“We are playing an organised and strong team.
“They have dominated local football for some time now and have won almost everything on offer, including this Chibuku Cup. They deserve respect for their achievements. These achievements are motivating us to want to play well and win the game.”
In-form centre-back Frank Makarati scored Dynamos’ 20th goal in the tournament’s history when DeMbare edged Black Rhinos 1-0 in a quarter-final clash at Baobab on October 31.
Dynamos have scored 13 goals in this year’s edition and have conceded only twice from own goals.
So good are DeMbare at grinding out results that they have won by a 1-0 scoreline in five of the 11 games they have played in this year’s campaign.
They have scored more than once on only two occasions when they beat Yadah 4-0 and ZPC Kariba 2-0 in the group stage.
Their other four group games ended in draws.
This is Dynamos’ third appearance in the Chibuku Super Cup semis, having done so in 2015 when they eventually lost the final to Harare City and in 2018 when they were knocked out by eventual winners Triangle.
DeMbare crashed out in the first round of the 2019 edition, losing 0-1 to Highlanders.
However, this time around, the Glamour Boys have a decent squad after adding Shadreck Nyahwa, Juan Mutudza, Albert Eonde, Trevor Mavhunga, goalkeeper Taimon Mvula and teenage sensation Bill “Speedy Gonzalez” Antonio.
Regular starter Godknows Murwira has also been a pillar for DeMbare.
On his part, Mapeza has also refreshed his Zvishavane miners with the introduction of exciting youthful stars Kelvin Magiza (20), winger Panashe Mutimbanyoka (19) and 17-year-old striker Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya.
Ngwenya bagged a brace when FC Platinum thrashed Tenax 6-1 in Match Day One on the 2021/2022 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season.
Mapeza also boasts of crucial experience in the form of gifted Warriors player Kelvin Madzongwe, Silas Songani, Rahman Kutsanzira, Rainsome Pavari and Rodwell Chinyengetere, who could rise to the occasion this afternoon.
The Warriors gaffer is, however, worried about Dynamos’ current form.
“Our preparations have gone on very well, but as you are aware, we are playing a team that has done well so far in this tournament.
“If you look at their statistics, they only conceded two goals in 11 games. So we are playing a very good side.
“Dynamos will always be Dynamos and what is important for us is to go out there with a positive mind.
“It’s a semi-final; this is the last hurdle before we get to the final, so it’s important we try and get a result.
“We don’t have any injury worries in the squad. All players are available. I hope it’s going to be an exciting game of football and let the best team on the day win,” said Mapeza.
FC Platinum have now scored 34 goals since the tournament’s inception in 2014.
Winners of this year’s edition will pocket US$75 000, which will be paid in local currency at the prevailing rate.
They will also represent Zimbabwe in the CAF Confederation Cup.
The runners-up will get US$50 000.
The two losing semi-finalists are set to receive US$25 000 each, while those teams that crashed out in the last eight will get US$15 000 each.
Teams that failed to go past the group stage are guaranteed US$7 000.