The Sunday Mail
AT least CAPS United are guaranteed that their opponents today, Simba Bhora, will turn up at the National Sports Stadium.
Last week, Makepekepe travelled to Mandava, hoping to play Sheasham in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match but the debutants did not pitch up and the game suffered a stillbirth.
Sheasham boycotted the game in protest against the Premier Soccer League’s decision not to sanction use of their home ground, Bata Stadium, in Gweru.
The newboys cited incapacitation due to “unforeseen financial costs’’ for their failure to fulfil the fixture in Zvishavane. The match will now have to be decided in the boardroom in terms of PSL’s rules and regulations.
Now, CAPS United will have to switch focus to another outfit that won promotion this year, Simba Bhora, in a match that has a number of interesting sub-plots.
Simba Bhora are home to two former CAPS United players, who left the Green Machine in acrimonious circumstances exactly a year ago.
Star midfielder Ronald Chitiyo and goalkeeper Simba Chinani were among the six players infamously dismissed by CAPS United for allegedly masterminding a player mutiny ahead of the match against Cranborne Bullets at the National Sports on May 1, 2022.
Devon Chafa, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Clive Augusto and Dennis Dauda were also shown the door.
But the trio of Chafa, Chinyengetere and Chitiyo were pardoned a few days later, although the latter decided to pack his bags and head for Simba Bhora, who were then still in the Northern Region Soccer League.
Chinani also joined the trek to Shamva, where, together with Chitiyo, he helped Simba Bhora gain promotion into the Premiership.
Today, the duo faces CAPS United for the first time since that debacle last year.
It reads like a script from a sports action movie.
And it could be an emotional afternoon for both Chitiyo and Chinani.
However, Chitiyo, who has scored two goals for inconsistent Simba Bhora, feels otherwise. “I don’t think so, not at all,” Chitiyo told The Sunday Mail Sport during the week. “I have left so many teams before, so, to be honest, there are no hard feelings about this match.’’
He has recovered from a thigh injury that kept him out of Simba Bhora’s 1-1 draw with Bulawayo Chiefs, and is likely to play a part against his former side.
The former Monomotapa star has also played for Dynamos and Harare City.
Experience has taught him to respect opponents, especially if they are CAPS United, who are having a decent start to the 2023 season under veteran gaffer Lloyd Chitembwe.
CAPS United are among the leading pack with 16 points, two behind leaders Highlanders. Unlike this time last year, when their house was burning, there is some tranquillity in the Makepekepe camp and they have been playing entertaining football.
They have, however, wobbled for results in their last five matches, managing a single win, three draws and a derby day defeat by Dynamos.
“It’s (match against CAPS United) will be a tough one.
“As you can see, CAPS United are playing very well. To be where they are, it is because of their efforts,’’ said Chitiyo.
Simba Bhora have struggled for consistency.
They have nine points from 10 matches and are winless in their last five assignments.
That has meant their coach, Tonderai Ndiraya, remains under the microscope.
Simba Bhora did well to hold high-riding Highlanders 0-0 at Barbourfields on Match Day Nine before a draw with Chiefs last Monday.
Interestingly, club owner Simba Ndoro is a staunch CAPS United supporter, who used to dangle some incentives for Makepekepe for games such as the derby against DeMbare.
That was before he started his own project.
Chitembwe and Ndiraya have worked together in the national team, where they were assistants to Croat Zdravko Logarusic at the Warriors.
Their duels in the league have always been exciting from the days when Ndiraya was still Ngezi Platinum Stars coach.
Interestingly, Ndiraya never lost against CAPS United in the league last year, when he was still in charge at Dynamos.
DeMbare won 3-0 in the first round, with the reverse fixture ending 1-1.
Veteran centre back Partson Jaure was Dynamos skipper in those meetings.
Jaure is the captain at Simba Bhora and he always relishes matches against CAPS United.
His vast experience could come in handy for Simba Bhora.
Webster Tafa, formerly with CAPS United, Blessing Bisto Moyo and defensive linkman Tichaona Chipunza are some other key players at Simba Bhora.
This is not to say Makepekepe do not have their own trusted arsenal.
A team that has 2022 Castle Lager Golden Boot winner William Manondo in its ranks is always dangerous.
Chafa and Chinyengetere are still pulling the strings despite their ages, while the addition of Godknows Murwira has given CAPS United a fresh dimension to their game.
Murwira is a tricky customer from the flanks and a respected dead ball specialist.
CAPS United can also call upon the artistry of Joel “Josta’’ Ngodzo, the orchestrator of their only win in the last five matches — against Yadah two weeks ago.
At the back, CAPS United look covered with the pair of Kelvin Madzongwe and Ben Musaka, while former Harare City man Hastings Chapusha is also a viable option.
Chitembwe’s men have seven clean sheets in 10 matches, while Simba Bhora have four, despite Ndiraya’s ultra-defensive approach.