Can Saul be King?

Takudzwa Chitsiga Sports Reporter
THIS time, last year, Saul Chaminuka was part of the CAPS United technical crew plotting how they would ambush Harare City, who stood on the threshold of winning their maiden league title, in their final Premiership tie of the season. Chaminuka was Taurai Mangwiro’s assistant and, working in tandem, they guided the Green Machine to a 2-2 draw against the Sunshine Boys at the National Sports Stadium, as CAPS United turned on one of their best performances of the season.

That result proved fatal in Harare City’s bid to win the league title, and having carried a two-point lead, coming into the final round of fixtures, the Sunshine Boys could only watch, from a distance, helpless to stop DeMbare, who won their final game, from being crowned champions.

In their moment of depression, having come so close, yet so far to winning the league title, the Harare City players probably didn’t hear the thunderous sound of triumph, mixed with relief, as the capital, a power base for De- Mbare supporters celebrated its success.

Today, Chaminuka finds himself holding the same aces, which Bigboy Mawiwi, the Harare City coach then, was holding, with his ZPC Kariba having a two-point advantage over Dynamos going into the final round of fixtures on Sunday.
PERFECT MOMENT . . . Saul Chaminuka holds all the aces going into the final game of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League race against CAPS United at Gwanzura on Sunday
And then just like now, CAPS United are the team that could be the kingmakers, as a draw or a win over ZPC Kariba, could open a window for the Glamour Boys, who have refused to throw in the towel, banking on yet another Super Sunday that will end in their favour.

Chaminuka and his men have defied all the odds, going on a 19-game unbeaten run at the start of the season and, when they were tested, they responded very well.

They also benefited as their rivals DeMbare failed to handle the pressure by dropping four big points in the twilight days of the race at home against Chapungu and Bantu Rovers.

ZPC Kariba can also proudly say that they deserve the biggest prize on the domestic football scene given that they beat Dynamos, home and away, including inflicting what could be a knockout blow on the defending champions in the penultimate game of the race.

Chaminuka has a number of players who were under his CAPS United stable, who stopped Harare City in their tracks last year, and now stand on the verge of lifting the league title unless, just like the Sunshine Boys, they also crash at the final hurdle.

The Kariba-based side, who are unbeaten in their adopted home of Harare all season, were expected in the capital yesterday ahead of their final assault on the league title against a CAPS United side that is also fighting for third place.

Chaminuka said pressure was now on his side who can make history and become the first team from outside Harare and Bulawayo to be crowned league champions since Independence.

They are also hoping to become the first club, since St Paul’s Musami in 1966, to take the league title outside the two major cities.

“I have worked with several CAPS United players and that will give them an upper hand of some sort, which might put pressure on us,” said Chaminuka.

“But, as ZPC, we will try and come out with a good result.

“The boys will have pressure, with or without the ball, and I hope they are going to settle and get the much-needed result as the match is a must-win encounter.

“We have no room for mistakes as we have worked very hard from the beginning of the season to be where we are now.

“Last time we played them (CAPS United) they gave us a tough time and we had to settle for a draw so we will not underestimate them.”

Chaminuka, who was away with the Young Warriors in Morocco last week, joined his players on Wednesday.

“It is now back to business and this is a must-win match for us as we are aiming at the league title,” said Chaminuka.

“We are looking forward to an outright win and I know the game is not going to be easy for us as CAPS United will be looking to finish the season on a high note.”

Chaminuka said Mangwiro’s absence from the CAPS United bench would not play any part in the outcome of the match.

“I don’t think his (Mangwiro) absence will influence the game in any way,” said Chaminuka.

“I was away with the Under-23 team and resumed training today (yesterday) while Mangwiro was with his troops only to leave on Tuesday, so his absence will not make a difference.”

The ZPC Kariba coach said he did not expect any favours from his old club.

“We are working hard for the match and we do not expect any favours from our opponents,” said Chaminuka.

“I know people may think that (he will get favours) because he is like brothers with Mangwiro, considering our working relations, but we are all professionals.”

The pressure in the CAPS United camp is that, while ZPC Kariba are the better devil, compared to the Glamour Boys, the Green Machine wouldn’t want a situation where it becomes fashionable for those frustrated by the working conditions in their camp, to just move away and then become champions elsewhere in their first attempt at the league title.

Some of their fans might be hoping for a ZPC Kariba win, given that it denies bitter rivals Dynamos a fourth straight league title. The CAPS United management have been preaching the gospel that their players need to win the game at all costs for the sake of their bid to finish third in the race.

A loss by the Green Machine, and a win by the FC Platinum in their last game against relegated whipping boys FC Chiredzi at Mandava will see CAPS United finishing fourth in the championship race.

If CAPS United finish third, it will match their best league campaign since they won their last league title in 2005.

The Green Machine finished third, in the championship race, in 2009.

They finished fourth in 2006, seventh in 2007, 12th in 2008, sixth in 2010, sixth in 2011, 10th in 2012 and fifth last year when Chaminuka was part of their technical team, losing nine games along the way.

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