IMAGINE a local premier soccer league season without the big Harare derby pitting two of the fiercest rivals in the land Dynamos and CAPS United.
by MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Since 1979, the two teams have starred in what are arguably two of the most anticipated fixtures on the football calendar and today’s instalment at Rufaro Stadium could be the last for at least a year.
Dynamos are mired in the relegation zone and desperate for survival, hence need the three points at all costs or at least some help from their sworn enemy.
In the past, CAPS United have come to DeMbare’s aid in time of the latter’s need.
On the final day in 2014 Makepekepe beat title-chasing ZPC Kariba who only needed a draw to wrap up the title, handing the crown to Dynamos.
A year earlier the Green Machine had thrown spanners in Harare City’s championship quest again on the final day to make their city rivals champions.
This time Dynamos are fighting relegation and the last time they were in this situation in 2005 they needed CAPS United to beat Black Rhinos to survive the chop.
CAPS United lost resoundingly, but Dynamos survived regardless.
With the worst strike force in the league after finding the net a paltry 20 times in 28 matches and failing to win a match in their last five, the odds are heavily stacked against Dynamos winning the second instalment of the Harare derby this afternoon.
But there is an air of optimism in the Dynamos camp ahead of this eagerly awaited rescheduled fixture.
“Every time we face CAPS United, we expect to win, and not just to win, but to give a good fight. They are our number one enemy so we have to face them with a positive attitude,” assistant coach Murape Murape said.
As a player Murape used to rise to the occasion in big encounters against teams such as CAPS United, but he fretted about the current crop of players’ understanding of the derby or lack thereof.
“That is what we have been trying to work on, but from the look of things, the way some of the players have been training, I’m not sure if they know what it really means to face Caps United when you are a Dynamos player. The attitude has to show from the training ground, right up to match day,” he added.
The crisis in the Dynamos camp has been aggravated by the errant behaviour of some of their senior players in skipper Ocean Mushure and Denver Mukamba.
After going AWOL for a number of days, the two surfaced at club training late in the week, thus putting their involvement in the derby in serious doubt.
It has a been a horror season for Dembare who have changed coaches three times, twice sacking Lloyd Mutasa as well as Biggie Zuze before settling for Lloyd Chigove and Murape.
But a victory will see DeMbare climb from the relegation zone into 11th place with their relegation rivals inactive this weekend while they fulfil an outstanding fixture. While CAPS United might seem overwhelming favourites ahead of the match, their gaffer Lloyd Chitembwe, a veteran of many derbies, refused to accept the favourites tag ahead of the potentially one-sided encounter.
“An edge before the game is not important. What is more important is the way you apply yourselves on the pitch. You can have an edge before the game, but that does not make you winners. In as far as I am concerned, it is good for analysts, but for coaches and players that come in to play, it is just about your mental setting on that particular day,” he said.
“As always, it’s obviously going to be a difficult game against Dynamos. It has never been an easy game and we o expect a tough game. But for us the target is to win every single game we play. This has always been our target and we are not going to deviate from that,” he added.
CAPS United lie fifth on the log standings and are eyeing a top-four finish in a season they have failed to be consistent. Chitembwe’s men won the reverse fixture by a solitary goal by Mukamba, who was on loan at the green side of Harare.
What makes this derby special is the fact that it may be the last in a while should Dynamos fail to survive relegation.
Perhaps they deserve one final derby cheer.