BY TERRY MADYAUTA
Local football is set for an explosive return this week as the Chibuku Super Cup resumes after a three-month break as a result of the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
All eyes will be on giants Dynamos and Highlanders, who received a financial boost from Sakunda Holdings, recently as two rounds of matches are scheduled from midweek up to the weekend in the country’s premier knockout completion.
The combined sponsorship package averages about US$5,3 million spread over the next three seasons.
Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas reckons the recent financial injection into the two teams has all but raised stakes in the competition considering they were already doing well when the event was stopped.
Former champions Ngezi Platinum Stars and league newcomers Cranborne Bullets lead the other two groups at this stage.
“That injection by Sakunda Holdings into Dynamos and Highlanders, means the stakes are now high for us,” Antipas said.
“We have to be at our best because when these two teams are financially stable, they are usually at their best in terms of performance as well as their support base.
“Before football was stopped, they had done well in this tournament and with that sponsorship injection, they will be looking eager to do even better.”
Antipas, is looking forward to end the Chicken Inn’s trophy drought, having last won silverware in 2015 when they won the league title.
As it stands, the Gamecocks lead group two with seven points after three matches.
They share the same number of points with Highlanders, but lead on goal difference.
Bulawayo City and Bulawayo Chiefs follow in that order with one point each.
On top of the sponsorship, Highlanders are buzzing with excitement after they finally registered their players.
These are Joel Ngodzo, Keith Mavunga, Winston Mhango, who were in Zambia, Peter Muduhwa who was on loan at Simba SC in Tanzania and Lynoth Chikuhwa.
They could not play for Bosso when the Chibuku Super Cup started in May because they did not have International Transfer Certificates, which were required for them to be issued player licences.
“We are doing our best to prepare. So far it has been good, morale is high in camp and I hope that will translate on the field of play as well to give us good results,” Highlanders coach Mandla Mpofu said.
In group one, Dynamos are the runaway leaders with 14 points on their tally, followed by Yadah with eight points. The two will clash on Wednesday afternoon.
CAPS United are third with seven points, while Harare City and ZPC Kariba are tied on six points apiece. Herentals anchor the group with two points on their tally.
Recent reports suggested that Caps United coach Darlington Dodo almost quit as the club struggles to make their financial ends meet.
However, the club later allayed all the fears and speculation, saying the soft spoken gaffer remains at the club.
In group three Cranborne Bullets lead with five points, while Black Rhinos and Tenax occupy second and third position respectively with four points on their tallies. Manica Diamonds are fourth with three points.
Bullets’ gaffer Nesbert Saruchera declared that his squad is well oiled and ready to pick-up from where they left.
“We are excited by the return of football and we have always been ready. We are soldiers and in terms of fitness we are good enough to last the distance,” Saruchera said.
“This is an ambitious and young squad that only seeks to be counted among the best in the country, at least for now and we are all out and ready to consolidate our lead in the group and see how the tournament ends.”
Meanwhile, Ngezi Platinum dominate Group 4 with nine points, followed by rivals FC Platinum who have six points.
Triangle and WhaWha are fixated on one point each, occupying third and fourth position respectively.
Luke Petros, who is in charge of WhaWha, said his goal is to help the team minimise the damage in this tournament as they build-up for the league to start.
“The team is in good shape and all we can do now is to minimise damage and make sure that we remain confident building up into the league season,” said Petros.
“It’s a tough group and I am sure that we will end the games on a respectable note.”
The prison wardens conceded ten goals in the first three games, the most number of goals conceded so far.