PREMIER Soccer League defending champions Dynamos are set for an emotional return to Rufaro Stadium this afternoon against Buffaloes as they mourn the death of one of the club’s founding fathers and board of directors chairman Richard Chiminya.
REPORT BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA/FORTUNE MBELE SPORTS REPORTERS
Chiminya passed away on Sunday night and the Dynamos family would be hoping for a perfect send-off for him and an early Christmas present if Highlanders lose to FC Platinum at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon. Chiminya will be buried tomorrow at Warren Hills Cemetery.
Dynamos lead the league table with 65 points, while Highlanders trail on 63 points. Highlanders, under the guidance of Zambian gaffer Kelvin Kaindu, are aware of the significance of today’s clash against FC Platinum as a slip-up could see them surrendering the title with one game left should Dynamos prevail over Buffaloes.
It’s a situation Highlanders would not want to find themselves in after having led the race for the better part of the season before being toppled following their 3-0 loss to Monomotapa — their only defeat in the campaign so far.
They would rather prefer that the campaign be decided on the very last day – Sunday. Simba Sithole, who joined Dynamos two months ago, has become the torchbearer of the attack and has scored four league goals already.
He will be ably assisted by the rejuvenated self-styled “Prince” Rodreck Mutuma while Tawanda Muparati — handed the captain’s armband following the life ban on skipper Guthrie Zhokinyu over his involvement in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal — is expected to pull the strings in midfield alongside playmaker Denver Mukamba.
Mukamba has been the heartbeat of Dynamos this season and has emerged the club’s top goalscorer with nine goals so far. He is expected to play an influential role once again after helping Dynamos to a 3-0 success over rivals CAPS United in Bulawayo on Sunday, booting them out of the Mbada Diamonds Cup.
Partson Jaure — the pillar of the Dynamos defence which has conceded only 13 goals so far — is expected to partner Gift Bello as they seek to bottle up the Buffaloes attackers. Dynamos triumphed 2-0 at Sakubva in the earlier fixture. “It’s a match we have to win at all costs. We can’t afford to lose. Everyone is aware if we win and Highlanders lose, we will have won the league title,” said team manager Richard Chihoro.
But while admitting that playing against in-form Dynamos at Rufaro would be no easy assignment, Buffaloes coach Saul Chaminuka said it was a motivating fixture.
“It’s a tough fixture, but also motivating. Dynamos are on song and they know they always win at Rufaro. But we are confident of victory. We have nothing to lose and will open up the game and enjoy ourselves. I just hope my team will hit form,” said Chaminuka, whose team lying on sixth position, have a realistic chance of finishing in the top four.
Buffaloes, however, have some injury worries to key players and are also reported to be fretting over the fitness of big striker Dananai Chinowawa. But Chaminuka, though admitting he had some injury worries, said he would not divulge the identities of the players affected.
Highlanders coach Kelvin Kaindu still believes the 2012 Premiership champions will be decided on Sunday and not today.
“It is a very important game for us. We recorded victory against them (FC Platinum) in the first match in Zvishavane and I guess tomorrow (today) is going to be a very tough match. The title race is between two teams and I think what is important now for us is how we play. We are not interested in how Dynamos will play, but the championship will be decided on the last day,” Kaindu said.
Kaindu said his main worry as of yesterday was injuries to right-back Lawson Nkomo and Milton Ncube who have to pass late fitness tests before today’s match, while central defender Erick Mudzingwa is out due to suspension.
Dumisani “Fazo” Ndlovu is likely to replace Mudzingwa.
Striker Cleopas “Balotelli” Dube, who has not had much game time since he joined Bosso mid-season, has proven to be a force to reckon with at Bosso, finding the net for the first time when Highlanders beat Hardbody 2-0 in Gweru two weeks ago.
Another man to watch at Highlanders will be Masimba Mambare, who has also been the driving force at Highlanders with Bhekimpilo Ncube, who also comes in with a punch, but has been quick to fizzle out.
Of late, pint-sized Heritani Masuku has been in good form for Bosso and could spell disaster for the platinum miners in the centre.
Tendai Chikuni, the FC Platinum coach, who travels to BF for the first time in charge against Highlanders, said he was not seeking revenge.
“We are not going to give them any special treatment. We know they will be up in arms as they are fighting for the championship, but it’s a chance for us to better our position on the log as well. It’s a different ball game altogether, especially when you look at where they are, but we will give our best and we are not going to throw points to them,” Chikuni said.
Platinum are without right-back Simon Shoko due to suspension. William Manondo, who missed the last league game against Hwange due to suspension, is available and so is 2010 Footballer of the Year Charles Sibanda, Donald Ngoma, Ali Sadiki, Thabani Kamusoko, Daniel Veremu, Norman Togara and goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube.