CASTLE Lager Premier Soccer League newboys ZPC Kariba are back in Harare again this Sunday to face defending champions Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium.
After their impressive 1-all draw against Caps United in the opening weekend last Sunday, the Saul Chaminuka-coached side is facing, arguably, the toughest dance where they will play all teams that finished in the top five last season in the opening seven matches.
The former Buffaloes coach has built his squad on players that are on the other side of 30.
Veterans such as Norman Togara, Pride Tafirenyika, Tawanda Nyamandwe, Tawanda Munyanduri, Caleb Masocha and Limited Chikafa form the backbone of the team, but while most critics see “old” in this squad, Chaminuka sees “experience.”
He believes the footballing wisdom accumulated by the old guard will be vital not only for the upcoming match, but the entire campaign.
He says of his “League of Veterans”: “There is no substitute for experience. Some of the players have lost a yard or two of pace, but they make up for it with experience. They did very well against Caps United and had our pre-season preparations not been disturbed, I think we could have easily won that match.
“We were on top of the situation, but we lacked fitness and we were eventually punished. Many of the people think the veterans will not last the distance, but from the short space of time I have worked with them I can see that they are still good enough for the league,” Chaminuka added.
Amid all the talk of an old guard, Chaminuka says will not overlook the team’s youngsters. In the team that started against Caps United, Raphael Manuvire was the only player whose age is on the right side of 30.
“It’s not that we don’t have youngsters in the team, but we can’t just throw them into the deep end, especially in such big games. The youths are still learning the ropes and we will gradually integrate them into the team. How Mine have a similar set-up and they are doing very well and I don’t see any reason why some people should doubt us.”
While they managed to get a point against a Caps United side who were clearly yet to fully shake off pre-season hangover, Chaminuka is not lost on the challenge that is awaiting his side on Sunday.
Dynamos were very active in the pre-season, playing in the Caf Champions League, making them one of the well-prepared teams in terms of match fitness.
“It’s a game that we need to approach with a positive mind because Dynamos are playing well. They are in good shape compared to the rest of the teams. But my players know what they will be up against. The match is self-motivating. We are well aware that Dynamos are the country’s biggest team, but we are coming to Harare to do business, to do the job we are paid to do,” Chaminuka said.
After the Dynamos test, next up for ZPC will be Harare City, Buffaloes, FC Platinum, Triangle and Highlanders, but Chaminuka seem not perturbed by that run-in.
“We were going to face them at one stage. If we had a choice we would want to avoid them (big teams), but those are the teams in the league that we got into. We will have to be brave and go for it and hopefully we will get points from those matches.”
Besides being ahead of most teams in terms of match fitness, ZPC’s Sunday opponents are going into the match in high spirits after their 1-0 win at How Mine. Dynamos are also buoyed by the return from injury of Tawanda Muparati, Ocean Mushure and Clive Kawinga who did not travel to Bulawayo last weekend.
Dynamos team manager Richard Chihoro said the trio trained with the rest of the team yesterday and should be available for selection, but Masimba Mambare is still out injured.