FOR all the waiting of the last 13 weeks of the 2015 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL), it is every fan’s belief that tomorrow’s anticipated blockbuster between Dynamos and Highlanders will produce all the thrills and spills.
BY WELLINGTON TONI
From the two camps, however, there is nothing that suggests a humdinger, but just a media package between the two most successful clubs in the country. The players that used to drive this Zimbabwe derby are no longer there.
It pales into “just a match” when it is compared to the unpredictable Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates or the Egyptian “war” between Zamalek and Al Ahly.
Rufaro Stadium is a 30 000-seater stadium, but that it will really be full to capacity tomorrow is anybody’s guess, otherwise a reasonable figure will be roughly 20 000 paying fans.
The merchandising and marketing ahead of the game leaves a lot to be desired; clubs don’t make a cent from their regalia, but all the cash goes to the bogus retailers who manufacture substandard products for resale to desperate fans eager to just get a blue or black and white colour on their back.
Nevertheless, it still remains the biggest match on the local scene, one that draws thousands of fans from both sides on the day.
Dynamos beat Highlanders 1-0 home and away last season as they marched to their fourth consecutive league title, but have met few humps in their pursuit of a fifth this season.
Most notable are their last three performances where they scored just two goals, at the death against Triangle (1-1) and ZPC Kariba (1-1) after having failed to breach the Tsholotsho defence at Rufaro where the match ended goalless.
So in the last three matches, they have picked up just three points to sit on third with 23 points, six behind log leaders Chicken Inn and just one behind second-placed Triangle who face Sunday Chidzambwa’s ZPC Kariba at Gibbo Stadium tomorrow.
Ahead of tomorrow’s match, Dynamos have welcomed back Qadr Amini, Obey Mwerahari and Simba Nhivi from long term injuries.
Speaking to NewsDay Sport this week, Dynamos manager Richard Chihoro said the presence of the trio would boost coach David Mandigora’s selection options.
“We have all our players who were injured back in training. Players like Simba Nhivi, Qadr Amin and Obey Mwerahari are all training with the rest of the team and are available for selection for the match against Highlanders,” Chihoro said.
“It’s a boost for us because matches against Highlanders are always difficult. It’s like you are playing against Caps United and you always need all your players for these matches.
“We are ready to face Highlanders. We know it will not be easy although we have been getting the better of them in recent matches. But the guys are ready for this match.”
Highlanders will be without Thomas Chideu, who was red-carded in the last encounter against How Mine and is serving a two-match ban. Veteran midfielder Mthulisi Maphosa will need to pass a late fitness test. Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu will have to bank on experienced players like Arial Sibanda, Obadiah Tarumbwa, Bruce Kangwa, Eric Mudzingwa, Webster Chingodza and Rahman Kutsanzira. Gabriel Nyoni, Knox Mtizwa and King Nadolo are some of the players in Mafu’s line up, but can they really lift their game to match the expected standards tomorrow?
Mafu wants players who can “break a leg” for Bosso. “We want to win against the reigning champions. It is something that makes us proud to do. The club is carrying a burden of 10 years, but I want my players to go and carry a burden of playing football in a very free spirit where they can express their capabilities,” he said this week.
“I cannot allow those boys to carry the burden of 10 years when they play in there, but they carry the baton stick of being a Highlanders player.
“We should not at any time underestimate their (Dynamos) desire to maintain victory or dominance over Highlanders. We need to look at ourselves. We need to introspect. We need to have the right mental aptitude to go and change that.”
In their last three outings, Highlanders picked up five points after they beat WhaWha (2-0), drew 2-2 against FC Platinum away and 1-1 against How Mine at Barbourfields. That has left them on position eight with 19 points, 10 behind Chicken Inn, but just four behind Dynamos.
Before tomorrow’s big battle, fans can wet their appetite with another top-drawer clash between Caps United and Harare City at Rufaro Stadium this afternoon.
The match is live on SuperSport 9. City, an expensively assembled side, has struggled for fluency this season after surviving relegation in 2014, while Caps United’s house was on fire early on before Farai Jere’s entry doused the flames.
But no sooner had the Green Machine stabilised that coach Mark Harrison jumped ship to join Township Rollers in the be Mobile Botswana Premier League, leaving his assistant Mark Mathe in charge until the end of the season.
Mathe took Caps to Mozambique during the two-week break and saw his charges beat Chingale de Tete 2-1 in an international friendly — positive signs that its business as usual at the Green Machine.