ZIMBABWE’S two representatives in continental club competitions, Caps United and Ngezi Platinum, could discover the routes of their adventures when the draws for the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League and the Confederation Cup are conducted in Cairo today.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The draws are held at the Caf headquarters in secrecy and not even the draw date is announced, but, according to an AFP article, the teams will be paired today.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions Caps United will be in the Caf Champions League hat while Chibuku Super Cup winners Ngezi Platinum Stars will carry the country’s flag in the Confederation Cup.
Both teams are set to kickstart their campaigns in the preliminary rounds where they have a good chance of avoiding continental heavyweights and should get Southern African opponents.
They will also learn of their potential opponents in the first and second rounds of their respective competitions.
Caps United have already set themselves a target of reaching the group stages of the money-spinning competition and they will be keen to learn the obstacles that stand between them and their dream.
Caf does not hold a traditional draw, but works out on a tennis-style draw to determine the line-ups for the first three rounds to try and keep the match-ups in close geographical proximity to cut down on travel costs which can be quite prohibitive across the African continent.
This is likely to see Caps United being paired against such teams as Zambian champions Zanaco, Ferroviario Beira (Mozambique) and Kamuzu Barracks of Malawi, among others, in the preliminary round.
They could also play the Angolan, Lesotho, Mauritius, Swaziland or Botswana champions. But they would be happy to avoid Zambian and South African opponents.
Zambia’s Zesco reached the semi-finals of the competition last year while South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns won the competition.
The Green Machine want to emulate Sundowns in winning the competition.
Caps United have never reached the group stage of the lucrative tournament after three attempts in 1997, 2005 and 2006 with their best achievement being qualification into the second round on two occasions.
The last time they participated, they were disqualified after fielding improperly registered players George Martins and Gift Makoloni from Malawi in a preliminary round clash against Inter Stars of Burundi.
And during that time the competition was not as lucrative as it is now with the winners set to earn $2,5 million while the runners-up pocket $1,25 million.
Losing semi-finalists get $875 000 with the teams knocked out at the quarter-final staging earning $650 000 each. Those that fall in the group stages pocket $550 000.
Caps United have invited their players whose contracts are running out this month to the negotiating table as they battle to tie down several stars to new deals ahead of the December 31 deadline for submission of the Champions League squad.
Club president Farai Jere, who is away in Italy on business, is expected back in Harare tomorrow at which point negotiations for contract extensions will begin.
They have several players whose contracts come to an end this month including midfielders Tafadzwa Rusike and Abbas Amidu, PSL Golden Boot winner Leonard Tsipa and vice-captain Stephen Makatuka, among others.
Makatuka has been a subject of interest from South African National First Division side AmaZulu coached by former Chicken Inn mentor Joey Antipas.
Caps United have also been linked with several players from other clubs as they seek to bolster their squad ahead of the African Safari with the Dynamos duo of midfielder Brett Amidu and Ocean Mushure reported to be on their radar.
Former Caps United captain Tapiwa Khumbuyani, who is on the books of How Mine, is also reported to be targeting a return. Khumbuyani will be out of contract on December 31.
Ngezi Platinum Stars have also been running around in a bid to strengthen ahead of their maiden appearance in a continental competition having just completed their first season in the top-flight league.
They face the prospect of drawing tough opposition too with Zambia’s Zesco among the teams that they could be paired against.