BY HENRY MHARA
LLOYD Chigowe and Lloyd Chitembwe will next week have a chance to gauge how far they have progressed in rebuilding their respective squads, Dynamos and Caps United, ahead of the new season, when the two giants clash in a pre-season Charity Challenge Cup match.
The match, whose winners will walk away with $20 000 prize money and a trophy, is pencilled for Rufaro Stadium on March 10, two weeks before the league kicks off.
The losing team will get a $15 000 consolation.
But above all, the prize monies and bragging rights, the importance of this match lies in the opportunity afforded to the two coaches to measure progress they have made to their squads, whose supporters expect them to fight for honours, following dismal showings last season.
Dynamos were the worst performer of the two as they spent the whole of last season flirting with relegation, only to survive by the teeth of their skin.
As a result, Chigowe had to demolish the entire squad and build it afresh. He feels the match has come at the right time.
“To us, it’s a pre-season match, but to our seven million supporters, they want to see Dynamos winning, especially against Caps United. It’s a big challenge, but we are looking forward to it. We take it with both hands, because it’s a glorious chance. It’s a dream for any coach and any player to have a winner’s medal around their neck. I hope we will give it a real go so that we can come victorious. I’m not underestimating our opponents; I know they are itching to revenge the match we won towards the end of last season, so psychologically, we will have that on the back of our mind as well. I’m urging the more than seven million to, if they can, come and root for their team, we will come right,” Chigowe said.
Dynamos only managed to retain five players from their last season squad.
Among those they have recruited include former Glamour Boys son, Edward Sadomba. There has also been a flock of foreigners at the club, particularly from West Africa, who have been trying their luck. At least four have been shortlisted.
Chigowe is satisfied.
“We have identified and assembled a squad which we think, if they work hard, we will be able to get positive results.
“We should be able to judge the squads under competitive match situations. Every coach believes his squad is good until they meet the opposition. Yes, we are pleased with what we have assembled, but I hope, it’s not a fluke.”
“This is a group that is willing to die for the club, they can be the real deal. I have a sense of optimism, but after all I’m very cautious because football being football, reality can always dawn on you when it’s competition time. We have assembled a team of fighters, and it’s now for us to make meaningful technical input to make them a cohesive outfit. Otherwise the framework and the skeleton is there, and it’s up to us to have a correct shape… to be sober enough to see the guys who can make a difference within the class of what we have assembled.”
Caps also performed below expectation last season. Their pre-season has been equally troubled with players downing tools over unpaid salaries.
But ahead of the match, Chitembwe opted to look at the positives.
“We have gone five weeks into our pre-season training, and so far so good. We are happy, obviously. We are trying to address certain aspects of the game. It’s never easy, very difficult it has been, but the response has been very positive from the boys,” Chitembwe said.
“The major aspects of the game have been addressed, but players naturally enjoy playing games and this is one kind of an opportunity that they are very comfortable with, playing games. It’s not so nice to train and not having to play games because the best measurement of how far you have come or gone as a football team is by way of playing games; so this is another opportunity for us to measure the progress.”
Chitembwe was also forced to rebuild after some senior players left. Notable inclusions are Phineas Bhamusi, who returned after a season spell at Triangle, and Gabriel Nyoni, who joined from Highlanders.
Asked how important it will be for his team to get one over rivals Dynamos, Chitembwe said: “It’s not really about Dynamos as a team or an opponent, but we are looking at the opportunities that the game is likely to give to the team, in terms of preparing for the season. So it’s not about the Dynamos factor, but making sure we get to the level that we want to be when the season starts.”