CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe says he does not feel intimidated by five-time African champions TP Mazembe, and is confident of his team’s chances when the two sides meet in the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League first round first leg in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday.BY HENRY MHARA
The Zimbabwean champions are expected to travel to Lubumbashi on match day and leave immediately afterwards aboard a chartered plane.
Odds appear to be blatantly against the Green Machine, who should be at their extreme best if they are to pull off an upset against one of the continent’s football giants, who have won the premier club competition five times — in 1967, 1968, 2009, 2010 and 2015.
They have been losing finalists twice and reached the semi-finals of the competition four times.
However, speaking at the team’s Press conference ahead of the trip, Chitembwe sounded bullish and when asked if TP Mazembe’s pedigree as five-time African champions and current holders of the Caf Confederations Cup, was of any concern to him, he responded: “That does not bother us at all. Them being former African champions is not important to us. What is more important to us is what we are focusing on, which is our commitment and determination. That is more important as far as we are concerned. As for them winning the Champions League 10 or 15 times, we don’t really care.”
“I’m not really focused on what they are capable of doing. We know who TP Mazembe are and their status in African football, we know all about them. What should worry us more is what we are capable of doing. We should be worried about what we are doing and for us the spirit within the group is good and the players are united. They look at this as an opportunity and that alone as a coach you get to appreciate and see that you have got a chance.”
Much of TP Mazembe’s glittering history in both the Champions League and Confederations Cup is hinged on their “notoriety” in their backyard where they have not lost a Caf match in Lubumbashi for donkey years now.
Chitembwe is still adamantly upbeat about his team’s chances at the Stade du TP Mazembe at the weekend, vowing his boys would go against the general belief.
“We haven’t experienced them being notorious. They are a very competitive football team and for us we have done well in terms of trying to match them as far as being competitive is concerned. The boys have worked very hard and they are ready to compete come Sunday. What is driving us more is the desire to want to compete at this level of the game and also it is our dream just to compete against the best in Africa. The boys are physically, technically and tactically at the level where they should be,” Chitembwe said.
He said preparations for the match had gone very well, except that defender Ronald Pfumbidzai, who has been struggling with an injury, was highly likely to miss the trip.
He is the only player in the squad doubtful for the trip, while chief striker Leonard Tsipa is unregistered for the competition.
Caps United captain Hardlife Zvirekwi described the team’s travel arrangement, where they will arrive on the morning of the match, as most ideal, as there won’t be any need to acclimatise.
“When you go days before, you will need to acclimatise, but if it’s an in and out thing, it’s okay. You don’t have to acclimatise for you to play. You just get in there, play for the 90-plus minutes and then leave without thinking much about the weather, so it’s a good thing [to travel on match day]. My fellow players are pumped up and the motivating factor is that we are meeting big guns. That gives us the drive to want to do well on the big stage. The players want to leave a mark,” Zvirekwi said.