Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
CAPS United have abandoned the use of chartered flights for their Total Caf Champions League Group B away matches for security reasons due to the unpredictable political situation in North Africa.
The league champions believe commercial flights will be reasonably cheaper compared to a chartered flight, whose journey can be easily interrupted in foreign lands.
Caps United were drawn together with five-time champions Zamalek of Egypt, Libya’s Al Ahli Tripoli, who play their home games in Tunisia due to the political turmoil in their home country, and Algeria’s USM Alger; teams all based in North Africa and the journey begins over the weekend of May 12-14 with a trip to Cairo.
“Those are high risk areas and to travel in our own plane might not be safe. We need to use commercial flights, which I think are very safe compared to a chartered plane. It’s risky to travel alone as a team and besides, commercial flights to those areas could be cheaper,” said Caps United president Farai Jere.
The Green Machine chartered a plane to DRC for their second round preliminary match against TP Mazembe after partnering with new airline Rainbow Airlines.
Jere was confident ahead of the start of the group stages, saying Caps United will be one of the two sides from Group B to progress to the quarter-finals.
“I don’t know who the other team will be, but I know that Caps United will be one of the two to emerge from this group. The boys are playing exciting football and local results must not make people believe we are not ready because locally players know each other and it’s more like derbies, but when we go out there, no one knows us,” said the Harare businessman.
Zamalek will be Makepekepe’s first opponents in Egypt on the weekend of May 12-14 and the Green Machine will host USM Alger in Harare a week later.
They will be at home the following weekend against Al Ahli Tripoli.
Caps will then travel to Tunisia, where Al Ahli Tripoli play their home matches on the weekend of June 20-21 before hosting Zamalek in Harare at the end of June.
Coach Lloyd Chitembwe and his charges will complete their group fixtures with an away trip to Algeria against USM Alger.
Should they win their group, they will take on the runners-up of Group A, which features Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, the two Sudanese giants Al Hilal and Al Merreikh and Ferroviario of Mozambique, in the quarter-finals.
In the event that Caps finish second in Group B, they will take on the winners of Group A in the quarter-finals. If the Harare giants win Group B and win their quarter-final tie, they will meet the winner of the quarter-final tie between the team that wins Group D comprising Al Ahly of Egypt, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Coton Sport of Cameroon or Zanaco of Zambia, and the team that finishes second in Group C, which features Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), Esperance (Tunisia), AS Vita (DRC) and St George (Ethiopia) in the semi-finals.
Should the Green Machine finish second in Group B, and then beat the winners of Group A in their quarter-final, they will book a semi-final battle against the winners of the quarter-final tie which features the team which wins Group C and the runners-up of Group D.
Caf Champions League Group Stages draw
Group A: Etoile du Sahel, El Hilal, El Merreikh, Ferroviario Beira
Group B: Zamalek, USM Alger, Ahli Tripoli, Caps United
Group C: Mamelodi Sundowns, Esperance AS Vita, Saint-George
Group D: Al Ahly, Wydad Athletic Club, Coton Sport,Zanaco
Group B fixtures
Zamalek v Caps United, USM Alger v Ahli Tripoli (12-14 May), Ahli Tripoli v Zamalek, Caps United v USM Alger (23-24 May), Caps United v Ahli Tripoli, Zamalek v USM Alger (2-4 June), Ahli Tripoli v Caps United, USM Alger v Zamalek (20-21 June), Zamalek v Ahli Tripoli, USM Alger v Caps United (7-9 July).