Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
CAPS United president Farai Jere hailed the Green Machine family for refusing to be swallowed by the huge profile of their opponents TP Mazembe to reach the group stage of the CAF Champions League tournament for the first time in their history.The Harare giants beat the five-time African champions on the away goals rule, after holding out to a goalless draw at the National Sports Stadium yesterday, on a day when the club’s fans were taken through a roller-coaster of emotions.
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Makepekepe are marking their 20th anniversary of their first dance with Africa’s biggest inter-club tournament and gave their fans one of their most memorable afternoons with a gritty show pregnant with maturity.
With the odds seemingly staked against them, after influential midfielder Ronald “Rooney” Chitiyo was ruled out because of suspension, and left-back Ronald Pfumbidzai being restricted to a role on the bench as he struggles against injury, the Green Machine dug deep to secure a famous result.
TP Mazembe have always knocked out Zimbabwean opposition, in this tournament, but CAPS United refused to be intimidated by the burden of history as they fought gallantly for the draw that secured them, at least, a cool $550 000.
Goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda had another inspired show between the posts and was unlucky not to get his name on the score-sheet after a pile-driver, from a dead ball, produced an incredible save from the Congolese club’s goalkeeper.
And, when he was called upon to perform heroics as a ‘keeper, the big goalie didn’t come short as he produced a magnificent save, late in the game, which proved crucial.
Jere was overcome with emotion, after the match, and went around the stadium saluting his club’s fans.
“This was all made possible because of a united family,’’ Jere said.
“This is what we can achieve if we pull in one direction and this should be the start and not the end of our unity so that we can realise our potential.
“I dedicate this achievement to every player who has played for CAPS United, and I was happy to see a number of them at the National Sports Stadium yesterday supporting the team, all the former coaches who have worked for us and all the administrators who have been part of us in this journey,’’ said Jere.
“It has been a long journey, a tough one, but we never lost our identity as the Green Machine and, now, together as one, we have taken our club to another level and we should never look back.
‘’I am at a loss of words right now because CAPS United have never reached this far but here we are, we have just eliminated one of the best teams in Africa, and we have nothing to fear from now.
“All those partners who have been with us, providing us with incentives and everything to push the boys, this is for you and now that we are one of the best 16 clubs in Africa, what can stop us dreaming from being the best?’’
Jere said his men had graduated from boys to men.
“When we came to CAPS United, we told our guys that it is very nice to win the Cups but the problem with the Cups is that you are quickly forgotten and the biggest club in Zimbabwe, whether you like it or not, is Dynamos because they have won more championships than any other team and that is how clubs are judged.
“So, now, we can probably tell you that we are big guys.
“Can you imagine how many teams have qualified to the last 16, the likes of Sundowns, could probably be coming here to Zimbabwe?
“So these guys are big boys and you need to give them respect,” said Jere.
The businessman said, on reflections, the travel arrangement they made to the DRC worked in their favour.
“What we did is, we sat down and said we hear a lot of stories about people who go to DRC, those guys even fake not to hear English.
“People are frustrated, so we said how can we go past all this, and we said let’s go on same day and beat them and come back.”
The CAPS United boss is confident that the glory days are returning to the club after a huge crowd turned out for yesterday’s match.
“The fans follow results, that’s what they want. They are different from our counterparts at Dynamos, who are passionate about their team, no matter the results.
“Our guys like good results.
“We want to see the real CAPS United supporters coming to the stadium. I can tell you that in 1996, this stadium used to be filled by CAPS supporters.
“So, if we get results like this they will start coming slowly, I am telling you the next game which we are going to play here we are going to have a bigger crowd than the one which was here,” said Jere.