By Tadious Manyepo and Sibongile Maruta
CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe says his side will dearly miss their inspirational captain Hardlife Zvirekwi for the better part of the first half of the season, but reckons the Green Machine will still be competitive. Makepekepe will open their Castle Lager Premiership season with a derby date against returning Harare City at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Chitembwe, who is understood to have reinstated big Oscar Machapa following the withdrawal of Zvirekwi from the squad list, is positive his charges will come out victors against the Sunshine Boys.
The 2016 champions were very active in the transfer market, trading off a number of players as some new faces arrived while others left.
CAPS United have roped in such players like Milton Ncube, Praise Tonha, Munyaradzi Diya, Denver Mukamba and Dominic Mukandi.
The Premiership giants also welcomed back veterans such as Method Mwanjali, Simba Nhivi, Ronald Chitiyo and goalkeeper Chris Mwerechena. Chitembwe said the impact that Zvirekwi has on the team could not be overemphasised.
“We will obviously be missing our captain Hardlife Zvirekwi, who was involved in a mishap. It’s unfortunate, but then that is life,” he said.
“He is a good player, a leader, courageous and very inspirational. He will obviously be missed. We will do everything necessary to support him. ‘But in the meantime we will have to accept it and give the responsibility to other players.”
Chitembwe said his team was well geared for their encounter against Mark Harrison’s side on Sunday. “We have had a credible pre-season and it is now our responsibility to fully focus on the season,” he said.
“The game against Harare City will not be easy. We need to play good football to have a positive result. We have good players and I think we can do the job. It’s not going to be a stroll in the park, but we have prepared well.”
Chitembwe said this was just the start of a marathon. “It’s going to be a long difficult journey,” he said.
The CAPS United gaffer is, however, not likely to throw in Mukamba in the opening games of the season as the midfielder is still undergoing a special training regime to enable him to catch up with the fitness levels of the rest of the squad.