Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
ZIFA have set aside $35 000 prize money for the Independence Cup with winners walking away $15 000 richer.
This year’s Uhuru Cup kicks off today with Highlanders taking on FC Platinum at Barbourfields Stadium while Dynamos battles with archrivals Caps United at the National Sports Stadium in the two semi-final matches.
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said the winners of the Independence Cup final will walk away with $15 000 while the losing finalist will be rewarded with $10 000 while the bronze medalist go home with $6 000 and the fourth placed team getting $4 000.
Bulawayo will witness a repeat of the ZNA Charity Shield semi-final which pitted the Pure Platinum Boys against Bosso before the season started. In that match, the Bulawayo giants beat last year’s Premier League runners-up 3-0 in a match that was played at Luveve Stadium with goals coming from Simon Munawa and a brace from Prince Dube. It was a score line very few had predicted as fans expected a tight contest with a small margin win.
The clash between the two sides has always been a mouth-watering tie and today’s match is not expected to be any different with an entertaining game on the cards for football lovers. The teams head into the match with contrasting fortunes as Highlanders are still smarting from a league defeat to debutants Shabanie 0-1 at Barbourfields, while FC Platinum are on a roll having won their first two league matches against Dynamos 1-0 and Bantu Rovers 3-2.
However, Highlanders coach, Erol Akbay said they are not reading much into their loss against Shabanie as it was now water under the bridge. Akbay was adamant the loss against Shabanie was a lesson and they will be eager to make it two wins against FC Platinum in cup competitions.
“We made a mistake against Shabanie and we were punished for it but tomorrow (today)’s game is different. We want to make it two in a row against FC Platinum and go all the way and lift the cup,” he said.
Bosso’s midfield has struggled to click since the beginning of the season, failing to dominate their opponents and the team has had to rely on long balls to feed their strikers but Akbay insisted his side is playing well and is unlikely to make changes to his squad.
Highlanders will bank on their predatory twin strike force of Roderick Mutuma and Prince Dube who have been combining well but struggled to score against Shabanie as midfielders failed to supply them with clean balls. Bosso will however, be missing the services of injured players Rahman Kutsanzira, right back, Bukhosi Ncube, striker, Gabriel Nyoni, midfielder, King Nadolo and winger, Godfrey Makaruse.
The platinum miners will be out to ensure there is no repeat of what happened during the ZNA Charity Shield and are buoyed by the two wins and would be hoping to continue with the winning streak and reclaim the Independence Cup they have won on two occasions in 2012 and 2014.
The Zvishavane side has mastered the art of retaining possession in the middle of the park and can bank on players such as Winston Mhango, Brett Amidu, Nqobizitha Masuku, Gerald Takwara, Rodwell Chinyengetere and Marshal Mudewe to win the midfield battles, and ultimately the match. Former Bosso striker, Charles Sibanda could also prove a thorn in the flesh for the Bulawayo side.
In Harare it will be another epic battle as Dynamos and Caps United square off. Caps got the better of DeMbare in the ZNA Charity Shield semi-final 3-1 and the league champions would be out to prove their win was no fluke. Highlanders and Dynamos have each lifted the Independence Cup a record six times followed by Caps United who have won it on four occasions.