The Sunday News
Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
HISTORY beckons for Bulawayo Chiefs and Herentals who are both making a first appearance in a major final, the Chibuku Super Cup at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
In the build-up for today’s final which promises to draw a good crowd after the Premier Soccer League slashed gate charges to US$1 for the rest of the ground, both teams have vowed to give a football show to remember.
Forget that these two teams do not command a huge following, their ability to knock out some of the country’s big teams on the way to the final shows their pedigree.
The road to the final has seen both Chiefs and Herentals claiming the scalps of former champions to set themselves up. Herentals beat 2016 champions Ngezi Platinum Stars in the first round and Manica Diamonds in the quarter-finals by an identical 2-1 scorelines.
They went on to boot out 2021 champions FC Platinum 4-3 after penalty shootouts in the semi-finals. The game had ended 1-1 in 90 minutes. On the other end, Chiefs reached the final after claiming the scalps of ZPC Kariba and 2019 champions Highlanders in the first round and the quarter-finals by identical 1-0 scorelines. They went on to dehorn Black Rhinos 5-4 after penalty shootouts in the semi-finals having played to a 0-0 in regulation time.
But this afternoon, a new champion will be crowned. Looking at the two teams’ approach in the semi-finals, they did not hold back and fought pound-to-pound with their opponents.
“There’s no need to be cautions, but we’ve to be responsible on how we do it,” this is what both the Chiefs coach Thulani Sibanda and Herentals’ gaffer Kumbirai Mutiwekuziwa have said. But who will win this final?
The team that will want it more this afternoon will walk away with the US$75 000 prize money. For the Chiefs players, there is even more reason to win the country’s prestigious club competition, Amakhosi Amahle players will pocket 70% of the total prize money after an agreement was reached with the club through assistance from the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe. This came about after Chiefs failed to pay the players’ salaries for months, with the backlog said to be standing at four months. Chiefs had reportedly undertaken to clear all dues by October, which the club failed, hence the agreement for the players to pocket the biggest chunk of the prize money from today’s final.
The players are aware of the financial challenges that the club has gone through during the year and winning the title and getting a windfall will set them for a merry Christmas. It effectively means the players are playing for themselves in this final since they stand to benefit more than the club should they win the Chibuku Super Cup.
Herentals on the other side do not know the troubles, pain and challenges associated with going for months without receiving their dues. The players head into the match from a comfort zone, relaxation that they need to spring out from and fight against hungry Chiefs.
Players to watch!
Chiefs are likely to stick to seasoned goalie David Bizabani to be the last man in defence but should be the match go to penalties, young goalkeeper Matripples Muleya could be called upon to do what he did against Rhinos in the semifinals, which is to deny the opponents from 12 yards. It is at central defence where Chiefs coaches will have to make a firm decision as they have Kelvin Madzongwe, skipper Malvin Mkolo and Kevin Moyo all competing to start at the heart of the rearguard.
In the semi-finals, Madzongwe partnered Moyo with Mkolo introduced later into the match. Madzongwe, a winner of the Chibuku Super Cup with FC Platinum a year ago before he made the switch to Chiefs at the start of 2022 is a versatile player who can fit into a central defensive position and can also play in midfield where he is more comfortable.
Playmaker Mthokozisi Msebe, anchorman Lucky Ndlela and Perfect Chikwende are players expected to carry the day for Chiefs.
Former Young Warriors and Soccer Star of the Year finalist Tinotenda Benza with two goals is likely to return to action after missing the semi-finals serving suspension. Benza is the tournament’s top scorer. The Students also have their 19-year-old goalkeeper Takudzwa Chikosi who has made tremendous saves to keep them in the tournament. Chikosi was the difference in the semis against FC Platinum, saving one penalty taken by Nomore Chinyerere. Prince Chama who has missed two matches after a straight red card in the first round against Ngezi Platinum returns to give Herentals a major boost as he has been one of the best performers this season.
Herentals will also look to the much experienced Godfrey Mukambi who seems to be maturing with age providing leadership and stability. A hard tackler and the unheralded hero of Herentals’ campaign, Mukambi has been consistent alongside Brighton Majarira, the team’s defence heartbeat. — Follow on Twitter @ZililoR