Froger plots CAPS downfall

HARARE - Unlike in the preliminary round, CAPS United will come up against a side that is also ring rusty when they take on TP Mazembe in the African Champions League.

Makepekepe are scheduled to travel to Lubumbashi for the first leg of the final qualifying round on the weekend of March 10-12.

The second leg is scheduled for the National Sports Stadium a week later with this generation of Makepekepe players hoping to make history by qualifying for the group stages for the first time.

In the first round of the competition, Makepekepe took on Lesotho side Lioli FC, who had been almost three quarters through their season.

Although United were able to get past the Lesotho champions, it was evident they struggled in terms of match fitness since the Zimbabwe league is still on off-season.

Lloyd Chitembwe’s side are going to face a Mazembe side that have only played three competitive matches in 2017 due to the political turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Since mid-December 2016, the DRC government has suspended the Super Ligue amid fears that violence might flare up at football matches since chants denouncing the now unpopular President Joseph Kabila were being heard in most stadia.

Before the league had been suspended, Mazembe had already played 16 matches in their central region division.

Since Moise Katumbi’s side is top of the regional division, they will go on to compete in the Championship Round with the other top sides from the other two regions.

As expected, due to Katumbi’s wealth, Mazembe had been unplayable losing only two games thus far.

The league is only scheduled to resume today with Mazembe set to take on Lubumbashi Sport.

However, shortly before the turmoil escalated in the DRC, the side lost their coach — Frenchman Hubert Velud, who joined Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel.

Velud was replaced at the end of last month by his compatriot Thierry Froger, who has wasted no time in establishing a reputation of being a strict disciplinarian in Lubumbashi.

Earlier this week, Froger ordered the team coach to proceed to their training ground without a number of the club’s stars that had failed to pitch up at the pickup point in time.

When the players later made their way to the training ground on their own, Froger chased them away.

According to reports from the DRC, the players were only allowed to return to training after they had paid undisclosed fines.

Over the years, Mazembe players have become the prima donnas of the DRC Super Ligue as they are the most well-paid sportspersons in the country.

In the past, players like Tresor Mputu were virtually untouchable by the coaches due to their closeness to Katumbi.

From the way he has started his reign, Froger is not someone who is going to allow player power to be the order of the day at the club.

How the players are going to react to his strict regime is going to be interesting. 

It is clear the Frenchman wants to stamp his authority at the club that has won the African Champions League on five occasions with their last triumph coming in 2015.

The Ravens are also the current holders of the African Confederation Cup which they won last year after defeating Algerian side MO Bejaia 5-2 on aggregate in the final.

Froger, whose previous coaching experience in Africa was with the Togolese national team between 2010 and 2011, wants to keep Mazembe’s winning culture in place.     

“I’m happy to be with Mazembe for the beginning of a great adventure,” the 53-year-old told the Mazembe website when he was unveiled as coach.

“When you sign up to join a club like Mazembe‚ you come to win matches and titles with an approach to play well and to please the supporters.

“They deserve victories and trophies. I will try‚ right away‚ to continue with what went before me because last season was excellent.

“We’ll try to make a good start. A team is strong when its players‚ its supporters and its leaders are united.”

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