HARARE - Premier Soccer League champions CAPS United yesterday held their nerve to beat five-time African kings, the cash-rich TP Mazembe of DR Congo, on away goals rule following a goalless draw which earned them a berth in the lucrative Champions League group stages.
In the process, Makepekepe wrote their own piece of history, as this is the first time that the club has advanced this far in the competition.
For their endeavours, coach Lloyd Chitembwe and his CAPS United team are now guaranted a whopping $550 000 purse.
This not-so-gifted Makepekepe team surpassed the achievements of the hallowed teams of the past, particularly the golden squad of the 1980s which had a galaxy of stars which included Shacky Tauro, Joel Shambo, Stanley Ndunduma (all late), Stanford Stix Mtizwa and Friday Phiri.
That generation came closest to making history when it guided CAPS United to a quarter final berth in the then African Cup Winners Cup (equivalent of the Caf Confederation Cup), before they were knocked out by Egyptian giants Arab Contractors.
Yesterday, one of the key figures to preside over the affairs of that famed side, Julius “JC” Chifokoyo, was in attendance at the National Sports Stadium to witness the class of 2016/17 achieve what the club failed to do in the 1980s.
On a day when rivalries were set aside, the big crowd that turned out for the high-profile encounter was not let down, as the Green Machine’s workman-like performance saw them joining eternal enemies, Dynamos who have previously qualified for the Caf Champions League final and group stages.
The feat left club owner, Farai Jere, breathless.
“This is a massive achievement for CAPS United. It means a lot for us,” an ecstatic Jere told the Daily News.
“This is going to be the turnaround of CAPS.
“This is exactly what we wanted to achieve and when you have a football team it’s very difficult to put structures when you are not getting results.
“But with this kind of achievement, it will do a lot to the team, including attracting corporate partners,” he added.
The Harare businessman admitted it was a tough road to reach the group stages of this competition.
Although there were many instances last year when the Makepekepe players went on strike over unpaid salaries and bonuses, the club soldiered on.
“This is the springboard of what we want to achieve in the long run. It has been a difficult journey for everyone at the club,” Jere — who rose from being a mere club supporter to being majority shareholder and president — said.
Midfielder Abbas Amidu, who scored the all-important away goal in Lubumbashi after only 44 seconds, believes this achievement will put Zimbabwean football on the African map.
“As you can see it means everything to Zimbabwean football because it has been long since clubs from our country reached this far,” Amidu said.
“We have been underdogs, no one had given us a chance but look here we are. We are not as big as Mazembe but at the end of the day it’s all about the fighting spirit and knowing what you want to achieve in life.
“I’m now confident that we can go all the way and reach the semifinals. I believe we can do it.”
The club will now go into the draw of the last 16 together with other African powerhouses like Al Ahly (Egypt), Esperance (Tunisia) Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), Al-Hilal and Al-Merrikh (both Sudan).
“Now that we are in the group stages we need to re-set our targets and maybe qualify for the knockout stages,” Jere said.
“We are now dreaming big and why not when we have knocked out African giants? Nobody gave us a chance but we knew what we were doing and here we are.
“If you look at the way we prepared for this game you could see that we knew what we were doing. We showed them no respect at all.”