Chitembwe reflects on CAPS' season

HARARE - CAPS United might have ended the season empty handed but head coach Lloyd Chitembwe reckons the 2017 Castle Lager Premiership campaign as the best in the history of the club.

Following a lot of promise especially at the beginning of the season, the Green Machine eventually settled for a fifth place on the final log table trailing eventual winners FC Platinum by 14 points.

Having been crowned champions the previous year, CAPS United had to endure a punishing fixture in which they had to fight on two fronts – in Africa as well as on the domestic scene.

Chitembwe’s charges did catch the eye in the African Champions League with some captivating performances.

Makepekepe surprised many including themselves as they dumped five-time African champions TP Mazembe on away goals rule to reach the group stages the competition for the time in the club’s history.

They were then drawn in a tough Group B that also included Egyptian giants Zamelek, Libya’s Al-Ahli Tripoli and Algerian side USM Alger.

They however, finished the competition bottom of the group with six points following two home wins against Zamalek and USM Alger.

Their campaign was heavily dented by back-to-back 4-1 and 4-2 defeats to Al-Ahli Tripoli. But they had done enough and were able to export some of their players like Ronald Pfumbidzai, Abbas Amidu and Ronald Chitiyo as a result of their performances in Africa.

This run in the Champions League meant CAPS’ domestic league programme was severely affected as some of their matches had to be postponed forcing them to play catch-up.

At times the Green Machine had to play three games in the space of seven days which however proved a tall order.

Chitembwe reckons because of this punishing fixture congestion, his side did well despite finishing outside the top four.

“I think I differ with what most people think about our season. I think it’s one season that I will cherish for a very long time in the sense that this team did what no other CAPS United team did in the history of the club in the Champions League,” Chitembwe told the Daily News on Sunday

“We played against the giants of African football and we were only one game away from qualification into the knockout stages.”

On some of the players who left the team Chitembwe said: “That goes on to show the amount of work that we put in at training. I am sure there is more to it. It shows there is progress and that’s what we have always wanted at CAPS United to try and develop players so that they attract foreign attention.

“This is one thing we are happy about. We don’t want to see them here for as long they are ready we always want to see them go beyond our borders. We can only wish them good lucky and we are very much happy for them.

“We knew we were going to lose players at some stage especially due to our participation in Africa. And we are still going to lose a lot of players but it’s a sign of the good work that we are doing as a team.

“We are happy that we have actually exported more players than any other team in the league. It’s a very good sign and we still also want to try and export more and I am reliably informed that John Zhuwawo is also making it for Ajax and Dominic Chungwa is also leaving.

“And we are very happy; if you lose seven or eight players outside the country I think it’s a very good sign for the team and the coaches. We are looking forward to export more players; we want to be the club that exports highest number of players outside the country.”

Despite the club set to lose more key players during this off season, Chitembwe is not fazed by that prospect and hopes the Green Machine will bounce back stronger in 2018.

“The plans for next season are obviously slightly different from this year. We knew it was going to be difficult this year considering we were chasing on two fronts – domestic and in Africa – and we were very much aware that one of our campaigns would be affected,” he said.

“And obviously it was our domestic campaign which was affected greatly but the good thing is that next year we will not have the same headache and we will be concentrating fully on our domestic campaign and I am sure there is no reason why we should not go all the way.

“I believe we have far too much skill and know-how to achieve that. It wasn’t easy to try and manage the group. It wasn’t easy to also prepare for all the competitions. We also had a very thin squad but all the same we managed compete throughout the season.

“After our exit in the Champions League we played about 14 games without losing and it tells you the amount of work the team put in.”

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