Grace Chingoma, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA have ordered the Premier Soccer League to cancel the Castle Lager Premiership game between Caps United and Chicken Inn scheduled for Luveve on Sunday to give the Green Machine time to prepare for their Caf Champions League showdown against USM Alger of Algeria next week.
The country’s football controlling body were forced to intervene after Caps United failed to find any relief from the league’s administrators in their pleas to be given more time to prepare for their biggest home match in history where they need victory to make up for their loss in Egypt at the hands of Zamalek last Friday.
Makepekepe host USM Alger, runners-up in the Caf Champions League two years ago, at the National Sports Stadium on Wednesday and they have been pleading with the PSL administrators to postpone their league match against Chicken Inn in Bulawayo.
The Green Machine, who were in Kariba yesterday where they fell to a last-minute goal in a 1-2 defeat in a league match, are scheduled home today and were then set tomorrow, without holding even a single session, for the match against Chicken Inn on Sunday.
They would then have travelled back home on Monday and would only train, as a unit, on Tuesday on the eve of their match against USM Alger.
Interestingly, even though they were the home team, Makepekepe would have arrived in Harare from Bulawayo after the Algerians — who are set to fly here on a chartered plane on Sunday afternoon — had already touched down in the capital.
The Algerians announced on their official website that they will charter a plane from Tassilli Airlines — a company owned by giant state-owned company Sonatrach which plies domestic routes and also flies to five French cities, including the capital Paris — for their flight to Harare.
USM Alger — whose fortunes have been transformed since tycoon Ali Haddad, whose net worth is estimated to be about $300 million, took over the club in 2010 — said they will leave Algiers at 2PM on Sunday and fly out of Harare just a few hours after the match.
The Algerians have also been receiving a helping hand from their country’s football leaders, in their battle to try and conquer the continent this year, and when they play Caps United next Wednesday, they would have rested for more than a week.
Their last game was on Tuesday when they hosted MC Oran and won 2-1 in a league match while the game they were scheduled to play this coming weekend was postponed.
Even after their game against Caps United next Wednesday, USM Alger will not play a domestic fixture until the following Monday while the other game against USM Bel Abbes, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, has also been moved so that they will be fresh for their assignment against Zamalek in Egypt.
In sharp contrast, Caps United feel the PSL administrators have not been sympathetic to their Champions League cause and the league’s chief executive Kenny Ndebele wrote to the Green Machine this week advising them that their request for a postponement of the match against Chicken Inn had been turned down.
“We acknowledge receipt and thank you for your letter dated May 15, 2017,” Ndebele wrote to Caps United chief executive Cuthbert Chitima.
“Please, be advised that we are not in a position to postpone the above fixture due congested League and International Calendar programmes.”
Makepekepe were concerned that playing three straight away matches in Egypt, Kariba and Bulawayo, with the last one coming just three days before they play against USM Alger, would have a negative effect on them for the tie against the Algerians.
But Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa yesterday said Caps United’s participation in the Champions League was a national issue and the Green Machine needed support from all quarters to ensure they could give it their best possible fight in the campaign.
Chiyangwa said the Harare giants were flying the Zimbabwe flag and it was important for the country’s football leaders to be seen to be helping their cause because, should they succeed, it was the country that was being painted in good light.
While the PSL are in charge of the domestic front, the Champions League commitments fall under the jurisdiction of Zifa.
“The position is very clear. Caps United will not be playing any game other than the one they played today (yesterday). That has been my instruction to the PSL,” said Chiyangwa.
“Caps United need the support of everyone. They need to prepare for this match. I don’t want Caps United to lose at home or to fail in their campaign.
“They are representing this country and we need to be seen to be helping them wherever possible so that they can fight as best as they can.”