Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE image of the domestic Premiership took a heavy pounding yesterday after CAPS United players boycotted their scheduled match against How Mine at Luveve on one of the darkest days in the history of the top-flight league.
The Green Machine players, who arrived in Bulawayo on Wednesday, decided against fulfilling their match against How Mine as a rift between the players and club officials over outstanding dues exploded into mayhem in the City of Kings.
The embarrassing episode meant that SuperSport, who had sent their OB Van, commentators and technical staff for the live transmission of the game, could not do so and there were reports last night that the broadcaster will claim $60 000 for the losses they endured yesterday.
Other reports indicated that SuperSport had decided against broadcasting live, any matches involving CAPS United this season, but the Harare Derby at the National Sports Stadium was last night still being lined up on the broadcaster’s programme for football games that will be screened live this Easter weekend.
CAPS United are now also set to be heavily punished by the Premier Soccer League for the wild events in the City of Kings yesterday which has severely dented the image of the domestic Premiership and were an insult to the league’s partners like Delta Beverages, its biggest sponsor, and SuperSport.
The Green Machine players refused to fulfil the game saying they were unhappy with the failure by their club to pay them their March salaries and only three players — Rodreck Mutuma, Victor Twaliki and Leonard Tsipa — were ready to plunge into battle, for their team, despite their plane running into turbulence.
Skipper Hardlife Zvirekwi, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Dominic Mukandi and defender Steven Makatuka, who this week was on the verge of moving to a South African Premiership side, were named as having been at the forefront of calling for the boycott of the match.
Not even the assurance provided by the club’s leadership, that they had deposited the players’ salaries into their accounts by midday yesterday, as they had promised them before they left for Bulawayo, could make the Green Machine players fulfil the match.
The Herald is in possession of the cash deposit slips that were made into the players’ accounts yesterday, which covered all the players in Bulawayo and some who did not make the trip, and a trail of communication from the CAPS United officials, who even resorted to sending WhatsApp images of the bank deposits to their players, to confirm that the salaries had been paid, in a vain attempt to try and save the game.
There was an ugly fallout between the players and some of the club’s fans, based in Bulawayo, who felt betrayed by the actions of their heroes and it culminated in a road battle where the players, who had hired alternative transport to take them back to the capital, had their hired kombi blocked from travelling to Harare.
There were reports last night that some players claimed they had been assaulted by their outraged fans in the chaos that followed.
Yesterday, CAPS United chief executive Joe Makuvire issued an apology to the league, the sponsors, SuperSport, How Mine and the fans who gathered at Luveve yesterday hoping to watch one of the big matches of this early part of the season.
“CAPS United Football Club regrets the failure to fulfil the PSL fixture against How Mine,” Makuvire said in a statement yesterday.
“The Club’s players refused to proceed to Luveve Stadium despite having been in camp in Bulawayo. The Club acknowledges owing players various amounts of money in signing-on fees.
“However, the Club has paid the players their salaries for February and March 2015.
“We find no honest explanation and possible reason behind the players’ actions. The Club had done everything possible to ensure the fulfilment of the fixture.
“We are concerned about this and the club’s owners will tomorrow (today) meet all the players and technical staff in an effort to find the solutions to the challenges.
“We further assure all stakeholders that whatever happened today will never occur at a club of our status.
“It is our duty to ensure that we successfully fulfil our fixtures under whatever circumstances and CAPS United hereby apologises to the football fraternity for the humbling occurrence.
“Special apologies to the PSL, fellow clubs, league sponsors and, especially, to SuperSport and our supporters.
“We promise to urgently address our issues and provide guarantees for future positive behaviour.”
CAPS United president Twine Phiri said the club would fulfil the Harare Derby, at whatever cost, and said the events in Bulawayo yesterday were very unfortunate.
“It’s a very bad day for us, as a club, one of our darkest days, and what happened in Bulawayo was very unfortunate and should never happen for a club like CAPS United,” Phiri, who is the PSL president, told The Herald.
“There is no questioning that we are operating in a very tough environment but we delivered on the promises that we will pay the players their salaries by today (yesterday) and that was the commitment we made to them before they left for Bulawayo.
“The team has been doing well, since the start of the season, and our fans will feel that they have been betrayed by the events in Bulawayo, and they are right, because they want to see a CAPS United that challenges for the league championship.
“We will sit down as a team tomorrow (today) to look at this issue and try and see why it had to come to this, especially when we made arrangements that the players travel a day before the game, have a camp so that they go into the match fresh, and we also organised that they be paid some money, while they were there, by our partners who are based in that city.
“CAPS United is a big institution, bigger than the players and everyone else at the club, and we owe it to those who made it such a big brand to ensure that we don’t destroy such a great football institution in this country.”