Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE football gods could not have provided a better script for CAPS United, to heal the wounds inflicted by the madness that gripped their camp on the eve of Good Friday, and wrecked a season that had begun with a lot of promise.Four days after the rebellion in the City of Kings saw them effectively sacrificing three points, in a shock Good Friday donation to How Mine, the Green Machine have a chance to find redemption in the best, if not sweetest, way possible.
For all the bitterness, and at times acrimony, which has stalked the Green Machine camp in the aftermath of the wild events in Bulawayo, as a club divided between those in support, and those against, the industrial action taken by their players licked its wounds, it’s remarkable that the Easter Weekend could have a happy ending.
A win against bitter rivals Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium today could mean that villains, whoever they are, are forgiven and the Green Machine could sing as one family once again, celebrating the spoils of a victory that matters more than the cost of the abandoned match against How Mine.
A victory that carries its weight in gold, something that CAPS United have never done in a league match since Nyasha Mushekwi powered them to victory at Rufaro, exactly six years ago, thanks to a large part to Oscar Machapa, then one of them before he moved across town to join the ultimate enemy, making a mockery of defender Sam Mutenheri.
It was in April 2009, when Mushekwi emerged the hero with his sensational double strike that buried Dynamos, and a number of kids born that month are probably enjoying the comfort of their first schools’ holiday as Grade Ones, while the Green Machine fans have been waiting, year after year, for another league victory against the old enemy.
It’s April again, and the superstitious ones among the CAPS United fans will be hoping that the month, in which the world spends 30 days commemorating rape awareness, could signal — as was the case when Mushekwi’s double strike gave them the bragging rights that afternoon in 2009 — the end of the torture they have suffered at the hands of their bitter rivals.
In the United States, April is the National Stress Awareness Month, and for the CAPS United fans, there could be hope that today, in a stadium they turned into a fortress last year, losing only to Dynamos in the league, this month also brings the end of their half-a-dozen years of the stress that has been inflicted on them by these Glamour Boys.
It’s the month when our neighbours across the Limpopo celebrate Freedom Day and we mark our Independence and, after six years of bondage under the yoke of the old enemy, CAPS United fans will be hoping that April brings a touch of their freedom today when, finally, their men can down their biggest opponents.
Of course, it’s the month when the world spends 30 days appreciating the magic of jazz music, itself a genre that emerged from the rebellion among blacks subjected to years of slavery in the United States, and — after years of being held bondage by their rivals — CAPS fans can be forgiven if they believe that a Harare Derby in April will bring back the melody of independence again.
Coach Mark Harrison said he knew he was walking into a club that had its financial challenges when he signed for CAPS United, which he called his biggest job on the continent to date, but even the Englishman, who has charmed a number of the Green Machine fans in his first few months in the job, might not have imagined he would lead a team whose troubles could end up with a game being forfeited.
“I know our supporters were disappointed with what happened. It was unfortunate but they also need to understand that this is their (players’) employment so they also need to be rewarded,” said the Englishman.
“I spoke to the players and anyway it’s now behind us. I have had a full squad in training. There are no injuries and we are looking to bounce back from what happened on Thursday.
“At least, we had a couple of days to talk about it and to sort things out. It’s now looking fine and the boys are in shape. The guys are eager, we are going out there to win. We are going to war, simple! We will not take any prisoners”.
Harrison hasn’t been defeated, in a league match, since taking charge of the Green Machine and a win over the old enemy, ending six years of waiting, could just be the result that his men need to repair the bond with some of their fans which took a knock after the events in Bulawayo last Thursday.
One disgruntled fan, unhappy that his players’ actions cost them three points which might come back to haunt them, in a decade-long search for the league championship, even dared to call them mercenaries for what they did in Bulawayo.
Another fan felt that the players had been taken for a ride, for a long time, by the club’s management and it was time they also flexed their muscles, and fought for what belongs to them, saying he was in full support of what they did in Bulawayo.
It shows how polarised the debate has been at the Green Machine but, one thing that is very clear, is that there was a lot of pain inflicted by what happened in Bulawayo and a win against Dynamos could not only help ease that pain but also provide the catalyst for this divided family to start singing the redemption song.
Rodreck Mutuma, a Prince who used to represent the kingdom of the enemy, has been embraced with open arms at CAPS United and that he was one of the three players — the others being Victor Twaliki and Leonard Tsipa — who pushed, without success, for the game against How Mine to be played, has made him even a more popular figure at the Green Machine.
A goal, or goals today in a game where he used to score during his time at Dynamos, could just be what his tormented fans badly want, after four days of turmoil, and the bonus for such a win will not only take the Green Machine level with their big rivals, on points, but ensure that they become the first team to breach the Glamour Boys defence this season.
This is a very big game for CAPS United, against the background of what happened in Bulawayo, and if they can win it, and all the points which carry their weight in gold, then we could see people, who were being dubbed villains just four days ago, hailed as super heroes.
CAPS fans have never forgotten Mushekwi because, cometh the hour, he was there to provide the goals that sank a dagger into the hearts of the Glamour Boys that unforgettable day in April 2009, and he left memories, in just 90 minutes, which will last a lifetime.
After the turmoil of the past four days, this is a team that badly needs heroes on the pitch and there can’t be a better hero, for Makepekepe, than the one that inspires them to a win over the ultimate enemy.
The stage has been set, someone in a green-and-white shirt has to deliver today, and this is a game that could define CAPS United’s entire season.