Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
CAPS United coach Mark Harrison has hailed his players as a group of supermen after they broke a jinx, stretching close to two decades, when they powered to a rare away league victory over Highlanders at Barbourfields on Sunday.Defender Stephen Makatuka was the unlikely hero, with a first-half header, as the Green Machine defied the odds and ended years of failing to register a victory, against their opponents in a league match in the City of Kings, going back close to 20 years.
Makepekepe had failed to beat Highlanders in a league match since 1997.
Of course, CAPS United have had some successes in Cup competitions against Highlanders in Bulawayo over the years, Barbourfields had become a fortress for Bosso when it came to league engagements between the two giants.
Before Sunday’s win, CAPS United had lost nine of the last 15 meetings with Highlanders at Barbourfields, since the turn of the new millennium, in 2001.
The best the Green Machine could get was a draw.
None among the current crop of CAPS United players knew how it felt for the Green Machine to win a league match against Highlanders at Barbourfields.
Even veterans like Leonard Tsipa, who were part of the trailblazing Makepekepe side that won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005, did it without beating Highlanders in their backyard.
Tsipa joined Makepekepe in the early 2000s and during his entire career at the Green Machine he had not felt what it meant to win against Highlanders at Barbourfields.
Harrison was not aware of the feat, which successive coaches at CAPS United could not accomplish, when his men edged Bosso 1-0 on Sunday.
Makepekepe made early impressions at the venue this season when they dumped Bosso out of the Bob 91 Super Cup with a 2-1 win during the pre-season.
“I’m not aware about the records or the history at Barbourfields. What should I say? It goes without showing what group of players that we have,” said Harrison.
“I have told them they are not the most talented in the league, but they are definitely a great bunch.
“I am glad it turned out to be a nice weekend for us. It was a great performance from the boys. I was pleased by the way they applied themselves.
“They gave every energy they had and by half-time I think we should have scored three or four goals. It was a tremendous performance.
“I knew this was a big game so I reminded the players that it’s very much the same with the Harare Derby against Dynamos.
“To win such games you need courage and the desire to succeed. They showed they needed it the most and I’m happy for them.
“If we can start picking points the better for us. We don’t have to get too much ahead of ourselves. I believe we still have a lot of work to do as a team. We need to continue working hard,” said Harrison.
Makepekepe have been struggling under a cloud of financial hardships and had not won in their last four outings before making the trip to Bulawayo.
After the match Harrison said he felt like he had won a World Cup.
What made the victory even sweeter was that it came in the back of the most difficult circumstances.
Some of the players are owed huge amounts and have gone months on end without getting their salaries and bonuses.
Morale sometimes has hit rock bottom, like what happened when they boycotted their league game at How Mine.
Under such circumstances, one wouldn’t expect much in terms of results, but surprisingly, this Green Machine side has managed to keep running against the odds.
The British coach said they have managed to click as a team despite the off-field woes and this has helped them grind results.
“It’s difficult but the spirit of togetherness and team work have taken us this far. There is great camaraderie among the players, and right within the technical team. We work together a lot and we laugh together a lot.
“But that will not guarantee us victory, anyway. So I give the players a chance every week, in every game they play,” said Harrison.
Makepekepe slumped to a 4-0 drubbing at Barbourfields last year, but they managed to revenge the loss when they turned the tables at the National Sports Stadium to win by a similar margin.
One of the club legends Alois Bunjira yesterday said he could not recall exactly when the side last won at Barbourfields.
But he still vividly remembers the 1996 season when Blessing Makunike scored the winner in the 2-1 victory to secure the championship.
Bunjira said Makepekepe won by the same margin the following year when he scored a header from Stewart Murisa’s cross after Morgan Nkhatazo had opened the scoring for them.
The former Zimbabwe international said the current crop of Makepekepe players could achieve more if they were adequately supported.
He said the victory over Highlanders was largely because of self-motivation.
“I have never doubted the quality of the players at CAPS United. Even last year I thought they were a side capable of challenging for the championship.
“It’s the same this year, if the players are left to concentrate on their football and not worry about other things, they can still go for it.
“I have confidence in the coach.
“I have attended some of their training sessions and you can see the commitment. These guys are working very hard.
“But then it’s an on and off thing on the pitch because these guys are left to motivate themselves. Today they are at their best and the other day it’s different,” said Bunjira.
CAPS United have 11 points from seven games and are fifth on the log standings.
They face Hwange at Gwanzura in their next match on Thursday.
CAPS Utd Results against Highlanders at Barbourfields since 2001
2001: Highlanders 1-1 CAPS Utd
2002: Highlanders 1-0 CAPS Utd
2003: Highlanders 3-2 CAPS Utd
2004: Highlanders 3-3 CAPS Utd
2005: Highlanders 2-1 CAPS Utd
2006: Highlanders 1-0 CAPS Utd
2007: Highlanders (awd 3-0) CAPS Utd
2008: Highlanders 1-1 CAPS Utd
2009: Highlanders 2-2 CAPS Utd
2010: Highlanders 1-0 CAPS Utd
2011 Highlanders 1-0 CAPS Utd
2012: Highlanders 1-0 CAPS Utd
2013: Highlanders 0-0 CAPS Utd
2014: Highlanders 4-0 CAPS Utd