Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
FORMER CAPS United board member Cosmas Nyachiya feels the Green Machine should follow the Warriors and relocate from the National Sports Stadium for them to end a painful decade-long wait to become champions of domestic football once again.
The Harare businessman was part of the CAPS United board when Makepekepe were last crowned league champions in 2005, where they used the giant stadium as their fortress to win their second championship on the bounce, after having triumphed the previous year, in record-breaking fashion, under coach Charles Mhlauri.
But, 10 years after that triumph, the Green Machine are still waiting for the league title and, while they are virtually out of this year’s race, Nyachiya feels his beloved Makepekepe can challenge, and win the biggest prize on the domestic football scene, next season.
Ironically, CAPS United’s campaign this year has been derailed by a miserable record at home where they have lost to Harare City and Chapungu and have been held by Tsholotsho, Dongo Sawmill, Buffaloes, Flame Lily, Hwange and ZPC Kariba while only winning twice, in 11 games, against leaders Chicken Inn and FC Platinum.
In sharp contrast, the Green Machine have been impressive on the road, the stand-out team away from home during this campaign, where they have beaten Highlanders, Hwange, Whahwa, Dongo Sawmill, Tsholotsho, Flame Lily and holding Chicken Inn and Buffaloes in their backyards.
Their losses on the road include a 1-2 defeat at Chapungu, a 0-4 whipping in Triangle, when their trip to the Lowveld was blighted by financial problems, and a 0-3 walkover defeat to How Mine, during a period of internal turmoil when players refused to fulfil the match because of unpaid bonuses and salaries.
That has since changed, thanks to a landmark deal struck between the club’s owners which saw Harare businessman Farai Jere taking over from his partner, Twine Phiri, as the majority shareholder, with an 80 percent stake in the club, and injecting fresh capital that has brought stability.
With Jere, who believes that only a triumph in the championship race represents real value for investment, quietly laying the foundation for a spirited challenge for the league title next year, including bringing in a number of new players into the club’s ranks, Nyachiya feels there is need for the team to reconsider their base for such an assault.
He believes CAPS United should follow the example set by the Warriors who, after being beaten by Egypt and Guinea in their home 2014 World Cup qualifiers, and being held by Tanzania in a 2015 Nations Cup qualifier, moved back to Rufaro for the 2017 AFCON battles, where they battled for a priceless point in a duel against the National Elephants of Guinea.
“Our performance away from home this season has been impressive and the latest win in Hwange, where very few teams come out with anything, shows that we have the quality that should have been rewarding us with a position on the table where we were fighting for the league title right now, as leaders of the race by some distance, and well placed to win the championship,” said Nyachiya.
“When you have a team that wins in Hwange, which beats Highlanders at Barbourfields, takes four points against the leaders Chicken Inn, and pick maximum points at tricky venues like playing away against Flame Lily, Dongo Sawmill and Whawha, and you have an impressive away record that is the envy of everyone in the league, you should be in a position to challenge for the league title.
“Ordinarily, we should be winning at home, and trying, at worst, to get a point away from home, but we have been impressive in our away games and it’s the home matches where we have had challenges, dropping a lot of points against teams we would have beaten in their backyard, and I think it’s an issue that we can address as a team.
“I believe that the starting point should be for us to consider whether the National Sports Stadium is the best possible home that we can use as CAPS United, one which gives us the comforts that we want to get the results that we want and a venue where the visiting teams really feel that they are plunging into the lion’s den where their chances of victory, or even getting just a point, are very low.
“My humble submission is that every team feels that the National Sports Stadium belongs to them, and they have a right to feel that way, and they have nothing to fear when they come there and that probably explains why we have struggled to get the results that we really wanted this season.”
Nyachiya feels the giant stadium is too big for the CAPS United fans to create a carnival atmosphere, which can not only inspire their players when they are at home, but also intimidate the opponents as is the case with their rivals Dynamos when they play at Rufaro.
“Given that we have not been winning the league for a long time, I believe that we have lost quite a considerable chunk of our fans and those who are coming to support the team cannot provide the noise, which the players want to hear from their supporters when they play at home, at a stadium as big as our National Sports Stadium,” said Nyachiya.
“I remember that when we were winning the league championship in 2004 and 2005, we had a large following at our home matches of an average of 30 000 or so, and the players used to feel very much at home and were inspired by the voices that were coming from the stands.
“Now, if our average attendance is about 5 000 to 10 000, I think we can do better as a team if we go back to either Rufaro or Gwanzura where the voices of our fans will help not only inspire our players but also intimidate the opposition and that is why I feel we need to go back to one of those stadiums and we can get the results that we want at home.
“The CAPS fans usually are brought back to the stadium if the team is winning and I believe that we can start growing our support base again by playing our home games at Rufaro or Gwanzura and take it up from there.
“We have a good team, that is what I believe, but there are very few teams in the world that win the league championship without succeeding at home and we have to find a fortress, where we become unbeatable, from next year, and the first step should be to leave the giant stadium.”