The Herald (Harare)

31 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Zi-Keeper Expelled

IN a dramatic turn of events, misfiring CAPS United have sacked big goalkeeper Edmore "Zi-keeper" Sibanda and defender Nyasha Mukumbi for alleged insubordination with the struggling Premiership giants also issuing a stern warning to a clique of players that has been accused of undermining the club's cause.

Sibanda and Mukumbi were sent packing shortly before CAPS United's training session at the National Sports Stadium yesterday morning when the club's directors Twine Phiri and Farai Jere addressed the players.

The sensational claims of insubordination and undermining the club also sucked in axed CAPS United assistant coach Lloyd Chitembwe amid claims that Sibanda and Mukumbi are "fiercely loyal to" the Green Machine legend and former Warriors midfielder and have been pushing for his return to the fold.

Sibanda still had two years left on his CAPS United contract while Mukumbi's deal is due to expire on December 31.

Phiri, Jere and club chief executive Maxwell Mironga have over the last few weeks led a soul-searching exercise at CAPS United as the 2005 Premiership champions sought answers to the crisis that has seen their team go for a record seven-match losing streak that has seen them plunge into relegation zone.

Yet CAPS United had one of the best pre-season preparations that included a long training camp in Chiredzi and was spiced up by the arrival of a number of good players like midfielder Rahman Kutsanzira from Highlanders.

CAPS United's impressive build-up to the season also had the bookmakers installing them among the strong favourites for the championship title.

But the wheels have terribly come off the rails and not even the sacking of Northern Irishman Sean Connor, his assistant Chitembwe and the rest of the backroom staff seemed to help matters as new coach Taurai Mangwiro is also still to register his first win or even secure a point three games on.

Some quarters within the CAPS United family have of late been pushing to have Chitembwe reinstated and had argued that "just as he did last season, he could lead the fight against relegation".

However, the soul searching exercise took a dramatic twist yesterday morning when goalkeeper Sibanda and centreback Mukumbi were sensationally released from their contracts after being fingered for gross insubordination and acting in a manner that undermines the progress of CAPS United including questionably below par performances.

Both club president Phiri and his deputy Jere were in a no-nonsense mood when they announced the drastic measures and warned that there could be more expulsions should any of their players be found to be "working against the development of the club".

Sibanda and Mukumbi, both former club captains, join another veteran player and ex-skipper David Sengu on the list of players to have been sent packing for gross indiscipline by the club's management this year.

Sengu was dismissed after leading a player revolt over the delays in payment of salaries.

Phiri claimed that there had been an air of relief among the rest of the squad after they announced Sibanda and Mukumbi's expulsions, "which shows the extent to which their bad influence was affecting the team".

"We have expelled Nyasha Mukumbi and Edmore Sibanda after our investigations established that they were guilty of insubordination both on the field of play to the coaches and to the management as well.

"We have also established that while we have been trying to do our best to provide for the team and create a winning environment for the players, meetings were being held behind our backs where people caucused and resolved to undermine the club.

"Sadly two of the most experienced players in the team Edmore and Nyasha were heavily involved in those clandestine meetings," Phiri said.

The CAPS United president said they had also read the riot act on their team which will travel to Buffaloes for a league assignment at Sakubva on Sunday in a game in which Makepekepe must at least draw to avoid the ignominy of slumping to their eighth straight defeat.

"What really touched us is that after we addressed the players and announced our decision to fire the two players and issue stern and final warnings to those who might be sympathising or were acting in cahoots with the pair, everyone felt relieved and happy and that shows the extent of the rot of that had crept in.

"It is clear that we want a winning and united team and the potential to do well is there," Phiri said.

Jere said although CAPS United had undergone their worst spell since the era of the Premiership, the team had both the potential and capacity to turn around their campaign and secure enough points to survive the chop.

"There are 33 points still to play for, so I can't understand those people who seem to think that CAPS United have already been relegated. Yes we are all not happy with the way things have turned out to be in the last few weeks and that is why we have also carried out our investigations as we seek to find lasting solutions. But it is very disappointing to note that a coach like Connor was blamed for the poor results, now Tau is being blamed for the results yet some players are not pulling their weight and are in fact acting against the interests of the club. A lot of investment has been made into trying to achieve success at CAPS United and we will not brook any behaviour that undermines the coaches or the management because in the end the club is bigger than individual players. We have enough good players who with better focus and unity can start winning again," Jere said.

With Sibanda out of the way, CAPS United could elevate rookie goalkeeper Christopher Munetsi-Mverechena to compete for the first choice position with the seasoned Muzondiwa Gonese and Itai Chiwara.

After reading the Riot Act on their players and also expelling their alleged "bad apples" the CAPS United leadership will also be praying that their misfiring attack, fronted by veteran forward Shingi Kawondera, will also use the game against Buffaloes to finally find their range and break their ducks.

Kawondera and fellow strikers Evans Gwekwerere and Clive Kawinga are still to score this season while Washington Pakamisa has only found the target once. Ironically the outgoing goalkeeper Sibanda had scored more goals than all his strikers combined before he fell out with the club leadership.

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