ACTING coach Mkhuphali Masuku was a notable absentee as Premiership giants CAPS United got their preparations for the 2013 season underway on a low key at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
Masuku, thrust into the hot seat following the 10-yer-ban imposed by Zifa on Taurai Mangwiro over the Asiagate scam, had been expected to conduct business from Day One of proceedings at the club.
But Makepekepe who regrouped after a lengthy break following a poor 2012 season in which they finished 10th on the 16-team table, had to make do without Masuku as the former Highlanders mentor was reported to be still on his way from his hometown in Bulawayo.
CAPS United are also still eagerly awaiting the outcome of the appeal against Mangwiro's lengthy ban with the club's chiefs insisting they would not rush into making a substantive appointment until their coach has had a chance to protest his suspension.
The 2005 champions have also indicated that they would not be very active on the transfer market to chase for big names as they have resolved to build their 2013 campaign on a junior policy.
In Masuku and Mangwiro's absence, goalkeepers' trainer Brenna Msiska took charge of the start of the CAPS United pre-season training.
The only notable new faces at CAPS United's first workout were the former Monomotapa pair of Tawanda Nyamandwe and Joseph Mutambiranwa.
CAPS United, however, also had new acquisitions - Dominic Chungwa, Steven Makatuka and goalkeeper London Zulu - getting down to business with their new club while Menard Mupera, who appears headed for the Green Machine this year, was also in attendance.
Chungwa, a former Hippo Valley player, is not new to Harare clubs having played for the now defunct Eagles and is set to reunite with his former teammate Clive Kawinga.
Regular faces such as forwards David Rediyoni, Kawinga, and Leonard Fiyado goalkeeper Itai Chiwara, and defender Asani Nhongo were part of the proceedings as about 18 players from last season's squad formed the core of those who trained.
But some senior players like Shingi Kawondera and Rahman Kutsanzira were conspicuous by their absence.
After holding the main session, the CAPS United technical team then conducted trials for players who are below 20 years as they seek to identify five juniors who will be registered with the Premier Soccer League.
Despite their low key start, widely travelled coach Msiska was optimistic that CAPS United would this year turn around their fortunes after having to fight against relegation for much of last term.
Msiska could, however, not be drawn to comment further on the players that have joined and might be joining the club opting to wait for the head coach.
CAPS United are also expected to hold a press briefing this morning where club president Twine Phiri will outline their vision for 2013.
It is also the first pre-season training in several years that CAPS United would be undertaking without their influential former vice-president Farai Jere.
Jere quit the club towards the end of last year following differences over the shareholding structure.
It was not immediately clear whether Phiri would use today's press briefing to announce any new partners.
But Msiska, an affable character, chose to focus his attention on the on field matters and reckoned that the squad that attained the first day of proceedings had shown a lot of enthusiasm.
"Everyone is happy to be here at our first training session. We have retained about 18 players from last season.
"This year is strictly for juniors and we are yet to sign any big names. We cannot say we have made mistakes in the past but we thought signing big names was going to work for us but we have realised that maybe investing in youth will help us.
"We will see when the coach arrives and we will discuss the players he is interested in. But for now we have signed two players from Hippo Valley, Dominic and Steven and London from Hwange.
"As for the rest that are present here, I cannot comment and we have also recalled Norest Mukwezvaramba who was on loan at Blue Rangers.
"We also conducted trials today as we are looking for players to register as our Under-20s and these players should be part of the first team and ready to play. We are now taking our junior policy seriously and recently we had trials at Louis Mountbatten School where we identified talent and these players will be part of our junior players," said Msiska.
The former Zimbabwe and CAPS United goalkeeper said the players have to quickly regain fitness as they have to be in shape when they host top South African side Mamelodi Sundowns early next month.
"We have started to prepare for the Sundowns match and the game will be good for us.
"They have been playing some matches and we are just starting to train but we would be fully prepared by that time.
"Sundowns have faith in CAPS United and have signed a number of players from the club in the past so we have to prove to them that we are still the same team capable of producing good players and they might be interested in one or two players," said Msiska.
CAPS United, however, also appear to have broken with their tradition of taking their pre-season training to Chiredzi and the Green Machine look set for Harare for much of their sessions.