The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Dembare's First Step

ZIMBABWE giants Dynamos were last night keeping their fingers crossed on the possibility of getting the services of forward Francisco Zekumbawire ahead of tomorrow's African Champions League preliminary round, first leg clash against Lesotho Correctional Services at Rufaro.

Dynamos find themselves having to negotiate their way in the prestigious inter-club competition from the preliminary round following their failure to go beyond the second round in the last two editions.

But DeMbare are facing challenges in their strike force after three of the forwards registered for this campaign left the club.

They lost Simba Sithole to SuperSport United in the South African Premiership while Rodreck Mutuma went to Bloemfontein Celtic and talks with Martin Vengesayi for a new contract broke down.

He is now training with Harare City.

To make up for the vacancies, Dynamos registered Allan Tavarwisa and Patrick Khumbula and had been hoping to include the two forwards in tomorrow's match against LCS. But they were dealt a blow on Wednesday when they were advised that the duo will not be eligible to play until the mini-league stages, according to the Caf regulations.

Dynamos had also registered defender Byron Madzokere as a late entry to their Caf Champions League list, but it is in the offensive play that coach Callisto Pasuwa desperately needs the personnel.

During the preparatory matches, Pasuwa had been using veteran midfielder Murape Murape as a striker alongside young forward Farai Mupasiri. But there was a breath of good news blowing into the Dynamos camp last night with reports that Zekumbawire had finally been released to join the Glamour Boys.

A member of the Dynamos executive yesterday hinted that Zekumbawire had joined their camp in the afternoon and Pasuwa was going to assess the Warriors trialist, who is coming on a loan from Hwange.

"Zekumbawire has been training at Hwange but was feeling unwanted and uncomfortable because the coaches there were saying he was not in their plans and at the same time his club had been holding on to him. He was not able to join us because of the stand-off but it was now affecting the player.

"So Hwange have agreed to let him come and train with us and if he passes the test, he could be included in the squad for Sunday," said the Dynamos official.

Pasuwa yesterday hinted that he will be looking for a comfortable win against the Lesotho prison wardens so that Dynamos will enjoy a healthy advantage ahead of the return leg in Maseru next month.

A former utility player at Dynamos and a veteran of many continental campaigns during his days as a player, Pasuwa warned his charges to guard against complacency against the relative minnows.

"As Dynamos, we are ready for the game, we are going out there to attack so that we have a comfortable lead from home.

"I understand that Lesotho Correctional Services are a good side and I heard from some of my friends based in Lesotho saying that the team plays well.

"I heard that they played friendly matches against Free State Stars and Gaborone United and drew all the games. So this is not a side to underrate but we have to fight hard to win at home, that's the name of the game," said Pasuwa.

Pasuwa was part of the history-making Dynamos side that battled all the way to the final of the 1998 African Champions League under coach Sunday Chidzambwa, before falling in a controversial final to Asec Mimosa.

This being the African Champions League, Pasuwa is warning his players to be always alert especially on the away games that will follow.

"We have learnt a lot in the previous games that we have played in Africa. There are mind games, we have been psyching up our guys that they should expect anything when we travel.

"In the past we had challenges in travelling arrangements and preparations but I feel that we are a step ahead in our preparations this time," he said.

Dynamos players had to cut short their festive holiday to prepare for the African Champions League where they are hoping to reach the mini-league stage after failing in the last two attempts.

"We started (our preparations) a little bit early, we are ready for the game and I hope we will get a good result. The 18 players who will be selected to play should be ready. It's a challenge to the strikers that they are employed to score goals.

"They are employed to play football and not to sit on the bench. So those who will get a chance to play should do their best because we need goals.

"I am urging all the supporters to come in their numbers so that they can be the 12th player to help us win the match," said Pasuwa.

Dynamos skipper Tawanda Muparati also weighed in urging his troops to score at least three goals past the Lesotho champions.

"As players, we are going to give it our best and I urge the supporters to come and rally behind us.

"I am at a loss of words to describe the feeling before the game but I wish we would win the match by a big margin. It will be good if we can manage to score about three goals at least because that will give us an advantage," said Muparati.

But Lesotho Correctional Services coach Mosholi Mokhothu said that they will not be push-overs in the match.

LCS have never gone beyond the preliminary stage of the African Champions League but believe they could re-write the history books with a fairy tale win over Dynamos.

Mokhothu has brought 18 players from his 24-man squad.

"I do not believe in keeping a huge pool of players when I cannot use them.

"We won the Lesotho championship last season and right now we are sitting on second position when the league is at the halfway stage.

"'We are not just a small team like I heard some of you (media) saying.

"We have our stadium in Lesotho and we play in front of a capacity crowd.

"So my team is prepared. So the Dynamos fans will not be a problem for us and I am also requesting the supporters to come in their numbers because that will not be a problem for us at all.

"We had one month to prepare and we know that Dynamos are a big team in Harare and Zimbabwe but we are not going to give them a chance to score against us," he said.

Khoto Sesinyi, the team captain, also promised Dynamos a good run at Rufaro.

Meanwhile, BancABC and Mbada Diamonds cemented their co-sponsoring deal for Dynamos by holding a joint pre-match press conference yesterday.

The bankers and the miners agreed to respect sponsorship contracts and invited more corporates to come and invest for the benefit of football and sports.

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