TWO of the biggest clubs in local football Dynamos and Highlanders are set to renew their rivalry when they clash in the Independence Cup at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
The two teams met in the last Uhuru Cup contest at the same venue two years ago with Bosso emerging 2 - 0 victors, thanks to second-half goals from Bhukhosi Sibanda and Tinashe Makanda.
And a lot has changed since then. Fans will not be allowed in the stadium for the latest instalment of the competition following the coronavirus pandemic, which ruined the entire football season last year.
And also Tinashe Makanda is now a Dynamos player.
This match is significant in that it is the first local game to be played since Covid-19 arrived on these shores.
But no one has forgotten the rivalry that exists between the two teams.
"We don't normally engage in friendly matches with Highlanders each time we meet them in any kind of match. So it will be a crunch match for the two teams and the good thing is that we are going to meet almost at the same level.
"They started training a bit late like we did and I think we have had less than seven days to prepare for this match," Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya said ahead of the tie.
"As Dynamos, we always strive to win accolades no matter what form or how that competition is going to be played, our ultimate goal is to win that competition. But this game is going to give us a hint of what is to be expected when real competition begins.
"But expect a different Dynamos team this year because I think we have very dynamic and exciting players within our squad now and our fans should be in for a treat. Our fans have suffered for a long time. It's time we start to perform at the level we are expected as Dynamos," Ndiraya added.
Last year Dembare brought in 13 new signings in preparation for the season. Some of them are top players such as 2019 Soccer Star of the Year finalist King Nadolo, Partson Jaure, Taimon Mvula and Juan Mutudza.
Other exciting players, who joined the club include Tinotenda Chiunye, Sylvester Appiah, David Temwajira Barnabas Mushunje, Cameroonian Albert Eonde and youngster Tanaka Chidhobha.
But the season never was. Ndiraya believes that his team is even stronger than last season following some additions to the squad, which are going to be showcased this afternoon.
The club added Trevor Mavhunga, Frank Makarati, Newman Sianchali, Tinashe Makanda and Luke Musikiri.
Ndiraya reflected on the effect that the Covid-19 lockdown has had on the players.
"It's been difficult not just for the players, but for us as well as coaches. Ours is a bit more mental, but they have got to be physically in good shape for them to play football. "We had a training game with Cranborne Bullets where you could see the effects of the lockdown and everything on our players.
"It has been devastating and that's the reason why we want them to be given more time in terms of preparation. They have been sitting at home for one and a half years now and it's really difficult to bring them into shape in a few weeks' time
"Physically, they have been destroyed. Psychologically I can even mention it's been difficult, some of them were relegated to doing some menial jobs to earn a living so I will also really want to thank the government and all the governing authorities for allowing us to get back to what we know best as footballers," he said.
Highlanders coach Mandla Mpofu spoke about the rivalry between the two giants of Zimbabwean football.
"Everything else doesn't matter when you're playing Dynamos. Whether you have not trained for 100 years, players just want to go out there and beat Dynamos. The Independence Cup is an important game. The Highlanders cabinet always wants trophies, so we are going there to try and win the game," he said.
Mpofu also raved about the new signings, which the club announced during the course of last week.
"I am delighted with the players that I got. I have six experienced players, players that have been there before, players that have played in the league for a long time. I think they will come in and give us another dimension in the team," Mpofu said.
Bosso confirmed the signing of 2019 Soccer Star of the Year Joel Ngodzo, Winston Mhango, Pritchard Mpelele, Toto Banda, Crispen Ncube, Lynoth Chikuhwa and Andrew Tandi.