TP Mazembe faces another Zimbabwean foe in final
By Robson Sharuko
Harare – After being knocked out of the 2017 CAF Champions League by a masterclass from a Zimbabwean football coach, the most successful football club in the Southern African Development Community will be hoping to clear another final hurdle erected by a coach from this country as they bid to defend their CAF Confederation Cup title this weekend.
TP Mazembe are in South Africa for a make-or-break showdown against SuperSport United in the second leg of the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup final with the Congolese giants holding a slender 2-1 victory from the explosive first leg in Lubumbashi last Sunday.
The South African side need just a 1-0 victory to be crowned champions but they know that stopping TP Mazembe from getting a goal in Pretoria will not be an easy task, given their attacking prowess that was paraded in the closing stages of that match in Lubumbashi.
But it is something that Zimbabwean club CAPS united managed to do successfully at the National Sports Stadium in Harare earlier this year when they dumped TP Mazembe from the 2017 CAF Champions League in one of the biggest upsets in the continent’s flagship inter-club football tournament this season.
Zimbabwean coach Lloyd Chitembwe masterminded a defensive masterclass for his CAPS united in that showdown in Harare, which ended goalless, to help his team dump TP Mazembe from the tournament while, in the process, also earning themselves a place in the group stages of the CAF Champions League for the first time in their history.
The first leg in Lubumbashi had ended in a 1-1 draw with CAPS united even having the temerity to take the lead on the break through forward Abbas Amidu, who has since left the club to play in Egypt, before the Congolese giants roared back to find an equaliser.
However, the away goal which CAPS united scored in Lubumbashi proved priceless, after the second leg finished goalless in Harare, with the Harare giants booking their ticket into the group stages, at the expense of the five-time African champions, on the away goals rule.
Now, another away goal conceded at home last Sunday to a club that has another Zimbabwean coach in their ranks could prove costly for TP Mazembe should SuperSport United squeeze a 1-0 win in Pretoria this weekend and lift the CAF Confederation Cup.
The South African side are chasing their first silverware on the continent while the Congolese giants are regular winners at this level with five CAF Champions League titles under their belt and are the defending CAF Confederation Cup champions.
Kaitano Tembo, the rising Zimbabwean coach is the second in charge in the SuperSport United technical team headed by South African gaffer Eric Tinkler, and he was the one in charge of the club when they met TP Mazembe in the group stages of this tournament earlier this year.
With the then SuperSport United head coach, Stuart Baxter, starting his new life as coach of Bafana Bafana, Tembo was tasked with guiding the club in their duels against TP Mazembe and inspired his men to a 2-2 draw in Lubumbashi before the return leg in Pretoria ended goalless.
Tembo has already been lauded by Tinkler as one of the brightest young coaches in the South African Premiership who can go places, in future, should he keep his feet on the ground and continue to gain knowledge the way he has been doing under various coaches.
“I think he has a great future ahead of him as a coach‚ he has a good head on his shoulders‚ he understands the game very well and he did extremely well with the team against TP Mazembe and Horoya AC when Stuart Baxter was not here‚” Tinkler said.
“I definitely see a bright future for him in the game and I am looking forward to working with him as we.”
TP Mazembe, bankrolled by the millions from one of Africa’s richest man, Congolese businessman and politician Moise Katumbi, are the most successful football club in the SADC region.
They are also the second most successful club in CAF inter-clubs competitions with 10 titles under the belt and only Egyptian powerhouse, Al Ahly Cairo, who have 11 titles, have won more on the continent.
Five CAF Champions League titles, one Confederation Cup championship, one African Cup Winners trophy and three CAF Super Cup gold medals make the Congolese giants such a formidable outfit and, usually, when they reach the final of a major tournament, they have perfected a way of winning it.
But Tembo believes they have players who can help them compete against this giant in this final showdown where they can either emerge as the winners or, after all the odds they have conquered in this remarkable adventure, settle for the painful silver medal.
‘’You need fighters who are not easily intimidated,” said Tembo. “We have shown we can compete and I believe we have players to do the job. Take nothing away from Mazembe, but they are not as good as they used to be.’’
He could borrow a leaf from his countryman, CAPS United coach Chitembwe, on the coaching masterclass that helped him find a way to stop this Mazembe side from scoring a goal in Harare in the CAF Champions League earlier this year.
Tembo was back recently to play for the Zimbabwe Warriors Legends in their high-profile exhibition match against Barcelona Legends at the National Sports Stadium in Harare which drew a colourful crowd of about 40,000 fans and ended in a 2-2 draw.
He talked about the challenge of trying to help SuperSport United clear the final hurdle in the CAF Confederation Cup and how they had enjoyed their adventure on the continent so far.
However, he was unable to meet Chitembwe to exchange some notes because the CAPS United coach was away in Lesotho and Namibia with the Zimbabwe national football team for some international friendly assignments during that period.
SuperSport United are hoping to become the second successive South African club to win a CAF inter-club tournament after their Pretoria rivals Mamelodi Sundowns were crowned CAF Champions League winners last year.