The Mbada Diamonds first round clash pitting Caps United and Motor Action at Mutare’s Sakubva stadium tomorrow is a collision of two sides whose spirits will finally be lifted by the prospects of lining up their pockets handsomely after months of ‘famine’.
If Caps United players were dispirited when they lost to Dynamos in a hard-fought Harare derby of the Castle Lager Premiership two weeks ago, they should be salivating at the prospects of a whopping US$130 000 winners’ prize cheque if they go all the way in this competition.
While the lack of incentives might have shackled Motor Action players so far this season, as the team props up the league log, the Mighty Bulls have all the reasons to shed blood and sweat in pursuit of triumph in the lucrative tournament.
Mbada Diamonds Cup time is a season of bounty with clubs knocked out in the first round getting US$15 000 each while the quarterfinalists are guaranteed US$30 000 each, with semifinalists pocketing US$45 000.
Losing finalists will pocket US$90 000 while the winners get an additional US$110 000 as support for participation in the Caf Confederations Cup.
Because of financial strife, the two clubs would have been the most aggrieved when the Castle Lager premier Soccer League management ordered teams to charge no more than a dollar for entry into stadia because the match presented an opportunity to make more from gate takings — their sole source of funds.
But they will still pocket at least US$15 000 each in addition to US$100 in allowances per player.
Despite working on a shoestring budget Tau Mangwiro has managed to build a force at Caps while David George is also struggling with meagre resources.
The cash crunch at Caps echoes what is transpiring at Motor Action where the financial quagmire has seen quality players exiting.
Knockout matches are rarely turgid tactical affairs, but often sizzling and bruising contests; this should be one of them.
Caps have a clean bill of health and usual top performers Rahman Kutsanzira, Hardlife Zvirekwi and Benson Maglas should take up responsibility again.
Motor Action has put faith in younger, cheaper players but have in their ranks former Caps United player Douglas Walaza who has a point to prove.
This derby, while not as incendiary as the one featuring Dynamos and Caps, has a history of serving intense battles. If form is anything to go by Caps have the edge, boasting a squad full of quality but in derbies and particularly cup matches the rules of unpredictability apply.
A return of just 15 points from 21 matches and a further eight from safety suggests Motor Action is ill-equipped for the topflight; but what better stage than tomorrow to prove doubters wrong?
Caps assistant coach Soul Chaminuka said he was wary of Motor Action who have started to rebuild with a youthful side.
“We are expecting a big fight; they have not done well in the league but they have improved in the second half of the season,” said Chaminuka.
“It’s going to be tough but we are banking on our supporters in Mutare to spur the team on. We have a good following in Mutare and I having worked there for a long time and have a lot of sympathisers. I think Buffaloes supporters will also be on the Caps side because of my presence.”
Champions Dynamos will be banking on the drive of Tawanda Muparati when they take on Tripple B at Gibbo on Sunday.
Dynamos have hit top form and coach Kalisto Pasuwa will be looking to lead his charges to another piece of silverware after losing out in the BancABC Sup8r.
Highlanders begin their run with a home match against Gishon Ntini’s Triangle at Barbourfields stadium while FC Platinum faces Hwange at the Colliery.
Saturday; Shabanie Mine v Chicken Inn (Mandava, SS9), Caps United v Motor Action (Sakubva), Black Mambas v Buffaloes (Rimuka).
Sunday; Dynamos v Tripple B (Gibbo), FC Platinum v Hwange (Colliery), How Mine v Black Rhinos, 1pm, (Barbourfields, SS9), Highlanders v Triangle (Barbourfields, SS9), Harare City v Monomotapa (Rufaro). All matches start at 3pm unless stated.