By Sheldon Hakata
FOLLOWING some shock results in the first round a fortnight ago, the lucrative Chibuku Super Cup enters the quarter finals with minnows expected to make further claims in their quest for the coveted knockout tournament.
It was evident during the quarter finals draw that the early exits of big teams in the first round has not been a matter of concern to the Chibuku Super Cup sponsors as widely expected.
The competition, which carries a US$75 000 cash prize in addition to the trophy, will see fans in almost every part of the country enjoying action.
Winners of the tournament will earn the right to represent the country in the Confederations of African Football (CAF) Confederation Cup next year.
The big teams, with big fan-bases in the country, Dynamos and Highlanders, were all knocked out in the first round along with perennial tournament powerhouses FC Platinum and cup holders Ngezi Platinum Stars.
With Dynamos, FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum involved in the championship race, the remaining teams in the Chibuku Super Cup now present the most realistic chance to claim glory along with the eventual league champions this season.
Chibuku Super Cup quarter-finals draw was conducted on Wednesday afternoon at Mandel Training Centre, Chapungu Room, in Harare.
The gloss from the country’s biggest soccer knockout tournament was somehow taken away.
But attendance to the remainder of the tournament is still expected to be high as there will be prize galore for the fans.
However, there are no small teams in the domestic league.
The big team factor might not affect anything.
The Chibuku Super Cup, since its re-introduction in 2014, has been an exciting tourney.
The tournament has seen the emergence of some big sportsmen and new teams who are doing quite well.
The tourney has boosted the confidence of some teams that have gone on to become contenders in the league.
A team such as Harare City, who won the tournament in 2015, have become a major player in the league.
The Sunshine Boys, as City are affectionately known, routed Highlanders at Mandava Stadium after dismissing the Bulawayo giants by one goal to nil in the first round.
Holders of the Chibuku Super Cup, Ngezi Platinum Stars, produced some of the finest football seen in recent years last season, have been booted out of this year’s competition.
Ngezi in the last edition thumped rival miners FC Platinum 3-1.
It was never expected of them as it was their first appearance in the league.
The Chibuku tournament is an example of how the corporate sector and sporting community can help each other push their brands to greater heights.
With tournaments of this type, fans get to have closer interaction with both their favourite products and sporting personalities.
The quarter final stage will see Black Rhinos square off with 2014 Chibuku Super Cup winners, Harare City, at Rufaro Stadium tomorrow.
Chapungu, who eliminated Midlands rivals FC Platinum in the first round, will enjoy home advantage during their date against unpredictable How Mine at Ascot Stadium on Saturday.
Shabanie Mine have been drawn against reigning champions Castle Lager Premier Soccer League and hot favourites CAPS United.
The match will take place at Maglas Stadium on Sunday.
The clash between Shabanie and CAPS United is the major talking point.
‘Bvaru Bvaru’, as Shabanie are called by their legion of fans, have recently been making life difficult for big teams.
Shabanie Mine booked a place in the quarter-finals with an away win over ZPC Kariba.
CAPS United knocked holders Ngezi Platinum Stars following a 1-0 away win at Baobab Stadium in Mhondoro.
High riding CAPS United are optimistic they can get the better of the in-form Shabanie Mine.
The Green Machine are now favourites to win the trophy and would want to retain the Cup Kings of Zimbabwe tag.
With Makepekepe, seemingly out of the league title race, they will focus all their energies on winning this competition.
The two teams, Shabanie and CAPS, played out draws when they met in the league.
Shabanie Mine have proved to be a tough nut, particularly against big teams, at their Maglas fortress, having beaten Highlanders and recently held Dynamos in a league match.
Bulawayo City, who produced a giant-killing act against Dynamos, will be hoping to continue with their fine run when they meet Yadah Stars at Barbourfields on Sunday.
Yadah booked their place in the last eight teams after Chicken Inn walked off the pitch in protest over a penalty that had been awarded to the Harare side.
Yadah Stars were awarded a penalty when Chicken Inn decided to walk off the field in protest, with three minutes still to be played in the match.
Chicken Inn has been fined US$2 000 and banned from the next edition of the Chibuku Super Cup.
The Harare derby between Black Rhinos and Harare City at Rufaro Stadium on Saturday is also likely to be explosive.
Both sides are experiencing a tough season where they are all threatened with relegation.
Chibuku Super Cup Quarter Final matches:
Chapungu FC vs How Mine FC at Ascot Stadium (15:00 hr)
Black Rhinos FC vs Harare City at Rufaro Stadium (15:00 hr)
Shabanie Mine FC vs CAPS United FC at Maglas Stadium (15:00 hr)
Bulawayo City vs Yadah FC at Barbourfields Stadium (15:00 hr)