By Sheldon Hakata
THE third edition of the lucrative Chibuku Super Cup roars into life this weekend with some mouth-watering first round matches lined up countrywide.
Winners of the fast-growing tournament, funded to the tune of US$400 000, will represent the country in the Confederations of African Football (CAF) Cup.
The quarterfinals will take place on October 7 and 8 while the semi-finals will be played on October 21 and 22.
The final is set for November.
The tournament started as a 16-team marathon.
It has since grown to an 18-team tournament.
Venues like Rufaro Stadium, Ascot Stadium and Mandava Stadium will have a match each day during the first round ties this weekend.
Tomorrow (Saturday), last year’s losing finalists FC Platinum take on struggling Air Force side Chapungu FC at Mandava Stadium in a match in which the Norman Mapeza-coached FC Platinum is expected to steamroll past their struggling opponents.
The platinum miners will be looking to get a head start and to atone for their near miss after they were thumped 3-1 by rival Ngezi Platinum during last year’s final.
In Harare, inconsistent Black Rhinos take on unpredictable Triangle at the ceremonial home of football, Rufaro Stadium.
The tie could go either way as Triangle have proven to be tricky customers.
In another fixture tomorrow (Saturday), title contenders Chicken Inn take on a resurgent Yadah FC at Ascot Stadium in Gweru.
Yadah FC, who made three wins on the trot when they beat Hwange FC in the tournament’s preliminary round tie at Mandava Stadium, will look to continue with their fine run against a powerful Chicken Inn which is looking to complete a league and cup double.
On Sunday, wounded Dynamos take on minnows Bulawayo City at Rufaro Stadium as they seek to bounce back to winning ways following their morale-sapping derby defeat against bitter rivals CAPS United at the same venue last Sunday.
It has been a horror two weeks for DeMbare as they saw their stranglehold on the quest for the championship loosen as they failed to win against their rivals Highlanders and CAPS United respectively.
This was coupled by star striker and Cameroonian import Christian Ntouba Epoupa, being red-carded against Highlanders.
Reports filtering also indicate that talented midfielder Denver Mukamba might have played his last match for the Harare giants following a training session brawl with coaches on the eve of the CAPS United match.
Troubled How Mine take on bottom-of-the-log Bantu Rovers at Ascot in a match in which the gold miners are likely to outwit their woefully out-of-sorts city rivals Rovers who have managed to notch a paltry three wins in 25 matches so far this season.
Bulawayo giants Highlanders will look to build from their five-star performance against Dynamos when they lock horns with Harare City at Mandava.
This has been a rather indifferent season for Harare City who, only two seasons, were competing for the championship.
In the resort town of Kariba, the odds will be on ZPC Kariba to electrocute Shabanie at Nyamhunga Stadium.
With their chances of winning the domestic championship having diminished drastically due to mixed results in the league, ZPC Kariba coach, Sunday Chidzambwa, will be pinning his hopes on the Chibuku Super Cup as the only silverware left with a number of benefits, especially in monetary terms.
In the fixture of the tournament, defending Chibuku Super Cup champions, Ngezi Platinum, face Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) defending champions CAPS United at Baobab Stadium.
CAPS United are walking with a spring in their step after dismantling rivals Dynamos.
Ngezi Platinum Stars face a mammoth task in their bid to defend the Chibuku Super Cup.
Tonderai Ndiraya’s charges were crowned Chibuku champions last year after beating FC Platinum 3-1 in the final.
Liberty Chakoroma was the hero of the day, scoring a brace while Kelvin Bulaji scored the other goal.
Gerald Takwara scored for FC Platinum.
The Chibuku Super Cup holders have indicated they want another dance with continental football next year and hope to defend the silverware they won in their debut season last year.
They then went on to represent the country in the CAF Cup but failed to progress in the tourney.
It is not going to be easy though for the miners as they suffered their worst defeat of the season in a league match against the same opponents.
Ngezi Platinum Stars, are fighting for honours on both fronts, the league championship and have firmly set their sights on retaining the Chibuku Super Cup.
Chibuku Super Cup Fixtures
FC Platinum v Chapungu (Mandava Stadium)
Black Rhinos v Triangle (Rufaro Stadium)
Chicken Inn v Yadah FC (Ascot Stadium)
Dynamos v Bulawayo City (Rufaro Stadium)
Ngezi Platinum v CAPS United (Baobab Stadium)
How Mine v Bantu Rover (Ascot Stadium)
Highlanders v Harare City (Mandava Stadium)
ZPC Kariba v Shabanie Mine (Nyamhunga Stadium)