CAPS United’s opponents in the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League first round, TP Mazembe, are worried about the threat posed by the Zimbabwean champions as the two teams prepare to face off at the weekend. BY HENRY MHARA
The Green Machine make the trip to Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the Champions League first round first leg set for Sunday, before the return leg in Harare seven days later. The winner of the tie will progress to the group stages of the competition.
And ahead of what promises to be a tough match for both sides, TP Mazembe coach Thierry Froger yesterday said the Sunday match could have come a bit early for him as he was yet to instil his philosophy in the team.
The Frenchman, who is just over a month old in the job, having joined the well-resourced side in February, said:
“No doubt, the team is not yet ready. We must digest the movements. But we will do everything to pass this round, which looks complicated, with a return game in Harare.”
The TP Mazembe camp has been rocked in the last week after Froger turned away three senior players from taking part in a match for indiscipline.
Deo Kanda, Jean Kasusula and Joel Kimwaki were all struck off the team sheet by Froger, a known disciplinarian, for a league match against Don Bosco two weeks ago, for missing the team bus to the match venue.
“These three players missed the collective appointment to go to the green in preparation for the game. They preferred to go there directly on their own. And when they got to the field to train, I said, ‘Gentlemen, turn around.’ Discipline in a project is essential. It is true that they are important players who have won titles, but there are rules that are valid for everyone. Then we had a discussion. The door is not closed to anyone. I hope they understand,” he said.
Froger has earned the reputation of being a coach who does not compromise on discipline.
“I explained my way of working to the club president (Moise Katumbi) before signing my contract. After the sidelining of the three seniors against Don Bosco, I got him on the phone to tell him why I had made that decision.
He told me that he was supporting me, that he was behind me, that he gave me carte blanche. I came here to win titles, not to get foamed. I have 28 guys in my workforce. We have a championship, a Champions League to play.
Those who are not in the project, so much the worse for them. We have work and, therefore, no time to lose. It is certainly a year of transition, but in TP Mazembe, we must have results.”
Beside the mutiny in his camp, Froger has made qualifying to the group stage of the Champions League his main goal.
The team missed the spot last season and dropped into the Caf Confederations Cup, which they went on to win.
“We are not going to lie. The Champions League is a competition for those demanding TP Mazembe supporters who want to see their club maintain a higher level on the continent. Failure to access the group stage as last year would make really bad kind.”