HARARE – CAPS United do not have to go far to look for inspiration as they prepare to face TP Mazembe in the African Champions League qualifier next month.
From the moment the Green Machine beat Lioli FC last Sunday at the National Sports Stadium to progress to the final qualifying round, many local football fans already started predicting that their African Safari campaign had come to an end.
Makepekepe will travel to Lubumbashi for the first leg against the five-time African champions on the weekend of March 10-12. The second leg is scheduled for the National Sports Stadium the following weekend.
However, Makepekepe have nothing to be afraid of considering in 2013 South African giants Orlando Pirates showed the rest of the continent that Mazembe can be defeated.
The Sea Robbers were drawn to face the Moise Katumbi-owned side in the final qualifying round of the competition and likewise not many South Africans gave them a chance.
Pirates know their way around Africa football as evidenced by their golden star on their jersey from their 1995 triumph and defied odds by upsetting Mazembe 3-1 in the first leg at Orlando Stadium.
Collins Mbesuma scored a brace that night while Oyekachi Okonkwo scored the other goal while Mazembe got their consolation from Patou Kabangu.
The second leg was always going to be a tall order for the Ghosts as they travelled to a hostile Stade TP Mazembe where the home side would throw everything at them but the kitchen sink.
FALLEN HERO: The late Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Seonzo Meyiwa, in green top, is mobbed by teammates after his heroics in Lubumbashi knocked out TP Mazembe out of the 2013 African Champions League.
But what would transpire before kick-off will always go down in the history of African football.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (Sabc) crew and other journalists, who had travelled from Mzansi to cover the match, were barred from entering the venue.
Some of the Sabc crew were also briefly arrested by DRC police as the home side certainly did not want any foreign journalists from covering the match.
The reason for this heavy-handedness from the TP Mazembe officials and the police become apparently clear when the match finally kicked-off.
Pirates were clearly playing against 12 men as the referee Bernard Camille from the Seychelles clearly had a brief to see that the Super Diski side would fall.
Midway through the first half, Camille sent off Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi after he went into a harmless 50/50 challenge with a Mazembe player.
More trouble was to follow for the Roger de Sa’s side as Camille went on to award the home side two penalties in the second period.
Slain Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa was in inspired form on that afternoon as he saved both spot kicks.
Mazembe went on to win the match 1-0 courtesy of Jean Kasusula’s 70th minute strike but lost the tie 3-2 on aggregate as Pirates progressed to the group stages.
Lekgwathi described the behaviour of the Mazembe officials and Camille as “shameful” after the match.
“It is unfortunate people back home in South Africa could not watch the match, it was bad in terms of everything,” Lekgwathi said.
“Some of these things are killing African soccer. We came here expecting such things, including poor refereeing.
“We were mentally and psychologically strong. I hope Caf will act against some of these people who are bringing shame to our sport.”
While many Zimbabweans are pessimistic that Makepekepe will not make it past Mazembe, Lloyd Chitembwe and his charges should draw lessons from this 2013 performance by the Sea Robbers.
That year, Pirates went on to reach the final of the competition before losing 3-1 on aggregate to Egyptian giants Al Ahly.
For CAPS, defeating Mazembe is going to take a lot of courage, grit and a strong mentality as it is going to be total war in Lubumbashi in the first leg.
After missing out on the Champions League last season following their defeat to Wydad Casablanca at this same stage, Mazembe will do everything this time around.
But in the face of adversity, Makepekepe need to show the resolve they highlighted in the second half against Lioli.
In the first period, the Green Machine had looked disjointed as Tse Nale threatened to run away with the match.
Such fighting spirit shown by Ronal Chitiyo, Simba Nhivi, Devon Chafa and second half substitutes Abbas Amidu and Cabby Kamhapa is the only ingredient which will help Makepekepe against Mazembe.
If Orlando Pirates were able to overcome the DRC giants then there is no excuse CAPS can give going into this match.