NORMAN Mapeza and Kaitano Tembo have had glittering careers both as players and coaches and are regarded as some of the finest footballers in Zimbabwe.
BY HENRY MHARA
The two former Warriors defensive stalwarts will pit their tactics against each other for the first time and in the prominent setting of the Absa Premiership in South Africa tomorrow.
Mapeza has been plying his trade back home in Zimbabwe at national team level as well as at club level, winning three league titles and cup competitions, until he clinched the Chippa United job two months ago.
Tembo has not coached in Zimbabwe as he went into coaching after ending his playing career in South Africa, and having been an understudy, he took up the reigns at SuperSport last year.
The Chitungwiza-born tacticians lead teams that have contrasting fortunes with Tembo chasing the league title while Mapeza is fighting to keep his team afloat.
When the two collide, it will be civil war in a foreign land; they all have a point to prove in the South African top-flight league.
Hailing from the dormitory town of Chitungwiza, they were vital cogs in the senior national team at some point in their hugely successful careers.
Tembo rose to prominence at Harare giants Dynamos.
His career took him to numerous South African clubs before finally settling for SuperSport United, where, just like at Dynamos, he managed to establish a legendary status.
Mapeza has seen it all.
He played for several clubs in Poland and Turkey, even turning out for Galatasaray.
He was only the second Zimbabwean player to play in the Uefa Champions League, appearing in the competition for Galatasaray in the 1990s. The defender was part of the famed Dream Team in the early 90s.
Coaching wise, the two are some of the best brains that the country has produced. Zimbabwe football fans hope that one day Mapeza will return to coach the Warriors, while Tembo has also been pressured to take up the job.
Some fans are also divided on who the best coach is between the two and that debate could be put to bed when Mapeza’s Chippa host Tembo’s SuperSport tomorrow evening.
Mapeza has helped revolutionise the team since he took over, while sitting at the bottom of the log, but has put them on a upward trajectory.
Chippa are unbeaten in their last four matches, with three wins and a draw, in a run that has seen them climbing out of the relegation zone.
Their win over Cape Town City last week saw them moving to 11th position and if they win this one and other results go their way, they could finish the year on 7th position.
Mapeza last week shared his secret to the success at Chippa so far.
“Whenever you get to a new club‚ the foundation is to build a solid defence – to have a good goalkeeper‚ four quality defenders who can depend on each other‚ fullback who sometimes can join up with the attack,” he told South African journalists.
“When I arrived here some two months ago‚ I knew the situation with the club. I thought ‘let me take the challenge‚ let me lift these boys. I’m not taking anything away from the other coaches (that came before). They did very well. Surviving relegation is not easy.”
“The results have been positive‚ especially in terms of training‚ the approach‚ the desire. You can tell that they are willing to learn‚ they are willing to push
“So for me as a coach this is a big positive‚ I always leave the training ground and go home in good spirits because the guys are willing to push‚” added the ex-Zimbabwe international and national team coach.
Despite their good form, Mapeza has warned his players against complacency.
“When things are going like this‚ it is very easy to switch off‚ so what’s important is to maintain the discipline and the positive attitude. If we are going to lose that‚ then we are in trouble‚” he warned.
SuperSport are also enjoying their best form of the season at the moment.
They are unbeaten in their last five matches, winning three of those. They are third on the log and could move to second with a victory in the clash against Mapeza’s side.
The two clubs are home to a number of Zimbabwean players too.
Tembo’s side boasts of Onesmor Bhasera, Kuda Mahachi and Evans Rusike, while Mapeza has the Moyo twins Elvis and Kelvin, who he worked with at FC Platinum.
It will be a clash of arguably Zimbabwe’s finest when the two collide in a match that will attract a lot of local interest.