HARARE – After the departure of Ronald Pfumbidzayi to join South Africa’s Absa Premiership side Bloemfontein Celtic in August, reigning champions CAPS United’s options at left back increasingly looked limited.
Makepekepe had already lost centre half Dennis Dauda to premiership newboys
Yadah FC while Justice Jangano, who has also featured in that position, has been grounded by recurring injuries.
Coach Lloyd Chitembwe was only left with no option but to slot in young defender Valentine Musarurwa into that position despite the fact that he is naturally a right-footed player.
Musarurwa had been part of the Makepekepe title winning side from last year when he featured mainly at right back.
However, at the start of the year, Chitembwe decided to tinker with his formation at times when he deployed Pfumbidzayi in a more advanced role in midfield.
In such instances, Musarurwa would fit in at left back where he would perform like a seasoned veteran way past his 21 years of age.
While Pfumbidzayi is a buccaneering left back, who loves to overlap at every opportunity, Musarurwa’s game is moulded around safety first.
What he lacks in flair and attack-mindedness, he compensates with a never-say-die attitude as he goes into challenges full throttle despite his small frame. Musarurwa’s real test came in the final qualifying round of the African Champions League when Makepekepe come up against serial winners and five-time African champions TP Mazembe of DR Congo.
Mazembe employ two trickery wingers in Rainford Kalaba and Solomon Asante but in the two legs against CAPS, the duo had little joy against Musarurwa.
The young defender was able to match them as Makepekepe drew with Mazembe 1-1 in Kinshasa before another 0-0 draw in Harare to qualify for the group stages via the away goals rule.
Even in the group stages, Musarurwa performed well above expectations as Chitembwe trusted him to continue in the left back position.
Musarurwa was particularly impressive in the two matches Makepekepe took on Egyptian giants Zamalek.
In both matches, the defender came up against the legendary Shikabala, who has over 300 appearances for the White Knights and is capped 26 times by the Pharaohs.
Shikabala was kept in Musarurwa’s pocket in the 180 minutes of football between the two sides.
When Pfumbidzayi finally left for Phunya Sele Sele, Musarurwa effectively became the Makepekepe first choice left back.
After a slow start in the league due to their commitments in Africa, Makepekepe have steadily climbed up the ladder to fifth place and Musarurwa was one of the reasons they have performed so well in recent weeks.
Unfortunately for the defender, his season was cut short after suffering a nasty knee injury against Hwange last week.
Musarurwa is likely to be on the sidelines for the next six months as he damaged his ligaments and is saddened that he cannot help Makepekepe push for a top four place in the remaining four matches.
“I’m devastated; the scan has confirmed my biggest fear that I had torn my knee ligaments when we played against Hwange,” Musarurwa told the Daily News on Sunday.
“I will not give up and my recovery and hard work starts now to fully recover. I’m devastated I can’t play a part on the pitch to help the team in the remaining matches. I still believe this club can and should be up there with the top teams.
“I was beginning to enjoy my game but such things do happen in football. This injury I have is an unfortunate one but that is in the past now. I need to stay positive so that I can come back stronger next year.
“I want to show everyone that I believe in myself and show my coach that he can believe in me.”
CAPS United assistant coach Tostao Kwashi also feels Musarurwa’s injury is a blow to the team.
“As a team you always want to have all your players available,” Kwashi said. “He is a young player and has been doing well for the team lately.
“It’s unfortunate he can no longer play a part this season but I hope he will come back stronger next year. We wish him speedy recovery.”
CAPS United currently sit fifth on the log table with 50 points from 30 matches. With four matches left before the season ends, Chitembwe’s charges are trailing joint log leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars and FC Platinum by 10 points making it impossible to defend their title. But they are still hopeful of finishing the season in top four as they trail Chicken Inn who are in fourth place by six points.