Allan Foti, Sunday News Correspondent
TEARS have been shed, lessons have been learnt, champions have been made and finally rivalries have gone on a summer break. For the sake of brevity, we are going to keep the bulk of this review limited to just the sides that finished in the top four.
At the top, four sides went head to head for the majority of the second half of the season, but only one managed to stay the course and capture the holy grail of local football. Before we dive into the meat and potatoes of this review, let’s spare a thought for Harare City, Hwange, Bantu Rovers and Tsholotsho who were relegated to Division One. Three of those sides are from the Southern Region setting up what could be a frenetic race for immediate promotion in 2018.
The top 4
The sides that finished in the top 4 are probably the sides which you would have expected to do so at the start of the season. Certainly, no one expected Caps United to fall as far as they did but many fans would not have been surprised to see them not get back into Africa. After all their 2017 Caf Champion’s League dance was a once in a lifetime magical season that no one saw coming. In descending order, we will go through Zimbabwe’s warriors this past season.
Chicken Inn — 4th
Rahman Gumbo’s first full season in charge of the Gamecocks saw them lead the league for several weeks before seemingly imploding and surrendering the campaign. Chicken Inn proved to be a difficult side to read last year. They are an entertaining side to watch and deservedly made the top four but they will need more structure and solidity going forward. This season, they fell in games they had no business falling in. They could be unplayable one day and totally shambolic the next. Midfielder Innocent Mucheneka and goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze were arguably their best and most influential players in this campaign. If they can keep them and add some consistency to their game, watch out! They’ll beat the tar out of some teams next year but the Premiership will be stronger. Their challenge in the Premiership will depend on how well they tackle the transfer market to replace the likes of aging Clement Matawu and Moses Jackson.
Ngezi Platinum Stars — 3rd
Tonderai Ndiraya set such high standards at his previous job at Dynamos that everyone expected him to come to Ngezi and lay waste to all challengers.
Ngezi is no Dynamos or Highlanders: there had no proven pedigree to be true challengers in only their first season in the Premiership. Ngezi did not have a stand out player in the true sense, instead Terrence Dzukamanja, Xolisani “Scara” Moyo, Tichaona Mamvura, Walter Mukanga, Partson Jaure all took turns in fluctuating between disappointing and scorching hot. The team also had too many players who really shouldn’t be playing for a contender. In the off season, they will shed some of those chaps and reload. Season 2 of the Ndiraya show should make for better viewing. Ndiraya has shown himself to be an outstanding Guvnor with ideas about the game that are a fresh breath of air but to succeed in the Premiership, he’ll need some luck and need his stars to be more consistent.
Dynamos — 2nd
Dynamos came up just short of winning the crown despite having to go through a whole season with their fans lacking conviction in both their coach, Lloyd Mutasa and his band of nobodies. Some would argue that they only lost the championship because they did not have their usual merry band of proven talent and experienced players that literally squeezed the life out of its competitions in previous campaigns. That argument will be no comfort to them though. Last year, they saw bitter rivals Caps United walk away with the crown while they finished a distant fifth. This year, they lost several key players like Roderick Mutuma and Walter Mukanga and finished empty handed. They had a poor start to the season, but have shown themselves to be a resilient and excellent bunch to watch. Mutasa has crafted a side that was reminiscent of past Dynamos sides in the run for the crown (no trophies . . . yet) with their pressure, flexibility, and sheer overwhelming array of ways to beat you. Veteran Ocean Mushure was the player of the season for me, he’s a class left back who evolved into a class midfielder this season and seems to be getting better with age. The story with Dynamos is simple, if they keep their young core and add one or two signings, they will trouble their Premiership opponents next year. Any key losses and they’ll struggle to return to a championship contender which would be a shame.
FC Platinum — 1st – Champions!
Norman Mapeza has finally won a title with the cash rich Platinum miners from Zvishavane. He did it at Monomotapa and was expected to bring his golden touch to FC Platinum when he was hired in August of 2014. The miners started the season tentatively and looked like they could be in serious trouble early on. Pure Platinum finally got into their stride heading into the halfway stage and that catapulted them to another plane from the rest of the Premiership. Mid-season signing Mkhokheli Dube was a man reborn, Rodwell Chinyengtere rediscovered his most fiery form, Kevin Moyo became the king, and Winston Mhango did what he does best. FC Platinum were the best side and deserved winners of the league title. They showed a solidity and desire to win that matched the fire of their Guvnor. They’ll be itching to take on Africa once again but they must strengthen a few areas. Central midfield seemed a bit shaky sometimes. Next season, good teams will make FC Platinum play in Africa and in Zimbabwe. They must reinforce.
Platinum cannot afford to stand pat, even though they are champs, they need to keep moving forward. A center midfielder and a striker should join the fray.
Pure Platinum were worthy winners of a very entertaining Castle Premier League season, next year promises to be better and Zimbabwe will surely make noise in the Champions League as well. Africa, beware.