The Sunday News
WEDNESDAY 1 January, 2020 marked the beginning of a new decade. The last one saw the arrival of the two platinum sides, FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars along with diamond miners, Manica Diamonds.
It also heralded a return to yesteryear when the top-tier league in Zimbabwean football then called the Super League was dominated by mine and company owned teams.
And with the new decade comes new expectations and fresh anxieties about what the New Year and the next decade could mean for football in general and the Castle Premiership in particular!
The year began with news that the reigning Soccer Star of the Year, Joel Ngodzo had left his local club, Caps United for Zambia while Highlanders lost a man many thought was the new “saviour” at the ever-fading giants. At face value, both decisions appear to have been motivated by economic necessity rather than a drive towards professional growth!
And the very same economic considerations are expected to come into play when local Premiership sides begin building their squads for the 2020 campaign. Quite a few will lose key personnel, both playing and technical staff, perhaps pressed into making “big money” moves by prevailing economic needs.
While some clubs will come out of this period smiling, hopefully to the title come end of the season, more than a few are expected to fight tooth and nail just for the right to keep playing in the nation’s elite league.
FC Platinum: As the saying goes “A new broom sweeps clean” and expectations are high as Dutchman Hendrik Pieter De Jongh begins life as FC Platinum’s new Guvnor. Success in Africa has always appeared to be a distant pipe dream for the Zvishavane side but now that De Jongh has arrived amid much promise of more than just local triumphs and superiority, there are quite whispers within the club’s corridors suggesting that conquering Africa is his main target. After all, what’s new to winning the local championships! They have done it three times since their arrival in the Premiership in 2011! In a row!
But despite making three trips, including their current campaign, to the Caf Champions League, making it to the Group Stage seems to be all they can achieve on this front! Hence the expectation that the Dutchman can conjure up some magic and see the Platinum Boys emulate Dynamos and make it to at least the final of the Caf Champions League!
And while he is at it, De Jongh will be expected to continue the march towards turning FC Platinum into Zimbabwe’s Super Club!
Delta Beverages: The Premiership’s sponsors, Delta Beverages through their Castle brand, enter the new decade with but one expectation for the 2020 campaign and beyond: bigger more disciplined crowds!
While football is quite popular, the popularity has not been translated into crowds in stadia across the country. Crowds have generally been poor despite intriguing performances especially in last season’s title race which saw the title being won on the very last day with literally the last kick.
Premier Soccer League: PSL chairman, Farai Jere along with his chief executive officer Kenny Ndebele and his secretariat will have but one thing on their minds ahead of the new decade: how to eradicate match fixing completely! In general, match fixing has been a plague in the lower football leagues for years, but in 2019 the Premiership became the latest playground for football’s rogue elements.
There were and still are pending allegations of match fixing against Herentals for their matches against Black Rhinos and Bulawayo Chiefs. While the Rhinos case is now beyond mere allegations given the army side’s disciplinary action against their then team manager, Gift Kamuriwo, a former Zimbabwe international now facing a court martial, the Chiefs case is still pending.
Bosso: The powers that be at the once feared Highlanders have their work cut out for them ahead of the New Year and the decade to follow. The club’s bosses have just hired former Caps United and Harare City coach, Mark Harrison who arrives to being what is expected to be yet another rebuilding exercise. Former coach, De Jongh guided Bosso to a commendable sixth place finish in the league coupled with the Chibuku Cup title after beating Ngezi in the final.
De Jongh appeared to be just what the doctor ordered but Bosso were unable to give enough “green” reasons to stay on at the club with the Dutchman opting instead to join FC Platinum ahead of the 2020 campaign.
To add salt to an already festering wound, Bosso could lose up to six key players if reports that their former technical manager, De Jongh is looking to raid their “stock” turn out to be true. In any event, Bosso appear to have no capacity to hold on to any of their players in the face of the Platinum Boys’ financial muscle!
So, 12 days into 2020, Bosso are already tittering, anxious to hold onto whatever vestige of respectability they still hold amid suspicions of poor administration at the club!
Bulawayo Chiefs: After barely surviving the chop, Bulawayo Chiefs are already battling to hold onto some of their better players. Highlanders, Triangle and FC Platinum are among the bigger teams that are expected to come knocking, making Chiefs relegation candidates before the pre-season even begins. Chiefs’ Guvnor, Thulani Sibanda will be anxious to see if club owner Lovemore Sibanda has the inclination to keep his team together or will knuckle under and let them go!
Chiefs goalkeeper David “Rambo” Bizabani, striker Farau Matare, left-back Brandon Mpofu and defender Marlvin Mkolo, who can play on the right side or in central defence, have been heavily linked with possible moves to Highlanders while Ngezi Platinum Stars are also reportedly interested in Mkolo and Dynamos are said to have enquired about the availability of midfielder Arthur “Diego” Musiiwa.
FC Platinum have also been reported to be eyeing Matare, with Young Warriors utility player Shadreck Nyahwa reportedly on Triangle United coach Taurai Mangwiro’s radar.
Caps United: Having lost reigning Soccer Star of the Year, Joel “Josta” Ngodzo to Zambian side, Buildcon, Caps United fans will be anxious to see who Darlington Dodo finds to replace the talismanic midfielder. Josta has been a stand-out player at the club since his arrival four years ago, making the country’s 11 best players list twice in a row in that time.
Makepekepe gave up their 2019 title aspirations on the final day following a 1-0 loss to eventual league champions FC Platinum and were expected to be serious contenders this season, but Josta’s departure has left many at the club anxious and wondering if the club still has the muscle to hold onto its best layers. This anxiety has also fuelled question marks about the club’s title credentials ahead of the 2020 campaign!
As things stand, Caps United are reported to be targeting Nigerian and Zambian players which could be an indication that the club will struggle to attract quality local players!
After all has been said and done, all eyes will be on the 2020 season and indeed the new decade ahead!