HARARE – The new 2017 Castle Lager Premiership season kicked off yesterday after a four-month hiatus during the off season break.
The traditional Zimbabwean giants Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United are all in action this afternoon as they hope to have their name on the coveted trophy come the end of the year.
Throughout the off-season, the three teams have been busy on the transfer market trying to sort out their business ahead of the off season.
All has been said and done in the last few weeks; it’s now time for these three giants to deliver on the pitch as they embark on another marathon that will only come to an end come December
Shabanie Mine v CAPS United (Maglas)
The defending champions CAPS United start the new season with a long and tricky trip to Zvishavane to face the Chinda Boys.
In the transfer window, Makepekepe were a bit restrained as coach Lloyd Chitembwe chose to retain most of the squad which did duty for him last term.
Midfielder Ronald Chitiyo from Harare City, centre back Last Sithole from FC Platinum and goalkeeper Prosper Chigumba were the only arrivals.
Defender Steven Makatuka was the only major exit at the Green Machine when he chose to sign for South African First Division side AmaZulu.
United have been in action in competitive matches already this year when they took part in the African Champions League qualifiers.
CAPS will be playing in the group stages of the competition for the first time in their history having dumped Lesotho champions Lioli FC and DR Congo giants TP Mazembe in the qualifiers.
They also beat rivals Dynamos 3-1 en-route to a ZNA Charities Shield victory over Highalnders last weekend.
In so doing, Makepekepe showed they are a relatively good side with the pedigree of defending their league crown.
However, the main problem at the club this season will be how they will keep their players motivated throughout the campaign.
The players have already staged an industrial action ahead of the new season over outstanding salaries and bonuses dating back to last season.
Pay disputes were a recurrent theme last season but Makepekepe soldiered on and went on to win the championship after a long 11-year wait.
This time though, the problem has already started before a ball has been kicked and this might be a real problem for the club.
Shabanie are also hamstrung by financial challenges but at Maglas Stadium they are always a formidable side.
In good or bad times, the Chinda Boys fans are very passionate over their club and will pack Maglas this afternoon hoping their side can cause the first upset of the season.
CAPS have also found it tough visiting this venue in the past which will give the home side a lot of confidence going into the fixtures.
What they said:
Taku Shariwa — “The advantage we have at this great club is that everyone shares the same interest — playing good football. The club is the soul of this town’s love for football and wants us to give its loyal fans something to smile about every week. The players know that if they produce good football, sponsors will come and they can also open other doors for their career growth and the coaches know exactly what good football would do to their future.”
Lloyd Citembwe — “We want to try and continuously improve from what we did last season. We still have the same kind of motivation and drive to do well. For us it’s not about setting targets but the inner drive and motivation from within to want and achieve a lot of things. So yes, we have always been ready since we started playing in those Africa matches.”
Dynamos v FC Platinum (National Sports Stadium)
After making wholesale changes during the off-season, Dynamos will probably be a new team altogether this year.
Such regular starters like Jacob Muzokomba, Roderick Mutuma, Sydney Linyama and Stephen Alimenda were all shown the exit door while Tatenda Mkuruva, Godknows Murwira, Dominic Mukandi chose to move elsewhere.
The Glamour Boys had a disappointing 2016 season finishing fifth on the table as they were at one time reduced to a joke of a team under Portuguese coach Paulo Jorge Silva.
Mutasa was given the reigns to finish the season and after a bright start; DeMbare could barely cross the finish line.
The former Glamour Boys midfielder was again given the nod to take charge of the side this season but he was given a target of collecting at least 23 points from the first 10 matches.
Without the established stars, Mutasa is banking on the new players he has brought in like Emmanuel Mandiranga, Lincoln Zvasiya and Cleopas Kapupurika.
The problem with DeMbare will always be the huge weight of expectation from their volatile and ever demanding fans since they are the country’s most successful side.
Even with a threadbare squad, Mutasa will be expected to win the title at a canter none the less.
Today, DeMbare start the season with a tough match against a side that is also expected to be challenging for the title in FC Platinum.
Norman Mapeza’s side came in second place last season and this season the platinum miners believe they can go the distance.
What they said:
Lloyd Mutasa — “From my point of view, I am quite happy with how things are shaping up at the moment. The players feel they can do better and they are going to keep working hard and working towards trying to achieve the best performance they can possibly get in the pre-season and taking that into the new PSL campaign.”
Norman Mapeza — “In the Dynamos match, we are not under pressure. Those who say we are under pressure, it is their opinion, but we have an objective as a club. The game on Sunday (today) is going to be a massive game and we are going there to get a positive result.”
Highlanders v Bulawayo City (Barbourfields)
Highlanders believe 2017 is their year of winning the championship after Erol Akbay transformed their fortunes last season.
Last season, Bosso, started like a house on fire and looked jaded half-way after the sudden departure of Bruce Kangwa to Tanzanian side Azam, halfway into the season but they did pick up form again towards the end as they mounted a late challenge for the league title.
Bosso under Akbay are a sure bet to give defending champions CAPS United a run for their money as they look for their first title since 2006.
The Dutchman has also endeared himself well with the hard to please Highlanders fans. Bosso have the likes of Simon Munawa, Eric Mudzingwa, Arial Sibanda and new signing Roderick Mutuma and Warriors fringe player Prince Dube to call upon.
This afternoon, Bosso face Bulawayo City in a derby they are largely expected to win.
What they said:
Erol Akbay — “I had a long chat with him (Mutuma) on the potential he has. He doesn’t know himself. It’s quite amazing the possibilities that he has. I don’t like to speak about single players but I will make an exception because I feel Mutuma is a great player. I know that he is a fantastic finisher but I think he can still improve a lot. I am seeing a good attitude from Mutuma – to work and to improve in different situations and I have given him a 20-goal target. He must score not less than 20 goals and he knows.
Mandla Mpofu — “Last season the team finished in the top eight. To me it is a remarkable achievement for a team coming from a lower division. It must be a starting point for us this season. We have to try and maintain the position or do better this season. We also looked for experienced players to try and better what we did last season or maybe maintain. We really want to do our best for our fans, Bulawayo and all the people who follow soccer. We will do our best not to disappoint.”