The ManicaPost

Ray Bande Senior Reporter|
THE 2019 Castel Lager Premiership championship chasing quartet of log leaders Caps United, FC Platinum, Chicken Inn and ZPC Kariba have already conceded six or more defeats so far, an unprecedented increase from the five defeats or less that eventual league winners have been conceding in more than half a decade now.

The latest development has opened a Pandora’s box with some pundits arguing that this is evidence of increased competition in the country’s top-flight league while others believed it is a clear expression of mediocrity on the part of this year’s eventual league winners.

For the past six years, Castle Lager Premiership eventual winners have been on the receiving end five times the entire season or even less.

In 2013, Dynamos won the league title after getting beaten only four times throughout the season and went on to retain the league end of season silverware the following year after losing five matches at the end of the 2014 season.

Joey Antiaps’ Chicken Inn lifted the Castle Lager Premiership title in 2015 after having been on the receiving end only five times while in 2016 CAPS United won the same accolade after conceding a minimal three defeats the entire season.

Zvishavane miners FC Platinum took over the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League championship under Norman Mapeza in 2017 after losing only two matches albeit having played more matches given the increase on the number of PSL teams that year.

Last season, Mapeza, who is now at Chippa United in South Africa’s ABSA Premiership, guided the Zvishavane platinum miners to a successful title defence with only four defeats at the end of the season.

But today, with five rounds of league matches before the curtain comes down on the 2019 season, Castel Lager Premiership championship chasing quartet of log leaders Caps United, FC Platinum, Chicken Inn and ZPC Kariba have already conceded six or more defeats.

Current log leaders CAPS United have already suffered a massive eight defeats while second-placed FC Platinum has already conceded six defeats.

Chicken Inn, dark horses in this year’s Castle Lager Premiership title race lying third on the table, have been roasted eight times so far while ZPC Kariba who still enjoy a mathematical chance to clinch the title have been defeated eight times so far.

The question that quickly comes to mind is whether this amounts to increase in competition in the domestic top-flight league or it is ample testimony of deteriorating standards where champions are just as mediocre as fellow league affiliates.

Mutare-based staunch Liverpool supporter Aaron “Boss Chevat” Chemvura said: “One is tempted to say improved competition but really I think it is the dearth in quality of our league. This is evidenced by our lacklustre performance in the regional club competitions. The dip in form of the traditional big three — Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps — seems to have rubbed off onto the rest of the other teams. The well- funded big three of Ngezi, FC Platinum and Harare have failed to come to the party as they hardly command significant supporters across the country. The poor crowds at matches have dampened the yesteryear spirit of competition in the domestic league.”

Mutare football benefactor James Lunga Meya, who has helped many youngsters in the eastern border city materially and financially in their pursuit for a professional football career dream, said: “Most teams currently chasing the championship title are lacking consistency and so far there is not even one team that has gone for more than five to six wins consecutive. Another aspect is depth and quality in all the teams’ current squads and most teams have average players and don’t have those special team players that can change the game into a match winner and even from the top goal- scorers, Augusto left Zimbabwe to join South African Pietermaritzburg United as a top goalscorer and still there is no one able to overtake his goal tally.”

Former Mutare City FC chairman Tatenda Nhamarare said: “To me, it is not increased icompetition but merely that teams are now almost at par due to recycling of old players for example at CAPS United we have Ngodzo, Chungwa, Dynamos with Simba Nhivi, Edward Sadomba, Murwira, Chicken Inn with Matawu, Kadonzvo, Moses Jackson, FC Platinum have Gift Mbweti, Chinyengetere, Mhari, Ngezi, Amin, Mabvura and at Manica Diamonds there is Jaure, Marere, Mudehwe and you see all these names are tried and tested and we don’t have youngsters making headlines in our league. They are all not championship material but mediocre performers and that is how the standards of football have gone down in Zimbabwe.”

Zifa First Instance Body chairperson Piraishe Mabhena said: “The lack of consistency in the leading pack is very apparent and I would attribute this to many factors. Firstly, for both CAPS and FC Platinum — the departure of both their coaches both at crucial times does present challenges. For most teams, Bosso, DeMbare, Manica and others changes in the coaches as well. Suddenly, Highlanders is now very, very competitive since the arrival of the foreign coach. Imagine if they had started like that.

“The economic factors as well. It is not easy to motivate the boys to play week in, week out for nothing! Most PSL teams just do not have the financial muscle to compete at that stage. This causes teams to blow hot and cold.

“Fixture congestion is also another factor. Triangle have a very good team which can beat any team in the PSL on any given day but playing three matches every seven days is no mean task and as a result the burnout affects their results. FC Platinum are also in the same boat in this regard. As it stands Triangle have backlogs in the league and the Chibuku Cup, games are coming hard and fast so are injuries and suspensions.

“In a nutshell, changes in coaches for all title chasers, fixture congestion and the economy could be attributed to some of these inconsistent performances.”

Simba Wisdom, the Zifa Eastern Region secretary and acting vice chairperson, said: “My own observation is there is more competition in our league than the previous seasons where you find only two or three teams dominating year in year out, it was Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United.”

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