Newly-promoted Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Hardbody are racing against time to assemble a formidable squad capable of standing ground in their maiden dance in the elite league, with just two weeks left before the new season kicks off.
Facing a bleak future, the Gweru side decamped three weeks ago, but will regroup on Monday following their confirmation as Zifa Central Region champions by the Commercial Arbitration Centre on Wednesday.
This marks the return of Premiership football to Gweru after a three-year barren spell since Chapungu were relegated at the end of 2008.
This also put to a close a protracted off-field promotional dispute between the busmen and Tripple B where the Beitbridge side was contesting Hardbody’s alleged ineligible use of midfielder Tatenda Chingarah in 14 matches last season.
The Arbitral Panel of retired judge Justice Anthony Gubbay and Muchadeyi Masunda “dismissed in its entirety” Tripple B’s appeal seeking an overturn the Appeals Committee ruling to restore Hardbody 42 points that had been docked by the Zifa Central Region Disciplinary Committee.
After emerging from this gruelling and bruising promotional battle, Hardbody have now shifted focus on their new life in the more taxing Premiership, hoping to survive the choppy waters of the top-flight league.
Club chairman Patrick Chikwanda is optimistic of a bright future.
“We will not disappoint the Gweru community. We will not be relegated this season. Of course, we had stopped our preparations because we were facing an uncertain future, but we will regroup on Monday and get down to serious business,” said Chikwanda.
“We were worried about all what was happening, but now we are certain of the future. Tavaka Gumbo will remain our coach since he did well with us last season and it would be unfair to part ways with him at this stage,” he said.
Gweru had been awash with rumours of platinum mining giant Unki Mine intending to acquire a stake in Hardbody before the move was stalled by the just-ended battle.
“I cannot confirm or deny that Unkie Mine is coming on board. I can also not confirm or deny that we have held talks with them. If there is anyone interested in partnering us, they are free to do so. Our doors are open to prospective sponsors and partners to join our family,” Chikwanda said.
Coach Gumbo sounded unfazed by the two weeks they are left with before they plunge into their debut Premiership campaign.
“We are not worried about being relegated because my players are fit since they have been training with other clubs. We will just start our own training again on Monday to fine-tune combinations,” said Gumbo.
“I want to have more local players in my team. But I am targeting three big names that I cannot name at the moment.”
Before the busmen broke camp, former Masvingo United and Highlanders midfielder Simbarashe Gate trained with them together with forgotten diminutive winger Wellington Sibanda, formerly with Lancashire Steel and Bosso.
Michael Mageja was training with them after dumping Shabanie Mine, while Erea Phiri from Blue Ribbon also had a run with the club before he left for Shabanie Mine.
In one of their friendly matches, Hardbody got a rude test of their pedigree with a 4-0 clobbering by the Chinda Boys at Maglas Stadium.
The busmen lost Moses Jackson to Chicken Inn, but their striker Callisto Maheya who was the Central Region League top marksman, is set to illuminate Ascot Stadium in a Gweru community notorious for their apathy to Premiership matches.