CHICKEN Inn — in only their second year in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) — are eyeing a place in Africa next season after they closed down the gap between themselves and third-placed Monomotapa to one point on Wednesday.
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The Adam Ndlovu-coached side thrashed Blue Rangers 5-1 to move to 46 points and fourth place, while Monomotapa fell 1-0 to Gunners, but remained in third position with 47 points.
Last year, Chicken Inn finished eighth on the log standings in their maiden appearance in the league.
Monomotapa’s run faces a further threat this Sunday as they play defending champions Dynamos at Rufaro Stadium, while Chicken Inn have an easy away date against relegated Quelaton at Luveve Stadium.
Zimbabwe has retained two slots in the Champions League and two in the Confederation Cup, but the high-profile champions competition is Chicken Inn’s target if they finish in third place. Highlanders, who could finish either first or second, are banned from participating in the inter-club competitions for the next two years.
Club secretary Tavengwa Hara said they would welcome a top-four-finish, as the curtain comes down on this year’s league.
“It will be good for us to finish in the top four because our sponsors promised to support us if we managed to qualify for any Confederation of African Football competition,” he said.
The club is bankrolled by fast-foods chain Chicken Inn, who fall under conglomerate Innscor Africa’s banner.
Hara said they were confident they had a good team that could pose a strong challenge against other African teams.
“We have experienced players who have played in such competitions before, so that is going to help us. We have quality in the team and had it not been for a few slip-ups, we could also be fighting for the championship,” he said.
Veteran defender Hebert Dick, who has seen action in Poland, is rated as one of the most experienced players for Chicken Inn, while the likes of Evans Chikwaikwai, Guide Goddard and Tendai Ndoro have played international football before.
They might add the veteran pair of former Highlanders defenders Zephaniah Ngodzo and Gilbert Banda next season. Hara said unity had been the driving force behind the team’s success.
“We have been able to play well because we have good sponsorship, good leadership and a good technical team. There is also unity in the team,” he said.
Ndlovu is a Caf C Licence holder and one of Highlanders and Warriors legends who played international football in Switzerland and South Africa. Zimbabwean teams have over the years failed to make a mark in the African safari, but Hara said they would fully prepare for the competition as they did not want to follow the poor trend.
Only Dynamos have reached the Champions League final, while Monomotapa managed to reach the mini-league phase.
Highlanders, Hwange, FC Platinum, Motor Action, AmaZulu, Caps United and Gunners fell by the wayside in the early stages of the competitions.
“We are going to embark on a number of international games the moment we are confirmed,” the former Njube Sundowns secretary and PSL board member (competitions) said.
This season, Dynamos and FC Platinum played in the Champions League with Hwange and Motor Action taking the two Confederation Cup slots.
Zimbabwe is ranked 11th with 13 points from 12 countries that have two slots — Tunisia (100 points), Nigeria (70 points), Egypt (64 points), Morocco (62 points), DRC (49 points), Sudan (47 points), Algeria (43 points), Cameroon (19 points), Angola (18 points), Mali (16 points) and Zimbabwe (13 points). Tied on position 12 are Libya and Ivory Coast (11 points).
The Confederation Cup is for winners of the Mbada Diamonds Cup, whose semi-finals take place next weekend pitting Dynamos and FC Platinum, and Monomotapa against Caps United.