AFTER 10 games of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL), Chicken Inn have remained at the top, with a three-point lead over second-placed Triangle and defending champions Dynamos.
BY WELLINGTON TONI
It’s 20 more games to play and the title, like it has happened in the last four years, is likely to be decided at the death, but certainly, a good dish is being served for now.
Let’s enjoy it!
Chicken Inn — A solid management team led by Lifa Ncube veteran administrator Tawengwa Hara and experienced coach Joey Antipas, the message from the leaders is a clear: We are playing to avoid relegation and we are now 17 points clear of the drop!
That message is completely different from the players’ desires. It’s early days, but let’s keep pushing, they say. Seven wins from 10 matches, plus two draws and a loss have given Antipas’ men 23 points. They have scored 15 times and conceded six goals.
They have posted three big wins so far: FC Platinum 1-3, Dynamos 0-3 and Highlanders 2-1 and if they keep going this way, they could still be in the top-three when the league reaches the mid-way stage.
Edmore Chirambadare is rattling nets weekly, Clemence Matawu is discovering his 2006 form, Mitchelle Katsvairo is enjoying a new lease of life since his move from FC Platinum, while Bheki Ncube, Danny Phiri and Mkhokheli Dube are providing all the experience one can think of.
But one man remains the buffer — goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze. Watch him carefully and you could see a future Warriors goalkeeper in the making.
Triangle — They are the league’s top scorers so far, having rattled the nets 25 times. Ten of those goals have come from two matches: 4-0 against Caps United and 6-0 over WhaWha. They have 20 points, three behind leaders Chicken Inn.
They are yet to play Dynamos and Highlanders, but that does not mean Kelvin Kaindu’s men can be taken for granted.
On Sunday, they gave FC Platinum a good run for their money before losing 3-2, but that shows they have the pedigree to keep fighting.
They have lost twice, away only, a record they need to work on. Hillary Bakacheza, Lameck Nhamo, Praise Tonha, Pasca Manhanga, Malvern Gaki and Zambian import Antony Sakala have been marvellous to watch so far and if they don’t lose steam, the One Wallet Cup defending champions could prove a thorn in many a teams’ flesh this season.
They have the technical brains: Kaindu is assisted by Biggie Zuze while Tembo Chuma is the goalkeepers’ coach having produced the goalkeeper of the year winner in the last two seasons.
Dynamos — After three games in which they drew once and lost twice in a row, the defending champions have responded positively with two 1-0 wins against FC Platinum and How Mine, results which have put them in third place with 20 points, the same as Triangle.
They are grinding the results, which is critical, but nine goals in 10 matches shows some deficiency in the strike force. Dominic Chungwa and Kelvin Bulaji are still partying after joining the biggest team in Zimbabwe, but they need to start his delivering.
Simba Nhivi changed surname from Sithole, but the result stayed the same. He is no longer the same Simba from Pamushana High School, who waltzed his way into the PSL with 10 goals in 10 matches under Moses Chunga and swiftly found his name on the books of Mamelodi Sundowns.
Coach David Mandigora needs some bit up front.
Chapungu — Pressure can produce results sometimes. After John Nyikadzino was threatened with the axe, he changed modus operandi and his players responded positively. Five wins in a row have taken the Gweru side from relegation to position four and they are winning home and away. Their biggest victims this season have been the big three: Dynamos (1-0), Highlanders (0-1) and Caps United (0-2).
Should they maintain such a fine start, a top-eight finish at the end of the season is worth dreaming of.
How Mine — The doctor of football Luke Masomere is not getting his diagnosis right. He is guessing. One week, he gets it right, the next week. The diagnosis is horribly wrong, the prescription is terrible and the result is trouble at home.
He has too many old and injury-prone players. He needs a bit of freshness and hunger from his lads then he can start dangling the stethoscope with confidence!
FC Platinum — At this stage of the season, FC Platinum have already lost five matches. This is not good enough for coach Norman Mapeza.
But no one can doubt Mapeza’s pedigree as a coach and two consecutive home wins against How Mine and Triangle clearly show he is up to it.
He has the players, the backing of a supportive management team and FC Platinum, for now, play some of the most attractive football in Zimbabwe unlike other teams’ kick-and-run style, often on potato fields!
The problem at FC Platinum stems from 2011: The standards set by Rahman Gumbo’s 58 points are just too high for any coach and anyone who betters that will clearly win the league title.
But what the George Mawere-led executive has done has been to stand by the coach and give him time to impose his style of play.
If you have players like Wisdom Mutasa, Walter Musona, Donald Ngoma, Thabani Kamusoko, Allen Gahadzikwa, Obrey Chola Chirwa, Francis Tizayi, Gift Bello, Aaron Katebe, Raphael Muduviwa, Kelvin and Elvis Moyo, Nigel Papias and Brian Muzondiwa in your team, surely, results will come at some stage.
Highlanders — Fourteen points from 10 matches; four losses, four wins and two draws is not good enough for new coach Bongani Mafu.
The fans are not happy and the Peter Dube-led executive is close to succumbing to pressure. Leaders Chicken Inn offered no dining place this past Saturday beating the former champions 2-1 at Barbourfields Stadium.
Coaching a big club like Bosso has pressure, clearly, but one needs to rise above that with a good showing at Barbourfields, once a no-go area. But when small boys like Chapungu start winning there, then there is a problem for Mafu.
Gabriel Nyoni and Thomas Chideu are star players and once they come of age, goals will flow, but unfortunately patience is not the game at Bosso: Win, win, win and win!
Is that possible with the current form of leaders Chicken Inn, Triangle, defending champions Dynamos and fast rising Chapungu? No, it’s not.
Caps United — They became the first team to fail to fulfil a fixture this season despite making the 438km journey to Bulawayo in April when they were due to play How Mine.
But financial problems got the better of them and they left in a huff with fans in hot pursuit, leading to the club incurring a $1 250 fine and losing the match 3-0.
The problems have not gone away. Coach Mark Harrison is still facing eviction; club owner Twine Phiri says he wants to sell the club and says anyone not interested in being part of Caps United must pack his bags and go as he is not the author of the country’s economic problems.
Rodreck Mutuma has responded positively!
ZPC Kariba — Last year’s runners-up are the first team to fire a coach this year after Saul Chaminuka and his assistant Godfrey Tamirepi were “suspended” for four weeks following a 2-1 loss to Harare City.
ZPC are now in sixth place with 14 points after three wins, five draws and two losses, not a bad return at all.
But certainly a bad return for a club with too many centres of power battling for control of the club!
Harare City — Good coach, good players, massive investment, but when you don’t win, or you win three times in 10 games that must be really as bad as the City Fathers failing to collect rubbish! Taurai Mangwiro has not found the formula, he is still searching for fluency and teams like City are not always forgiving when results don’t come.
Ask Bigboy Mawiwi — he went from being coach of the year to being jobless!
Hwange — A very slow start to the season has seen them draw seven times, lose twice and win just once, in the process averaging a goal a game.
This is not good enough for Nation Dube and his men. They need to start picking up points, the sooner the better. He has good players in Warriors strikers Evans Rusike and Pritchard Mpelele and just needs that Midas touch to turn them into match winners.
Tsholotsho, Whawha — The big boys’ league is not for the fainthearted and yo-yo teams! One season in, one season out. Tsholotsho has at least won twice while WhaWha, despite also winning twice, have been smacked for 6-0 twice as well.
Buffaloes — Financial problems aside and being dumped by a coach two weeks before the season started is no excuse for failing to win games.
Flame Lily — You are here to compete. Please do so and you will survive relegation. And, almost forgot, sort out that potato field of yours called Larfarge!
Dongo Sawmill — Ten games no win, this is no kindergarten, and certainly Division One football is calling.
Unless, by some miracle Prophet Walter Magaya buys the team, injects cash and motivates the players, then perhaps there could be a big fight for survival at the bottom.