BY HENRY MHARA
NGEZI Platinum Stars coach Rodwell Dhlakama is predicting a fascinating Castle Lager Premier Soccer League race which will involve at least seven teams fighting for the title.
Teams have been very active in the transfer market ahead of the new season, with the traditional big three – Dynamos, Caps United and Highlanders – leading the way.
Dynamos have confirmed 13 new signings so far and Caps have welcomed over 17 new arrivals, while Bulawayo giants Highlanders have been equally busy on the market.
FC Platinum have announced more than 10 new players so far, including foreigners, while Ngezi Platinum Stars unveiled 12 new players on Wednesday.
ZPC Kariba have also rebuilt their squad to meet the potential huge demands of the league as has the well-resourced Harare City.
Dhlakama said most teams had become stronger and this would result in a very competitive league this year. The league is expected to begin in March.
“It is exciting to realise that Dynamos, Caps and Highlanders signed a lot of players and the league is going to be very competitive. That is what we want. We want our football to improve and the only way we can do that is by having the so-called giants playing competitive and good football. Because of the way they have improved their squads, it will be very difficult to beat them. I think the big three will give us a good run, FC Platinum and Chicken Inn as well. All those teams will be very competitive because they have strong squads,” Dhlakama said.
The three big teams have not played to expectation in recent times with FC Platinum taking the league title in the last three years.
Dynamos finished ninth last season, while Caps finished third. Highlanders finished sixth. Their type of play has also been a cause for concern for their supporters and neutrals alike.
“The fans should come to watch good football. They should come to be entertained because this boring type of football that we have seen is scaring away supporters as well as the sponsors. As Ngezi, we are saying we want to move a step further as far as that is concerned, that supporters will come in their multitudes to watch football,” Dhlakama said.
The former Chapungu coach is also determined that his squad will improve from their performance last year, as they search for that elusive title. He has been given a target to win the league this season.
“Last year, we didn’t do well by our standards, finishing fourth was not good enough. What I can assure the nation and the Mhondoro-Ngezi community is that the team is much stronger than what was there last year because we retained most of the key players and managed to beef up the team with quality players.”
To achieve the target, Dhlakama made a massive recruitment to beef up his squad with the talents of players like 2012 Soccer Star of the Year Denver Mukamba, multiple league winner Devon Chafa and last year’s Soccer Star of the Year finalist Wellington Taderera.
However, it is the addition of Mukamba that could potentially tip the scales in favour of Ngezi Platinum Stars in the race for the title this year.
“There is no doubt about Denver’s talent. He is a rare talent and I want to develop him. If I don’t see him in the national team at the end of this year, then I would have failed. He has been there (national team) before and at one stage captaining the team. He was also a Soccer Star of the Year at one point so we want to put him where he belongs. If we utilise him well, and if he can play to his potential, then we stand a good chance (of winning the title),” said Dhlakama, who has worked with Mukamba at Chapungu and when he was the Under 17 national team coach.
He also singled out Nigel Makumbe, Taderera and Chafa, who has won a record seven league titles, for praise.
“We have quite a handful of very good players,” Dhlakama said.
As part of their preparations for the upcoming season, Ngezi is expected to travel to South Africa where they will play pre-season friendly matches with that country’s big teams.