BY TERRY MADYAUTA THE 2021-22 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season reached the halfway point and with it a clearer idea of how every club stacks up ahead of a potential thrilling second round.
While plenty of twists and turns remain in this campaign, a handful of clubs have proved they are a cut above the rest, while an unfortunate few are likely to battle to preserve their top-flight status.
But what has been depressing at this point are the attendance levels at most of these PSL matches.
Attendance numbers have drastically dwindled since the return of football post the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Calls have been made for the PSL to reduce their gate charges, nevertheless they have remained adamant that the current USD $3 rest of ground charge is viable.
In terms of competition in the offing, defending champions FC Platinum have been performing fairly for a team that is considered champions especially after their massive culling at the start of the season.
But they find themselves trailing behind early pacesetters, Chicken Inn and Dynamos who amassed 35 and 34 points respectively, with 31 points on their tally.
Manica Diamonds and Triangle gave a good account of themselves early in this campaign but seem to have fizzled out towards the break, dropping to forth and fifth position respectively.
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Giants Highlanders, like Caps United, have not really done well.
They are performing well in big games only to falter in small games. The Bulawayo giants are pinning their hopes on their new expatriate coach Brito to turn around their fortunes in the second half of the season.
Two of Bosso’s matches against FC Platinum and Dynamos, which were abandoned after violent scenes are yet to be settled by the PSL disciplinary committee, but at the halfway mark, they have 20 points on their tally, averaging 1.1 goal per match.
For Caps United, it has been a forgettable experience on and off the field of play.
The mid-season break has infact brought a welcome respite for the Green Machine in the middle of one of their worst episodes in history, and last weekend’s thrashing by Dynamos was their sixth loss in a row.
As it stands they are just one defeat away from matching their worst ever run when they lost seven straight matches in 2012.
Caps United currently lie on 12th position with 17 points, one above Cranborne Bullets sitting on the relegation cut-off point.
Even their coach Lloyd Chitembwe has openly admitted that they have to work extra hard to come out of the mess they found themselves in.
On the other hand Ngezi Platinum have had some problems with figuring out how to function properly and Benjani Mwaruwari who came to their rescue is plotting a massive culling of old horses to pave way for youthful players.
Their defeat at the hands of lowly WhaWha before the break sent the Warriors legend on a soul searching mission of how he can sustain the ambitious club’s objectives, that had been well on course until the club parted ways with Rodwell Dhlakama.
The Mhondoro based side sit on seventh position with 25 points on their tally.
On the contrary, the four clubs that were promoted into premiership have all but remained resident in the drop zone since start of the season except for Tenax that have given an element of surprise in some instances.
The prison wardens have managed to display performances that have kept them consistently above the drop zone, where their sister club, WhaWha and Bulawayo City, have remained fixated from the bottom in that order.
The previously menacing ZPC Kariba have been a pale shadow of itself and they complete the relegation quartet along with armyside Craneborne Bullets.
Above all, this season has unleashed teenage sensations, Dynamos’ Bill Antonio and FC Platinum’s Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya, that look set to be embroiled in a thrilling race for the rookie of the year award.
Ngwenya has banged seven goals so far and is tied on the same number of goals with 21-year-old forward Jayden Barake, who plays for WhaWha.
The golden boot race, on the otherhand has all of a sudden remained stagnant, with Caps’ William Manondo, Chicken Inn’s Brian Muza and Nyasha Chintuli of Manica Diamonds remaining fixated on nine goals.a