After five month break, the eight month Castle Lager Premier Soccer League roars into life this weekend in what promises to be a period of exciting football.
Most of the clubs have been busy on the transfer market and others like Dynamos and Highlanders have hired foreign coaches all with the dream of winning Zimbabwe’s biggest football competition. Fans, however, would never have wanted a far much better start to the season than a game between defending champions Chicken Inn and last season’s runners up Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium Saturday.
Chicken Inn made a bold statement of their intention to retain their title with a gutsy performance against South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns before losing the Caf Champions League show 2-1 on aggregate.
On the premise of that display, the Game Cocks start off as favourites against a team whose pedigree has not yet been fully tested.
More importantly is the fact that Dynamos are starting afresh following the arrival of new coach Portuguese national Jorge Silva who replaced Tondarai Ndiraya at the end of last season.
However, club chairman Keni Muwaiwa has warned Silva that he will also be fired if he fails to deliver in the first four games of the season.
“Our aim is to win the championship but everything depends on the coach. If he doesn’t deliver our culture is known we fire him,” said Mubaiwa.
The game between the Game Cocks and Dembare is unquestionably the highlight of the start of the season but elsewhere new boys Border Strikers make the long trip to Kariba to face Sunday Chidzambwa’s ZPC.
Chidzambwa has now settled well in Kariba after years in South Africa and the former national team coach says he wants to win all honours on offer this season. “In football, you may win, lose or draw, but I would love to win as many honours as I can,” said Chidzambwa.
There are other matches on Saturday with last season’s third placed team FC Platinum hosting Tsholotsho Pirates while the game between newboys Mutare City and Ngezi Platinum Stars is waiting for ground confirmation.
On Sunday, Caps United are at home to Chapungu hoping for a better start to the season. Farai Jere has taken over from Twine Phiri as club owner but has tasked the running of the club to chairman Lewis Uriri.
Uriri has no illusions about their intentions saying they need a cup treble this season including the league championship.
“The truth is that we are contending for honours. Personally, I am looking at a treble, the NetOne Cup, the Chibuku Cup and of course the championships. They should go where they belong to the Green Machine,” said Uriri.
Not to be outdone are Harare City. The Harare City fathers are hoping to use the experience garnered in the Caf Confederation Cup for a better show on the domestic scene.
Although they are on the road to hard-to-beat at home Triangle, coach Taurayi Mangwiro thinks his team will be strong challengers for the championships.
“We should be able to form, even a more formidable challenge,” said Mangwiro.
Highlanders who are on a roll after reaching the Zimbabwe National Army Charities final are also on the road to the Colliery where they should not expect any favours from Hwange.
From what has been happening during the off season, the serious challengers for the title look like the normal contenders, Chicken Inn, Highlanders, Dynamos, FC Platinum and to a lesser extent, Caps United.
So, let the games begin.