HomeSportNo threat to big four

No threat to big four

SUNDAY marks the 30th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s Independence.

In sports terms, the Independence Trophy was for a long time the symbol of those celebrations. It became an acclaimed cup competition on the Zimbabwean football calendar.

Over the last five years — due to some strange administrative decisions — the Independence Trophy lost its stature, which mirrored the actual national day itself.

It has not recovered ever since.
The latest boob was the decision by the organisers to deny relegated Njube Sundowns the opportunity to defend their title this year.

Even the final on Sunday between old foes Dynamos and Highlanders is not expected to breathe life into this fading competition.

So as the weekend approaches, the anticipation is not for a Cup final as should be the case, but the start of the 2010 Premier Soccer League season.

We looked at the teams that finished in the top four last season and noted that the “Old Order” is likely to dominate again.

Defending champions Gunners come into the new season with an intact squad.
They have retained Ramson Zhuwawo, the country’s best player last season, and reliable goal-scorer Norman Maroto.

Goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube is arguably the finest in the land.
Playmaker Willard Katsande, acquired from Mutare side Highway last season, is not just slowly gaining in confidence, but pundits are already comparing him with some of Zimbabwe’s best players of the past in his position.

In addition, Gunners have signed Zimbabwe defender Daniel Veremu and wingback Asani Nhongo, who should add value to the side.

The acrimonious departure of their championship-winning coach Moses Chunga might have opened a hole, but the small Harare club has already shown great potential early on, only escaping with an aggregate 2-1 defeat to African club giants Al Ahly in the first round of the African Champions League.
The early exit from the continent may come as a blessing in disguise too as they only now have the local competitions to deal with.

Runners-up Dynamos, many people’s pre-season favourites, lost four players to Congolese outfit FC Lupopo at the end of last season.

But in all honesty, these are players who can easily be replaced by Dynamos standards.
Credit to Dembare, they managed to return the one player who would have been very hard to replace: prolific striker Cuthbert Malajila.

Central midfielder Ashley Rambanepasi — who as captain of their Harare rivals Caps United did the unimaginable by crossing the Great Divide to Dynamos — is a massive addition to the team’s engine room.

And in trickery winger Farai Vimisayi, they have acquired one of the most talented forwards in the league.

Of the top four, the club that has been hit the hardest is Caps United. Any club that loses its four best players at the same time is bound to struggle to maintain a level.

Star striker Nyasha Mushekwi and defender Method Mwanjali were signed by Mamelodi Sundowns, Ajax Cape Town captured lively winger Tafadzwa Rusike and roving wide player Oscar Machapa will turn out for Moroka Swallows.

These four were influential in United’s impressive surge to a third position finish after an indifferent start to the season.

They will be available for the Green Machine for the first month or so of the new season, but Lloyd Chitembwe will find it hard to find new combinations thereafter.

Highlanders, who finished fourth last season, will surprise even themselves if they manage a serious challenge for the championship.

They retained the bulk of their players, but it is those same players who struggled to keep up with the leading sides last season.

They will rely heavily on veterans Bekhitemba Ndlovu, Joel Luphahla and Siza Khoza, who have returned home to their boyhood clubs after mixed fortunes outside the country.
But then again, the trio’s best days are behind them.

 

Ashley Marimo

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