The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League race goes on a two-week break from July 18 to 29 to give players in the local top-flight league time to rest after a gruelling 15 games, which amounts to half the soccer season.
The players surely need to rest, but this is also an opportunity for league administrators and other stakeholders to come together and review the PSL standards to see whether the game is improving or going down.
A point in question is the performance of Zimbabwe’s clubs in pan-African football. Each year Zimbabwean clubs are being eliminated in the early stages of the Caf Champions League and the Caf Confederation Cup.
Statistics show that a number of southern African countries and others have overtaken Zimbabwean clubs — who at one time were widely regarded as the flag-bearers of southern African club football.
Take for example South Africa. In 2015, Orlando Pirates were in the final of the Caf Confederation Cup before losing 2-1 to Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel and right now Mamelodi Sundowns are riding on the crest of a wave in the group stages of the Caf Champions League, with six points from two games.
Our neighbours Zambia have Zesco United in the mini league stage of the 2016 Caf Champions League, not to mention Tanzania, whose club sides Young Africans and Simba Stars have had regular appearances in the group stages of both the pan-African competitions.
Right now, Young Africans are in the Caf Confederation Cup group stages.
Yet, Zimbabwe’s 2015 champions Chicken Inn and Chibuku Trophy winners Harare City, have long forgotten they participated on the African football stage after being knocked out even before the real competition had begun.
FC Platinum made an attempt at the Caf Confederation Cup in 2015 but their appearance also ended in disaster after the miners were sent packing in the second round by Young Africans after a 5-1 aggregate defeat.
One wonders what has gone wrong with the country that had a proud tradition in African club football competitions.
Dynamos reached the final of the Caf Champions League in 1998 and the semifinals 10 years later, in addition to group stage appearances in 1999 and 2000.
For their part, modest Monomotapa added another chapter against all odds. They reached the group stages of the 2010 Caf Champions League where they gave a good show and finished third in their group.
So what has gone wrong with our club football, considering that the set up that was there in 1998 is the same one in the premiership today?
There have been suggestions that Zimbabwean clubs are losing their top players to South African clubs before their continental campaigns, which was affecting their performance. That, however, is far from the truth.
How many players did Chicken Inn lose to South African clubs before the start of the 2016 Caf Champions League? None.
How many players left the Harare City books before their Caf Confederation Cup preliminary round game against AS Adema of Madagascar? None.
When FC Platinum embarked on their bid for the Caf Confederation Cup in 2015, they went with the same team that won the Chibuku Super Cup and finished third in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League race.
What is ironic is that the Zimbabwe national teams made up of players within the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League have also failed to make an impression in pan-African football.
The team that went to the Africa Nations championships in Rwanda came home with only a point, without scoring a single goal in three matches.
A real competitive football nation is seen by scoring major successes against other nations and not by getting eliminated in the preliminary rounds, or by qualifying for major finals and then being knocked out after the first round.
That Zimbabwean teams are being eliminated in the preliminary stages is evidence enough that the standards of Zimbabwean premiership football have gone down.
This is the PSL’s headache and as a country, we need to find a solution.
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