THE year 2017 will go down in history as the most successful and memorable for the Midlands, the Central Region Soccer League strong-hold as records and jinxes were broken while a new piece was engraved in the history of local football.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA IN GWERU
Zvishavane-based FC Platinum brought the Harare-Bulawayo’s almost half a century stranglehold on domestic football to a screeching halt by becoming the first team outside of the two major cities to grab the big gong since St Paul Musami in 1966.
It was the same year in which FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza won the Coach of the Year award — becoming the second coach outside of Harare and Bulawayo since former Shabanie Mine coach Solomon Kaseke who won it in 2001 after a sterling season with the Chinda boys.
To cap the season in style, the Platinum duo of lanky forward Rodwell Chinyengetere and defender Kelvin Moyo led the perking order of the 2017 Stars list.
By virtue of winning the league for the first time after a six-year wait, the financially stable Kugona Kunenge Kudada — as Platinum are affectionately known — accounted for their second silverware after they won the much-coveted Chibuku Super Cup in 2014.
The platinum miners sweetened their sensational story by winning the priceless Castle Challenge Cup played in commemoration of the Premier Soccer League’s 25th anniversary.
Just over 71km away from Zvishavane, another new fairytale was written in the scenic town of Shurugwi when former Chapungu gaffer John Nyikadzino inspired a virtually unknown perk in Nichrut FC to the topflight league for the first time in their history, in what was dubbed one of the most thrilling seasons in the region in recent years.
The gold miners gave Shurugwi a facelift by bringing Premier Soccer League football to one of the country’s mineral-rich towns, in turn making it a record four teams from the region since it was weaned from the Southern Region in 2010.
For Central Region chairman, Stanley Chapeta, 2017 was the year of breaking new ground.
“Records were broken and no one can doubt that the Central Region is a beacon in the Zimbabwean football landscape.
“All teams that come from our region made good strides; FC Platinum took the country by surprise by breaking a long-standing record and Nichrut brought Premier Soccer League to Shurugwi for the first time in history.
“We have produced players that played for the national teams, players that were absorbed by local giants and even continental powerhouses.
“This one is for us to celebrate new history, ending records that seemed impossible to break; but glory to God victory is ours.
“It is evident that the region has a lot of potential, now that we will have four teams and we can even have more teams from this region joining, but it is now a challenge to every club in our region to invest in developing our game starting from juniors, ” said Chapeta.
Champions FC Platinum, air force side Chapungu, cash strapped Shabanie Mine and newbies Nichrut form the quartet that will represent the region in the prestigious Castle Lager Premier Soccer League next year.
FC Platinum will also test themselves against the finest teams on the continent in the prestigious CAF Champions League.
However, as the season approached, the home stretch in a ding dong style — both in the title chase and the relegation dogfight — some had already tagged Shabanie Mine as relegation candidates as their financial woes had a ripple effects on their performance.
But the spirited Bvaru Bvaru proved their mettle on the last day to secure their spot in the topflight league.
Clashes between supporters and the executive over club ownership are, however, causing tension at the cash-strapped club, but being the heartthrob of Zvishavane, the Bvaru Bvaru legacy seems far from over.
For Zifa Midlands chairman, Brain Austin Chishanga, 2017 was the best year during his tenure in office.
“This was the best year. We enjoyed every minute of football from both our region and the premier league.
“And for our teams to achieve great, it means big for us as Zifa Midlands and our region.
“Well-done to FC Platinum, I wish them the best as they venture into the African safari and congratulations to Nichrut for bringing Premier Soccer League to the small town of Shurugwi,” said Chishanga.
In recent years, the Northern Region had more teams but the pendulum shifted as the Southern Region took many spots in the league last year with seven teams, although three teams were relegated during the just ended-season.
And now with the pendulum in no one’s hands and a new season looming, the Central Region is not to be underrated.
Indeed, it was a year to remember!!