The first half of the 2018 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League race has been particularly disappointing for traditional giants of local football Highlanders, CAPS United and Dynamos.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
It’s not every time that the “Big Three” struggle in the same season; in fact, it’s a new phenomenon in the local league.
At this stage CAPS United are ranked the highest in fourth place, a massive 15 points behind leaders FC Platinum with Highlanders in sixth place while Dynamos sit ninth, 24 points off the pace.
Alarming is the fact that the gulf in class between the traditional giants and the platinum miners seems to widen with each passing week.
Many would be quick to point to financial muscle as the reason for the contrasting fortunes, but it would be interesting to note that these emerging giants take the lead in terms of professionalism and good governance.
The big question is: what will it take for the perennial giants to bridge the gap?
Highlanders, who have already set out on a developmental project that will ensure they bring back the glory days, are not panicking as yet.
“We are happy with what we have achieved so far; of what we are trying to do at the club. We do not envy FC Platinum or Ngezi Platinum because we actually think it’s good for local football as it pulls everyone up,” Bosso chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube said.
“It’s a year of creating a philosophy for us and not challenging for honours, but we are definitely not playing to be relegated this year. Look at how narrowly we lost to both teams playing away from home and these teams have got huge quality that can compete on the African safari. Ours is not an overnight project,” he added.
Meanwhile, the PSL race just turned into a “club” competition involving defending champions FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum Stars and the rest.
Ngezi led the contest for the better part of the first half of the campaign only to surrender it in the last few weeks after losing three matches on the trot just before the mid-season break.
The Zvishavane-based miners FC Platinum are perched at the top with 44 points from 17 matches, six points ahead of their Ngezi counterparts in second place.
Chicken Inn, who won the league in 2015, occupy third position with 20 points on the board.
One player who has stood head and shoulders above the rest is Shabanie Mine striker David Temwanjira, who leads the goal-scoring charts.
Temwanjira, unheralded at the start of the season, has managed to score nine goals playing for a team mired in the relegation dogfight and at this stage deserves the Soccer Star gong.
However, reigning Soccer Star of the Year Rodwell Chinyengetere has continued to be a vital cog in the FC Platinum engine room and barring any unforeseen circumstances can become the first player since Peter Ndlovu in 1990 and 1991 to retain the individual accolade.
Teammate Winston Mhango has also been majestic in midfield giving shield to the log leaders’ mean defence.
Other top performers in the first half of the season include the Ngezi Platinum trio of Donovan Bernard, Terrence Dzvukamanja and Michael Charamba.
Triangle’s Lameck Nhamo also found blistering form in the first half of the season as well Highlanders’ Adrian Silla and Mclive Phiri.
Harare City had young Tatenda Tumba starring in their matches in a season they escaped division one football by mere luck and veteran striker Ralph Matema has impressed for Yadah FC.
Black Rhinos’ Lot Chiwunga has also been banging in the goals and has been one of the notable performers as well as John Zhuwawo at CAPS United and Bulawayo Chiefs’ Gracious Muleya.
In three months, Ngezi Platinum coach Tonderai Ndiraya has won the coach of the month award twice, emerging victor in March and April, while Norman Mapeza, who missed a significant part of the season, won it once in May.
But this award has easily been won by the coach who lifts the league title With the way things are going, FC Platinum could run away with the league title and the only team that looks set to give them a challenge is Ngezi Platinum.