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All set for PSL’s winner takes all

insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI

There is no better way to decide a football championship than what is on the cards in Zimbabwean football this season – a winner takes all match on the final day — unless something out of the ordinary happens in week 33 of the 34 game-season.

Events on the ground seem to suggest that the winner between CAPS United and FC Platinum in their last game of the season would be crowned the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions, unless Black Rhinos shocks FC Platinum and CAPS United wins against Ngezi Platinum Stars in the their next games lined up for December 7.

Or unless both CAPS United and FC Platinum suffer a dramatic collapse and allow third placed Chicken Inn — five points behind CAPS United, and three behind Platinum — to claw back into contention after a major setback.

Although it would be unfair to lightly dismiss the Gamecocks from the equation, — the 3-1 defeat to Bulawayo Chiefs — did not do any good to their challenge and their matches against relegation threatened Herentals and TelOne do not look all that promising.

In the event that CAPS United draws or loses in Mhondoro-Ngezi, and Kugona Kunenge Kudada — as expected — steamrolls over Black Rhinos, it will be game on, on the last day of the season, and what a better way to decide the destiny of the title in a country where there are now huge fears of match fixing.

It is a coincidence that the fixtures were programmed that way and that league championship could be decided that way but it is good for Zimbabwean football because it avoids foul play allegations on the last day of play, which in the process could tarnish the proceedings of the whole season.

Whoever came up with the fixtures for the 2019 season — maybe it’s a computer program — never thought this would be the scenario at the end of the season but football fans are happy that at least the best team of the season would be decided by the outcome of the match between the two leading teams throughout the year.

In the event that that happens, the game between Makepekepe and Kugona Kunenge Kudada at the National Sports Stadium could turn out to be the biggest fixture since the Premier Soccer League was rebranded the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League in 2011.

There has never been a time in the past eight years that the two contesting teams have met in the last game of the season, neither is there anywhere in Zimbabwean football history where the teams that were neck-to-neck in the race have met in the deciding game of the season.

What is interesting is the fact that none-of the strongest title contenders, CAPS United and FC Platinum was consistent otherwise by now, there should have been a clear indication as who would take the championship. On several occasions the Green Machine got the opportunity to open up a huge lead and on all those occasions, they blew it.

The same happened to FC Platinum, who did not use their chance when they got it but credit should also go to them for the manner they have managed to stay afloat despite losing their long serving coach Norman Mapeza who left for South Africa to join Chippa United.

The Zvishavane based defending champions also had the Caf Champions League to contend with but managed to keep their feet on the ground and are in the group stages of the biggest club continental tournament and also still favourites to retain their domestic title.

Even more interesting was the fact that the league leadership also changed hands on several occasions with the likes of Black Rhinos and ZPC Kariba also having the opportunity to enjoy the sun at the summit of the 18-team assembly but found it hard to stay there for long.

Also of interest is the fact that of the top four teams, three of them — FC Platinum, Chicken Inn and ZPC Kariba — are corporate sponsored with only Caps United, the individually sponsored team in that grouping.

Even the so called popular community teams, Dynamos and Highlanders are struggling to come to grips with the competition with Highlanders in fifth place and Dynamos way back in seventh position.

This clearly shows that these days it is money that talks in football. Clubs that have huge financial investment are the ones that are doing well and that could be the reason why FC Platinum have managed — for two years in succession — to reach the mini league stage of the Caf Champions League, and also dominate the game back at home.

However, this year, the situation is different for FC Platinum as they have to prove against their biggest and strongest opponents — on the last day of play — that they are the best Zimbabwe has to offer and for that matter away at the National Sports Stadium.

To be crowned 2019 Zimbabwe champions, FC Platinum have to beat CAPS United or CAPS United will have to beat FC Platinum to wrest that crown away from Kugona Kunenge Kudada. It is an interesting winner-take-all battle – the best way to decide a football championship.

On a lighter note, While Caps United, and FC Platinum fans are waiting anxiously for the events to unfold, Dynamos fans are probably the happiest in the land.

The reason: Their team was the most consistent this season, drawing 17 of their games and all of them in succession. What a record!
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