Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Bulawayo
THE 2016 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season is due to kick-off in the last week of March or first week of April as the league tries to accommodate a number of international and sanctioned pre-season cup tournaments.
There will be three pre-season cup matches and four international matches involving the country’s representatives in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup, Chicken Inn and Harare City respectively as well as the Warriors.
PSL chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele said they had received ZIFA’s calendar of events for 2016 and could now draw up their own calendar factoring in the mother-body’s special dates.
“ZIFA have given us their calendar and our season must be structured along that calendar. We want to accommodate international matches so that those teams involved will not start by postponing their games,” said Ndebele.
“Our Warriors are also in action in the African Cup of Nations qualifier against Swaziland, so we don’t want to disturb their preparations. We must give them enough time to prepare,” he said.
Chicken Inn and Harare City begin their journey in the African safari in the second week of February.
Chicken Inn take on in-form South African side Mamelodi Sundowns in the first leg of the CAF Champions League preliminary round at Luveve Stadium on February 13 before travelling to South Africa for the second leg on February 26.
Harare City will also be at home to Madagascar’s AS Adema in the CAF Confederation Cup on February 13 before flying to the Indian Ocean island nation for the return leg on February 26. The 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers resume in March with Zimbabwe travelling to Mbabane for a tricky date with Swaziland on March 23 before hosting Isihlangu for the return leg four days later.
“Besides these international matches, we have to slot in the Bob 92 Cup, the ZNA Army Charities Shield as well as the Independence Cup although we are yet to hear from ZIFA and the Government on what plans there are for the Uhuru Cup this year,” said Ndebele. The Bob92 Cup, held to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s birthday, is traditionally held in February or early March.
Ndebele said the knock-out rounds for both the ZNA Charities Shield and the Independence Cup are likely to be held before the beginning of the season. The delayed start to the season could be a blessing in disguise for teams such as How Mine, Highlanders and Triangle United who do not yet have substantive coaches on the ground.
The three teams are all presently under the guidance of interim coaches for their pre-season training, although How Mine announced that they would be unveiling their coach this week.
Bulawayo giants Highlanders are under the care of newly-appointed assistant coach Amini Soma-Phiri and veteran Cosmas Zulu, who is set to be named goalkeepers’ coach, in the new technical set up to be led by Dutchman Erol Akbay. Bosso are yet to secure a work permit for Akbay and the process will only start after they get his police clearance from the Netherlands.