Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
HIGHLANDERS’ Flying Dutchman, Hendrik Pieter de Jongh, has questioned the professionalism of the domestic Premiership after the top-flight league came up with a full programme of fixtures during this FIFA international football week.
The Bosso coach even joked he could field himself in his team’s league match against Ngezi Platinum Stars at Barbourfields today in an apparent jab at a system that comes up with league matches during the window set aside by the world football governing body for international matches.
The match at Barbourfields is a dress rehearsal of the 2019 Chibuku Super Cup final which will see the two teams clash after they emerged triumphant in their semi-finals at the weekend.
The PSL leadership have said that their rules and regulations stipulate that matches can only be put on hold for clubs that have more than three players in the national team.
The Warriors take on Botswana in the first of their 2019 AFCON qualifiers at the National Sports Stadium on Friday evening before taking on Zambia four days later.
Virtually all the top-flight leagues around the world have put their league programmes on hold but the domestic Premiership will be in full swing. And, De Jongh, who has enjoyed a flying start as Highlanders coach, is not amused by the domestic set-up.
“FIFA calendar (says) no league in professional football leagues during qualify matches for the national team, only Zimbabwe league (does not) follow the rules,’’ De Jongh tweeted yesterday.
He had earlier tweeted a photograph of himself heading a ball with the caption, “good memories, I’m considering myself in the Wednesday line-up.’’
His decision to question the decision to have a full programme of league matches, just days before the Warriors start their AFCON qualifying campaign, attracted a number of responses on Twitter.
“I know, only Zimbabwe breaks all the records,’’ replied Emmanuel Mberi.
Another respondent, Leslie Nyoni, said it was crazy this was even being taken as normal.
“Seeing that everyone thinks this is normal, so you’re all saying our football will never grow since the little things are the major factors that lead to our bad performance in major stages in the world?’’
Another respondent, Velie J, said this was how things were done in this country.
“Relax my coach, that’s how we roll this side of the world, we don’t care about what others do or say, we do what we do.’’
The Bosso coach recently said the fierce battle for the league championship will only make the domestic Premiership a better league.
“In Zimbabwe you have about eight teams that are all favourites to win the title at the start of the season,” he told our sister newspaper, The Chronicle.
“You have Highlanders, Dynamos, CAPS United, FC Platinum, Ngezi, ZPC Kariba, Triangle, and Chicken Inn all in the running to win the title.
“The league is not easy; those teams are playing for the title every season.”
De Jongh becomes the second high-profile coach to question the decision by the PSL to have league matches this week.
On Monday, Warriors coach, Joey Antipas, criticised the arrangement and said he would have to leave the Warriors camp to be with his club Chicken Inn when they take on Mushowani Stars today.
“It’s only fair that I have to give due attention to my team because that’s my bread and butter,’’ said Antipas.
“So, I will see how I will balance the scales. But this whole thing is a mess because this is a FIFA week. Everywhere in the world there are no local games being played.
“Mind you, the national team games take priority over the domestic programme. I think we had too many stoppages during the season and now it is the clubs that are paying heavily for that.” PSL spokesperson, Kudzai Bare, said the league games should go ahead as scheduled this week since no club has more than three players in the Warriors squad.
“I understand the Warriors match against Botswana is on Friday and then they play again next week in Zambia. So, the scheduling of our games do not directly interfere with the national team matches.
“What we usually do in such circumstances when the national team is playing, if a club has three or more players in the squad, their game is postponed. But if there is no team with more than three players, the domestic games will continue as scheduled.’’
There are only five local players in the Warriors squad and these are Prince Dube (Highlanders), Ian Nekati (ZPC Kariba), Partson Jaure (Manica Diamonds) and goalkeepers Simba Chinani (Dynamos) and Talbert Shumba of Chapungu.
She said the clubs knew the rules and regulations very well.
“The clubs are aware of this because it is there in the PSL Rules and Regulations. That’s where we picked this from and since there is no club with more than three players, the games will continue as scheduled.
“I am sure we are going to finish the league programme on time. That’s why our schedule had been a bit hectic of late.
“We are doing our best to finish all the matches early December,” said Bare.