Manica Diamonds  gaffer under spotlight Jairos Tapera

Zimpapers Sports Hub

ALL eyes will be on interim Warriors coach Jairos Tapera and his Manica Diamonds side when the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League matches resume this afternoon after a two-week break to accommodate the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

In a shift from previous years when PSL matches continued on the basis that no club would have three or more players in the national team, all action was suspended for the duration of camp and matches.

Last year, then Bulawayo Chiefs marksman, Obriel Chirinda, narrowly missed out on the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Golden Boot by one goal having missed two relatively easy games, while away in Rwanda with the Warriors as they took on Rwanda and Nigeria in World Cup qualifiers.  

The decision to go ahead with PSL games therefore create an uneven playing field for Chirinda and others, who were eyeing the Golden Boot.

It was also problematic for clubs that contributed coaches to the national team as they had to leave their assistants to take charge of matches at the crucial stage of the 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League campaign.

Highlanders had Baltemar Brito and Dynamos provided Genesis Mangombe, while Bongani Mafu was the second assistant.  

The interim Warriors coach seemed to have ruined Highlanders’ title challenge as they squandered an unbeaten 19-match start to the season to finish a distant fifth and 11 points from champions Ngezi Platinum.

Bosso’s unbeaten start to the season was ended by FC Platinum just as Brito was now distracted by the Warriors role.

Now Manica Diamonds’ current run of nine wins and a draw from their last 10 minutes earned them pole position on the league standings having started with a record of one draw and three defeats.

But while other coaches were busy with their charges over a two-week break, Tapera has been with the Warriors and although his role is on an interim basis, the Zifa Normalisation Committee want him to take charge of the Cosafa tournament later this month.

How Tapera intends to hold the dual roles will be tested at the Heart Stadium this afternoon, especially considering the bad start at Orlando Stadium last week on Friday as his Warriors were humiliated by lowly Lesotho in the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier.  

Tapera’s Warriors also lost to South Africa on Tuesday evening and emerged from the Fifa break as the only team in Group C to lose both qualifiers. 

He barely had time to work with his Manica Diamonds players ahead of today’s match and this will be a big test. 

Elsewhere, the mini break has been welcomed at struggling teams like Hwange where the new coach, Rodwell Dhlakama is hoping to perform a miraculous escape with the bottom-placed coalminers.

In 14 games, Hwange have managed just one win and that was at home against Yadah on the opening weekend while they were brilliant against Dynamos at Barbourfields on the second weekend as they came from 0-2 to draw 2-2.

With four points from the opening two matches, Hwange were four points above Manica Diamonds, but now the gap is 21 points in favour of Tapera’s charges.

On Week One, Hwange were joint leaders and 13 weeks later they are firmly at the bottom of the 18-team league with 20 more matches to go.

As action resumes this weekend, Dhlakama will be all out to settle the score with GreenFuel, who dumped him at a time he was working on an ambitious project. 

Hosting them at the Colliery would not have come at a more appropriate time for the former Chapungu and Ngezi Platinum coach.

Highlanders will be back at home hoping to end a miserable run that saw them complete the month of May without a single win although they will take pride in being the only side to stop Manica Diamonds during their 10-match unbeaten run.

This time they take on newcomers Bikita Minerals, who are the best placed newcomer so far in the season.

Bikita Minerals are 10th with 18 points from 14 matches, top of the bottom half of the table and are just four points behind fourth-placed Highlanders.

Despite being the underdogs, Bikita Minerals believe that former Bosso players Masimba Mambare and Allan Gahadzikwa will cause problems for the hosts.  

“The experienced duo of Allan Gahadzikwa and Masimba Mambare to face former club, Bosso, in the  League on Sunday. 

“The duo’s appetite for big games has been a defining feature, and the magnitude of the occasion won’t faze them,” bragged the newcomers on social media. 

Highlanders coach Kelvin Kaindu believes the two-week PSL break helped them to re-organise themselves.

“The month of May wasn’t good for us, we dropped a number of points because of the games that we drew. I think that phase has passed and we have to get back to winning ways,” he told the media during a pre-match briefing on Thursday.

“I hope the break gave us an advantage in terms of player’s recovery,” added Kaindu.

Kaindu also provided an update on injuries.

“Godfrey Makaruse and Gillian Nyathi, who sustained minor injuries, are back in training. Our fitness test results showed that everyone is ready to play, with the exception of one player, Archford Faira, who is tending to family matters.”

Andrew Mbeba, who was on national duty with the Warriors during Zimbabwe’s World Cup qualifiers last week, is back and trained with the rest of the squad.

Week 15 Fixtures

Today: Yadah v Manica Diamonds (Heart Stadium), Bulawayo Chiefs v FC Platinum (Luveve), Simba Bhora v Arenel (Wadzanai), Ngezi Platinum Stars v Chicken Inn (Baobab).

Tomorrow: Hwange v GreenFuel (Colliery), Highlanders v Bikita Minerals (Barbourfields), Dynamos v ZPC Kariba (Rufaro), TelOne v CAPS United (Bata), Chegutu Pirates v Herentals (Baobab)

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