THE Premier Soccer League action returns this weekend with eyes on the 18 teams and how they are going to fare after the 20-day mid-season break.
The start-stop approach which has blighted the game this year has seen the league experiencing at least three interruptions halfway through the campaign.
First it was the prolonged Christmas and AFCON finals break, which came only after two rounds of the Castle Lager Premiership campaign and the season-opening Chibuku Super Cup.
The break stretched over two months before the games resumed, with a fresh “pre-season” training programme needed to prepare the teams for action. Some clubs adjusted well while others struggled.
In particular, champions FC Platinum, who had won their opening two matches convincingly, after dispatching Tenax 6-1 and championship contenders Chicken Inn 2-1, needed more time to get their vibe back as they managed only one win in the seven games they played in the two months after the resumption.
Then there was the unexpected break that was called by the football leadership following the rise in hooliganism last month. There were some muted complaints from the clubs as they felt it disturbed the rhythm. They argued that the issues would have been resolved while the game continued to be played.
After all, only two teams – Dynamos and Highlanders – have been on the wrong side in all the incidents of violence and hooliganism, and it was prudent to suspend their games while the PSL looked into the problems, if the suspension was really part of the solution.
The other 16 teams needed not be “punished” for the infractions of two clubs. Then a week after the teams had returned to the pitch, another break was looming, which was even longer as some teams had to go for as long as 21 days without kicking a ball during the mid-season recess.
Questions have continued to be asked whether the Castle Lager Premiership mid-season break was still required after the forced stoppage to attend to the hooliganism problem.
In fact, this was the third break when factoring in the extended festive holidays and AFCON break, which came just after the first three games of the campaign and the season-opening Chibuku Super Cup.
The mid-season break came as FC Platinum had recovered from their woes and appeared to have found their groove with results now coming consistently. But will they be able to pick from where they left off after going on a run of five wins in succession?
The platinum miners were in majestic form before the break, winning coach Norman Mapeza and young forward Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya the coach and player of the month accolades. They start all over again against Tenax on Sunday at Sakubva.
Giants Dynamos had also found the tonic they needed, with one of their biggest wins in the Harare Derby, after going through a slump just before the break. DeMbare dispatched Makepekepe 3-0 and this result could have whetted the interests of the DeMbare fans, only for the break to come again.
And after their morale was restored with that win, will they be able to continue in the same vein when they face tricky opponents Yadah tomorrow?
Will Black Rhinos be able to maintain their seven-match unbeaten run? Bulawayo Chiefs too had an impressive eight-match unbeaten run and they travel to Triangle on Sunday.
Herentals v Harare City (NSS)
Cranborne Bullets v Chicken Inn (Sakubva), Bulawayo City v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Barbourfields), Yadah v Dynamos (NSS)
Tenax v FC Platinum (Sakubva), CAPS United v ZPC Kariba (NSS), Highlanders v Black Rhinos (Barbourfields), Whawha v Manica Diamonds (Ascot), Triangle v Bulawayo Chiefs