THE 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season — if everything goes according to plan — is billed to kick off on March 18 after a long wait.
This coincidentally is the same day that Zimbabwe’s Kuda Chiwandire will take to the ring in Mexico to challenge Yemilethi Mercado for the Mexican’s WBC gold belt.
It surely will be double delight for Zimbabwean sports lovers who, after an afternoon of football — will on the same day — be glued to their television sets to watch Chiwandire in probably the biggest fight of her career.
It has been a long wait for football fans who last witnessed their favorite teams in action way back in November, 2022, before Walter Musona was crowned the Soccer Star of the Year.
The challenge for the PSL would be attracting more and more fans to the stadiums and for that matter the right kind of spectators while keeping the violent ones away.
Zimbabwean football’s success in overcoming such challenges would be its strength as the country fights for readmission into Fifa and back to Pan-African and international football.
Already, there has been the stadium challenge, but that is not new to Zimbabwe and Black Rhinos, Cranburne Bullets, Sheasham and Simba Bhora will find new and temporary homes before the season roars into life.
What we want to a free flowing and entertaining soccer season because after the Fifa ban the whole world is sitting and watching to see whether Zimbabweans can do things successfully on their own.
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What we should strive for is to shame all the detractors by producing a football spectacle worth the respected name of Zimbabwean soccer.
After all, our Dynamos reached the final and the semifinals of the Caf Champions League while both Caps United and FC Platinum have been to the famed mini-league stage of Africa’s biggest club football competition.
History has its own uses and it should be placed on record that Dembare achieved this feat when African club football was more competitive than it is today when only eight teams qualified for the mini league stage not 16 as it is today.
What is interesting is that the much feared Dynamos are lucky to be still in the Zimbabwean Premiership after surviving relegation in Masvingo on the last day of play in 2005 and on March 18, they line up among the 18 teams fighting for the 2023 Castle Lager Premiership title.
The 2023 season promises thrills galore and there is nothing to fear in terms of quality both in football standards and in players after the transfer market saw some of the players move up from Division One.
The stars of last year too are still there, the likes of Walter Musona, Frank Makarati, Delic Mulimba, Devine Mhindirira, William Manhondo, Eli Ilunga and Blessing Majarira. So too are Perfect Chikwende, Tino Benza, Nyasha Chintuli, and Brian Muza.
Since 2017, the baton has refused to leave the hands of FC Platinum and there are some who believe it will stay in their hands for one or two more seasons to come.
Football critic Admire Muhimeke points out that FC Platinum will be difficult to stop because of the sense of togetherness they have built over the years from the administrators going down to the coaches and players.
Kugona Kunenge Kudada, however, will certainly face strong challenge from the likes of Caps United, Chicken Inn, Ngezi Platinum Stars, Manica Diamonds, Highlanders, but for Dynamos, it would be inviting disappointment to hope too much.
Every season, there is turmoil at Dembare, with either a reshuffle in the leadership or in the coaching department and that instability does not guarantee success, but brings with it failure.
The players are there and the supporters will be there to sing and dance at the stadiums but something deep inside tells us that Dembare will not be there among the men, but will remain among the boys.
The new boys too, GreenFuel, Hwange, Sheasham and Simba Bhora, should be warned that there is a world of difference between playing football when coming from the changing rooms than down there where uniforms are sometimes put on under a tree.
Sheasham coach John Nyikadzino is straight to the point saying for a start, they are going all out to preserve their place in the Premiership but that will be easier said than done as Tenax, Bulawayo City, and Hwahwa would testify.
Sheasham, Simba Bhora, Hwange and Green Fuels, will certainly be involved in the fight against relegation and could be joined by Yadah and Cranborne Bullets, who also struggled in 2022.
For Herentals, Black Rhinos, Triangle, Bulawayo Chiefs, and ZPC Kariba, a mid-table position and a return to the Premiership for the year 2024 would be a mission accomplished.
For sheer colour and enthusiasm, there will be nothing to beat Highlanders and Simba Bhora, and for strike force and the will to win, the smart money is on FC Platinum.
For huge crowd attraction but little deliverance, the baton belongs to Dynamos — the champion under-achievers of the past few years.
Last year, we described the 2022 football season as exciting and we can hear someone out there shouting that the 2023 programme would be breathtaking.
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