PREMIER Soccer League chief executive chief executive officer Kennedy Ndebele is expecting a competitive 2015 Castle Lager season as the league finally begins on Friday.
Harare City and Tsholotsho Football Club will kick the new season off on Friday at Rufaro Stadium, with four other matches lined up for Saturday and three on Sunday.
The opening week has been organised to cater for the Zimbabwe Under-23 side that plays Cameroon in the first leg of the All-Africa Games at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday, which will serve as the 2016 Rio Olympic Games qualifiers.
“Judging by the friendly matches that we have seen during the off-season, we are expecting a tough and competitive term and we hope that teams will be able to maintain that momentum and give the league the competitive edge.
“We believe there will be a number of clubs fighting for honours this season.
“Clubs have been working hard and we encourage them to continue doing so to bring fans back to stadiums,” Ndebele told our sister paper NewsDay Sport yesterday.
Most of the big matches that have taken place have involved the Big Three, Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United.
Dynamos have played three times against Caps and won twice (1-0 and 2-1), losing once (5-6 on penalties) in the Sino-Zim Cement Challenge Cup while the Green Machine beat Highlanders 2-1 in the Bob 91 Super Cup match.
On Sunday, Highlanders edged How Mine 1-0 in the ZNA Charities semi-final. FC Platinum have been playing in the Caf Confederation Cup and won its two matches in 2-1 scorelines against Sofapaka of Kenya in the preliminary round before falling 5-1 to Young Africans of Tanzania in the first round on Sunday.
Harare City, who came close to winning the league tile in 2013, have recruited coach Taurai Mangwiro and a host of new players: Tendai Samanja, Tafadzwa Dube, Themba Ndlovu, Nicholas Alifandika, Honey Chimutimunzeve and Lincoln Zvasiya.
On the issue of gate charges, Ndebele said: “We have maintained the gate charges at $3 for the rest of the ground.
“We are flexible on gate charges since some clubs request for a reduction. In the case of those that want to increase charges, we ask them to notify us in time and their fans too.”
On the various cases of hooliganism in the last few matches, Ndebele appealed to fans to observe peace at all matches.
“I liked the statement by Bongani (Mafu, Highlanders coach), today (yesterday) that violence distracts everybody, including the players and the technical team.
“Violence is not good for society in general and we are appealing to fans to desist from this. We want to keep football as a family sport,” the PSL chief said.
“We will be beefing up security at all our matches and we will engage the Zimbabwe Republic Police as soon as possible on how to control crowds.
“We noticed during the ZNA matches over the weekend that the passage ways were free for people to move up and down as part of security control measures.”
The contentious issue of relegation came up as four teams, again, will face the chop at the end of the season, instead of two teams as recommended by world football governing body Fifa.
“We are still happy about that and we will present a paper at the next Zifa assembly meeting on that issue. It’s not about affiliation, but its all in the interest of football development,” Ndebele said.
“Fifa made it very clear that 25% relegation is not tenable, but I don’t want to get into the politics of it, so we will do a paper for the assembly and we hope that something will come out.”
There are four new clubs in the league-Tsholotsho (Southern Region), Hwahwa (Central), Flame Lily (Northern) and Dongo Sawmills (Eastern).
Besides the well known coaches in the top flight, there are new faces as well in Highlanders’ Mafu and Caps United’s Mark Harrison with the rest having been recycled from other teams.
David Mandigora returned to Dynamos for a second stint replacing Kalisto Pasuwa, Taurai Mangwiro moved from Caps to Harare City while Kelvin Kaindu crossed the floor from Highlanders to Triangle.
FC Platinum retained Norman Mapeza, just as How Mine, Hwange, Chicken Inn, and ZPC Kariba kept Luke Masomere, Nation Dube, Joey Antipas and Saul Chaminuka respectively.
Championship contenders Dynamos are the defending champions and will have to fend off Highlanders, Caps United and FC Platinum for a record fifth title in a row.
ZPC Kariba and Harare City remain the dark horses in the race while the potency of How Mine and Chicken Inn cannot be discounted.
Early relegation contenders Without trying to take away the steam from Tsholotsho, Dongo and Hwahwa, their lack of big names for the top flight puts them in this bracket.
Two competitions are confirmed NetOne – One Wallet Cup (contested for by Dynamos, ZPC Kariba, Caps United, FC Platinum, Highlanders, Chicken Inn, How Mine and Hwange. Chibuku Super Cup-all 16 teams