Thursday, 12 April 2012

Flair play: Castle Lager Premier League Preview Part 1

Flair play: Castle Lager Premier League Preview Part 1:
Castle Lager Premier League Preview Part 1
Stanford Chiwanga
AFTER four months in the wilderness of boredom caused by the absence of top flight quality football the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) kicked off two weeks ago with promise of a much more riveting season compared to 2011 season.
Last year, the league race went right down to the wire and was won by Dynamos with mega bucks debutants FC Platinum trailing not by any points but on goal difference. Highlanders, again, proved to be a disappointment as they failed to live up to their stellar reputation as they wound up 7th on the log.
Caps United also didn’t fail to disappoint as lived up to their well-deserved tag of end-of-season chokers as they finished on 6th position after a promising start. Motor Action meekly surrendered the title to Dynamos as they ended up third, a distant seven points behind Dynamos. The most organised team of 2011, Hwange anchored the top four – this was not a disappointing finish, they ended where they wanted and deserved to be.
Judging from the pre-season preparations, the learned lessons from last year and the player recruitment by clubs, the 2012 season will be a mania of football.
Sunday Leisure Sports takes the opportunity to look at the top four teams that are likely to take football fans and neutrals to the seventh heaven.
Dynamos
Prediction: Champions
The Glamour Boys have remained unfazed for time immemorial, winning trophies after trophies at will and sometimes with utter disdain. Dynamos have never been made to bother about what other clubs are doing. It is that attitude that saw them win the league last year when no one gave them a prayer.
Zimbabwe’s most cherished club have won 18 domestic titles to become the undisputed most successful team in the land and not many would dare to write off Coach Callisto Pasuwa and company for the upcoming season.
The bulk of the team they had last season has been retained with only Archford Gutu leaving for Sweden and Cuthbert Malajila joining Maritzburg United down south. This means unlike previous seasons, the 2012 season will not be a transition period for the champions. There will be no need to nurture the Dynamos’ spirit, it’s already there.
The addition of Takesure Chinyama who already has three goals in official competition (one in the Charity Shield and two in the Champions’ League), to compliment Roderick Mutuma, means that the Dynamos arsenal will be very destructive.
Coupled with their mean defense of George Magariro and Guthrie Jokinyu which conceded only 15 goals last season and a midfield led by Denver Mukamba and Tawanda Muparati it is difficult not to go for Dynamos. 
FC Platinum
Prediction: Position 2
Given the aspirations and determination surrounding Mandava Stadium under the immaculate guidance of Rahman Gumbo, FC Platinum, are among the bookmakers’ favourite for the Premier League title. Last year they allowed Dynamos to erode their seemingly unassailable 10 point lead to beat them to the league championship as their nerves of tissue paper failed to match Dynamos’ nerves of steel.
But that was forgiven, last season was Platinum’s first dance with the topflight, a mis-step was likely, in fact it was expected. But still the fallout was extraordinary. They dropped points amateurishly, reopened the title race tentatively and then lost it at home when Daniel Vheremu scored an own goal against Dynamos.
Platinum’s’ capitulation was a product of a tension and frustration that, if understandable, hardly helped. The talking point of last season was about Dynamos’ surprising comeback. But it was equally about how Platinum lost it, surprisingly easily. The striking impotence that was preceded by impressive victories was glaringly obvious.
However this season that will not happen, at least not according to Gumbo. All players he viewed as liabilities have been shipped out. New players tasked with delivering the silverware have been bought with no expense spared. Gilbert Banda, Allan Gahadzikwa, Hardlife Mavundi and Qadr Amini are a few of the recruits that Gumbo roped in. 
Last year they lost it more than Dynamos won it. Gumbo is a wily coach to allow another slip-up to happen. Expect a ruthless, no nonsense Platinum this season, but when the sense of tension and pressure grows will they be able to withstand it?
Caps United
Prediction: Position 3   
Heartbreak and frustration are now typical description of a Caps United league campaign. For seasons now they have been promising a title challenge, only for them to fall flat on their face.
Makepekepe fans have reason to be optimistic; their team has signed good players including Darryl Nyandoro, Christopher Semakwere, Conrad Whitby and Rahman Kutsanzira. But they also reserve the right to be depressed, season after season Caps assemble the most talented outfit but fail to use it.
They still have Clive Kawinga, Tapiwa Kumbuyani, Douglas Walaza, Pride Tafirenyika David Sengu and Marvel Samaneka. Show me a team with such a galaxy of talents? You can’t.
But under new Irish coach, Sean Connor, Caps United have found their old optimism going into the start of the 2012 season. The new season is full of expectations as Connor is determined to return Caps to the glory days of old.
With a new coach and new players, expectations are understandably high, yet a top four finish is the realistic chance that the Green Machine can entertain as the season progresses. Winning the Championship is asking too much from a side that lacks consistency but with such abundance of attacking talent on show, Caps are favourites to return into the top four.
But FC Platinum and Dynamos will prove to be too strong for them. Number three on the log is the best that they can achieve.
Highlanders
Prediction: Position 4
Kelvin Kaindu the new Bosso coach is set to play a pivotal role in returning the winning mentality and discipline to a side that once possessed an aura of invincibility. The former Highlanders player means business by setting his future strategy for a club that struggled to convince last year.
Mkhupali Masuku faded away last season due to a series of questionable team selections and tactics. Under Kaindu, expect to see a rejuvenated Bosso in full flow. Given the young nature of the new coach and the simple fact that he is familiar with Highlanders having played for the progress report is already satisfactory as far as the pre-season is concerned.
This is a club that always looks forward, no wonder it has promoted some of its promising players to the first team. Midfielders Knox Mutizwa, Arnold Ndiweni and Munyaradzi Tongai, strikers Bobby Nkomo, Mgcini Sibanda, Ryan Howes, Ozias Zibande, Rightback Lewis Ncube, Leftbacks Honest Moyo, Status Nsingo and goalkeeper, Ashley Katsande have benefited from the club’s traditional policy of promoting young players.
But in looking forward, this is a club that does not forget that the present is as much as important as the future. The needs of today have seen Highlanders snatching Mthulisi Maphosa, Bhekimpilo Ncube, Beavan Chikaka, Milton Ncube, Simba Mambare and Atlast Musasa.
The coming in of such talent and the retaining of the core of last season’s team means Highlanders might just start dreaming a reality once again.