CASTLE Lager Premier Soccer League 2023 season bridesmaids, Manica Diamonds’ coach, Jairos Tapera, says his club is aiming at nothing less than the coveted title, but is mindful of the stiff competition likely to be witnessed this season.
The Gem Boys, as Manica Diamonds are fondly referred to by their growing fan base in Manicaland and beyond, ended the season on second position last year, and given that impressive feat, much is expected from the Mutare diamond miners when the 2024 season finally gets underway.
The club started their preseason preparations in earnest with a camp in Chiredzi where old and new players blended to form a competitive unit.
Now they are back in Mutare and are carrying on with their preseason preparations as they are set to face relegated Black Rhinos at Sakubva Stadium tomorrow (Saturday).
Tapera said he is aiming at the league’s biggest prize at the end of the season.
He was quick to reckon that it will not be a stroll in the park as most teams in the league are eyeing the same feat, if events on the transfer market are anything to go by.
“If you look at how teams bought players you can see that they want the title. It is going to be a very competitive season this time around. Starting with the reigning champions, Ngezi Platinum, one can look at how they have been assembling their team. They are not leaving anything to chance in their pursuit to retain the title. They now have three of the top strikers in the league and that only speaks volumes about their intentions.
“Dynamos is also buying all over and managed to maintain most of the players they had last season. The same goes for Simba Bhora who roped in 11 new good players. GreenFuel have nine new good players. We, Manica Diamonds we are also there we want it (PSL title),” said Tapera.
The former Young Warriors mentor conceded that ending the season on second position last season will exert more pressure on the club this season.
“We can’t run away from that kind of pressure. We wish to play well and get as many points as we can from the start of the season. After all, football is all about pressure,” he said.
The Manica Diamonds gaffer said he is happy with the arsenal at his disposal.
“I am happy with the squad that we have. We managed to retain three quarters of our players and made a few additions that we hope will add depth to the squad,” said Tapera.
Announcing the players during the team’s dinner function held last week on Thursday at a local hotel, Tapera said he added more players into the squad, an indication that he is serious in gunning for the championship title.
25-year-old Foster Kudzi Demere, who played behind the strikers at ZPC Kariba, defensive linkman, Enock Karemba (25) from Triangle and central midfielder from Sheasham, Nigel Mupinduki (25) have all joined the Gem Boys squad.
Youthful goalkeeper, Joseph Kaunda (18) will be joining the big boys after an outstanding performance during his stint with Manica Diamonds junior team.
“We joined the Premier Soccer League (PSL) in 2018 and we have been doing fairly well. During the 2021 and 2022 season, the team finished on sixth position.
“This time we will leave no stone unturned to make sure that we clinch the championship title. I have assembled a squad with new players, including one player from our junior team who will be joining the senior team,” said Tapera.
Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), the chief sponsor of Manica Diamonds, chief executive, Douglas Zimbango, applauded the team for playing well in the 2023 season.
“I want to thank the organisers for a beautiful investment in football to develop the brand and company. We are also investing in the community where we are operating in.
“It is my hope that this year you will clinch the championship title. I notice that in your squad you have also recruited young players which is a sure sign that you want continuity in the club and that is commendable,” said Zimbango.
Despite travelling a distance of 680km to and from Triangle to play their homes matches at Gibbo Stadium when Sakubva Stadium was deemed unfit to host Premier Soccer League matches, the Gem Boys amassed 58 points, just eight points behind champions, Ngezi Platinum.