AS the country braces for the long awaited return of football action, Manica Diamonds, Black Rhinos, Tenax FC and Cranborne Bullets — the quartet that will be using Sakubva Stadium in a Premier Soccer League cluster competition — are all aiming at going beyond the group stage.
PSL has since pushed back the start of the 2021 domestic football season.
The PSL had set this coming weekend as the date for the kick-off of the campaign but after talks with commercial partners failed to be concluded on time, the season is now set to start next Saturday.
The 2021 season will commence with a cluster competition set to run for six to eight weeks before a regular campaign starts in July.
The cup tournament will have teams placed into four groups and play a round-robin competition. Top sides from the groups proceed to the semi-finals with the winners meeting in the finals.
Four venues — Mandava, Barbourfields, Sakubva and National Sports Stadium — have been selected to host the group stages.
However, the four teams to play at Sakubva are all aiming at going beyond the group stage.
Manica Diamonds are actually vying for the ultimate prize.
Ticha Zikai, the Gem Boys team manager, whose team ended on an impressive fifth position in the last league season in 2019, said: “We are well prepared for the cluster competition. Any other team would have loved to get more training time for match fitness sake, but I think we are ready. We are hoping to get two or three friendly matches before we get into the cluster competition next Saturday. We are aiming at nothing less than the silverware itself. We want to win it and we believe we are equal to the task at hand.”
Manica Diamonds recently beefed up their squad with home grown talent when they secured the services of slippery forwards, Ticha Mabvura and Pasca Manhanga.
Black Rhinos gaffer, Hebert Maruwa, whose team was the earliest of all to regroup for training said they are now way ahead in their preparations.
“By the time we start the cluster competition, I have no doubt that we would have covered every aspect we need to. We are looking forward to go beyond the group stage of the competition.”
Chauya Chipembere have assembled a strong outfit that prides itself in acquiring the services of former Dynamos duo, Kudzai Dhemere and Tawanda Muchisi, former Harare City’s Gareth Marake and former Black Mambas player, Tendai Ruzive.
The Harare army outfit recently sent a strong message to opponents when they played a friendly match against Caps United in Harare and won by a solitary goal.
They will face Bulawayo Chiefs in another friendly match lined up for tomorrow (Saturday) in Bulawayo.
Tenax FC, one of the two Premiership debutants in this cluster, is not reading too much into new boys’ tag.
Their coach, Shadreck ‘Father’ Mugurasave, said: “I really do not think the issue of us being Premiership new boys will count at all. We all have been on a long lay-off because of the Covid-19 lockdown so the better team of the day will prevail. As a team we are satisfied with the preparations we have undertaken and we are looking forward to go past the group stage of the cluster competition.”
The other Premiership new comer, Cranborne Bullets gaffer, Nisbert ‘Yabo’ Saruchera, said: “No doubt, we have a point to prove. We are not in this league to make up numbers, but to make our impact felt. That can only be achieved by getting good results on the field of play and that means progressing from the group stage of the competition.”
In a statement, the PSL said: “The Premier Soccer League would like to advise all stakeholders that the start of PSL competitions has been moved to May 22, 2021.
“This has been necessitated by the need to conclude negotiations with our commercial partners and other key stakeholders.”
The PSL has been in talks with broadcasting partners ahead of the new campaign and an agreement is expected to be reached very soon.
The top-flight league has not had an exclusive TV broadcast rights deal since South Africa’s SuperSport pulled out at the expiry of a six-year deal at the end of the 2017 season.
“We endeavour to conclude broadcasting agreements (both radio and television) as soon as possible to ensure that our matches reach all football fans across the country,” the statement continued.
“It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.”