By Eddie Chikamhi and Ellina Mhlanga
Following a season in which most of the traditional football giants struggled in the Castle Lager Premier League, local coaches are in agreement that the current trends are a reflection of the shift of power in domestic football.
The league programme ended last week with FC Platinum being crowned champions for the second consecutive season.
FC Platinum clinched the title with two games to spare. They finished with 78 points, a massive 13 ahead of second placed Ngezi Platinum Stars.
Chicken Inn and Triangle completed the top four.
The traditional football giants could not live up to expectations with Highlanders a distant fifth on 51 points while Harare giants CAPS United were eighth with 48 points.
It was worse for Dynamos, who had to fight relegation for the most part of the campaign.
Eventually, they finished on 11th position with 42 points.
In fact, it was a two-horse race between platinum teams — FC Platinum and Ngezi. However, Ngezi lost the plot in the latter stages of the campaign.
Former Young Warriors coach Rodwell Dhlakama, whose side Chapungu narrowly escaped relegation, said the outcome of this year’s competition was an indication of the shift in power in local football.
“I think that explains the shift in power. The football giants didn’t do well, talk of CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders. Highlanders came to Ascot and we beat them 4-0, I wasn’t even expecting them to play the way they did on that day.
“That means the standards for those teams are not up to what we expect because they should be the yardstick of football in Zimbabwe. We all try to emulate them, but if they are playing like that I don’t think that will be good for our football,” said Dhlakama.
For Dynamos, the fact that they could not produce a single player among the 11 Soccer Stars finalists mirrors a bad season they had.
Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas challenged PSL clubs to up their game to make it more competitive and exciting.
“To win the championship, you have got to be more serious and we have got to start from the beginning. Well done to FC Platinum, they deserved it and Ngezi Platinum also, second-place finish.
“And what other clubs should do is not to allow the platinum clubs to create a dynasty. We also got to be in it so that it’s more competitive. It mustn’t be one-way traffic.
“We need a formidable league. I also think the league is too big. We should just create a 16-team league of superior teams, which will make it much more exciting,” said Antipas.
CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe challenged the traditional Big Three — Dynamos, Highlanders and his side — to up their game in terms of how they conduct their business so that they will be able to match the corporate-backed sides that have taken domestic football by storm.
Chitembwe believes financial stability and sound administration are key to competitiveness. He said these factors have helped hoist corporate-backed sides as the flag bearers in domestic football following the back-to-back league successes by FC Platinum.
“You don’t need a scientist to see why there is that variance. It’s so simple. You know when we talk of these other teams there is so much stability, they don’t have financial issues.
“They seem to manage their squads consistently. They have the same team playing together for long and that’s what wins games; that is what wins championships.
“There hasn’t been a high turnover of players at Ngezi, there hasn’t been a high turnover of players at FC Platinum.
“They only sign two or three players going into another season. So that tells you they are very stable. At the same time, it will take a bit of some time for the rest to reach that level because most of these teams now look to FC Platinum as the flag bearer — and that tells you they will still remain behind.
“They have allowed FC Platinum to take over the leadership role in terms of standards, performance and everything.
“So we have a serious challenge until one of these traditional giants steps up to the plate and challenge FC Platinum in the manner that they do things,” said Chitembwe.
ZIFA Technical Director Wilson Mtekede said competition has dropped remarkably as compared to previous years mostly because of lack of player-motivation.
“In my own assessment, in 2017 when FC Platinum won their maiden title and the previous year won by CAPS United, the level of competition was a bit higher than this time around.
“I do not mean anything bad about the just-ended season, but this is how I perceived it. When Ngezi Platinum fell out of the race, there was nobody else to chase and I really didn’t get the vibe that I saw in the previous two seasons.
“Normally factors that affect performance in football are quite varied, but one that quickly comes to mind is probably the levels of motivation that were low due to the economic hardships that affected teams.
“I think the issues of incentives and bonuses could have led to that because in 2017 the performance was better and we have the same coaches and the same players are retained, but performance goes down.
“We try to look at the pointers or indicators that show why the level of performance dropped and you look at the teams that did well, they are the teams that were financially sound. So I would attribute the drop in levels of competitiveness to that.
“Now is a time when clubs must be able to put in place structures and systems. The issue of standardisation and club licensing that we have talked about simply point out to clubs being able to put in place systems and structures like marketing; issues to do with compliance in terms of having junior development teams, infrastructure in terms of having stadia and venues for training. The Herald.