By Eddie Chikamhi
Chicken Inn coach, Joey Antipas, has had mixed feelings in the last few weeks as it becomes increasingly uncertain the 2020 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season will get underway any time soon.
The two-time championship winner is confident the squad he assembled this year will be able to challenge FC Platinum for the league title. But everything has been frozen because of the coronavirus lockdown.
“I think we have a very strong and balanced team in all departments. We’re just waiting for the players to fire. But here we are, in the midst of uncertainty,” said Antipas.
The league was supposed to get underway last month but no one knows when it will start following a 60-day ban on all social activities to control the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gamecocks came close to clinching a second league title last year but somehow collapsed in the final countdown.
And after beating Tuesday’s deadline to register their squad, Antipas is confident he has a competitive team.
Chicken Inn have managed to retain most of the players who featured for the club last season when they finished second in the race.
The Gamecocks have brought in new faces, including Warriors defender Ian Nekati, ex-Yadah forward Paddington Nyamakura and Nelson Ketala from Ngezi Platinum Stars.
Antipas has also short-listed two Under-20 players for the juniors’ slots.
“It’s very unfortunate that the games haven’t started as yet because of the lockdown,’’ he said.
“But, we brought in new additions that will definitely give us depth and add value to our team. “Our squad looks awesome in midfield and in attack. We just hope the guys will bring it on and really fight for the positions in the team.
“It’s going to be tough this year and, hopefully, we will be very competitive.”
Antipas guided Chicken Inn to their only league title in 2015. He left the side to join AmaZulu in South Africa before bouncing back at the Gamecocks.
While former ZPC Kariba defender Nekati is regarded as their biggest catch, the Gamecocks could also have struck it rich with highly-rated defensive midfielder Clive Dzingai, who was snapped up from relegated Mushowani Stars.
Big forward Nyamakura, signed from Yadah, is also an excellent prospect.
He was one of the best players in the final days of the domestic Premiership last season.
Antipas also brought in Brian Muza from lower division club Talen Vision.
The duo is seen as direct replacements to strikers Clive Augusto and Obadiah Tarumbwa who left the club.
There is also Lista Ndlovu and Brian Giant from another lower division side Mosi Rovers.
Chicken Inn also parted ways with Innocent Mucheneka, Joe Nyabinde, Ben Nyahunzvi and Simon Munawa.
The Gamecocks fired early warning shots when they won a four-team tournament in Malawi. The tourney featured the country’s champions, Nyasa Big Bullets, who are coached by Zimbabwean gaffer Callisto Pasuwa, BeForward Wanderers and Mozambique’s UD Songo.
However, Antipas is worried all the pre-season work could go down the drain because of the coronavirus lockdown.
“It’s difficult, the players are working from home. They have individual working programmes. We had originally planned to break until Easter but everything is uncertain.
“We have a team social group where we monitor progress but, the way I see it, it’s most likely that clubs will go back to square one,” said Antipas. The Herald