The Sunday Mail
WHILE the chief groundsman is racing against time to ensure Gweru Sports Club’s football pitch is ready to host Division One matches, which are expected to begin next month, Sheasham FC’s gaffer John Nyikadzino has been silently building a squad he reckons can win promotion into the Premiership.
There is only one Premier Soccer League team in Gweru — Whawha FC — since the relegation of Chapungu at the end of the 2019 season.
Luke Petros Jukulile’s Whawha won the Premiership ticket at the end of the 2019 Central Region Division One League, but they are yet to feature in the top-flight, as the elite league has been suspended for over 20 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Whawha did, however, take part in the Chibuku Super Cup, in which they anchor Group D with one point from three matches.
But Gweru football fans are now excited following the announcement that Division One football will return in October after a 22-month Covid-19-induced break.
Four teams from Gweru — Chapungu, Midlands State University, Sheasham and TelOne — will feature in the Central Region Division One League when the marathon begins.
Sheasham chairperson Reginald Chidawanyika says his team intends to be amongst the elite squads in the country.
They were runners-up to Whawha in the 2019 title race.
“We are very much excited that we can now get back to train; it comes as a relief for our players who had become so much traumatised by the failure to do what they know best; that is, playing football.
“It affected them negatively,” said the Gweru-based lawyer.
“It has been a very difficult phase for us, just like any other team, to operate under Covid-19. The uncertainties and anxiety Covid-19 brought were too much.
“But we didn’t falter as such, largely not because we would say we are spared of the economic situation that was obtaining, but thanks to our main sponsors Sheasham Investments for believing in the project that we are trying to set as Sheasham FC.
“I think you are aware that the last time we competed in Division One we lost the promotion race on the last day of the season.
“So we sat down after that setback. We had to repackage the project so that we could at least get the fundamentals and the basics right.
“The stadium was one critical project that we did. We needed to have a stadium that we would call our home. We are leasing that stadium from Gweru Sports Club, it’s a short- to medium-term lease,” he said.
The team also bought a bus, modern training equipment, new kits and other football merchandise, including refurbishing a boarding house.
While experienced Chapungu, who have the legendary Moses “Bambo” Chunga on the bench, are one of the favourites for the title, the emergence of financially stable Sheasham has changed the football landscape in the Midlands.
Owned by Gweru businessman Clever Mandaza, Sheasham made their Division One debut in 2018 before finishing runners-up to Whawha in 2019.
After coming so close in 2019, the “Construction Boys”, as they are also known, now want to go a step higher and clinch the Premier Soccer League ticket.
“I am very excited with the return of football. At last the authorities have realised we need to get back to our jobs,” coach Nyikadzino told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“It has been a lengthy absence, some players actually left us and are now doing some other jobs.
“The good thing though is that our employer has been honouring the players’ contracts.”
The coach has won the Central Region championship twice in the last eight years, with Chapungu in 2013 and Nichrut in 2017.
He was hired by Nichrut in 2016 soon after quitting Chapungu and the following year, he delivered the Premiership ticket for the now-defunct Shurugwi-based side.
When Nichrut were relegated at the end of 2018, before folding soon after, he moved to Sheasham and came close to winning the title in 2019.
He has a chance to redeem himself and earn another stripe when the league starts.
“I am very optimistic that Sheasham can win the Premiership ticket but I also have much respect for our opponents in the league,” Nyikadzino said.
Sheasham unveiled a number of new players at a glittering ceremony held in Gweru in June.
The acquisitions included former Highlanders and Chicken Inn centre-back Felix Chindungwe, Nigel Mupinduki, Washington Kahuni and former Hwange player Ernest Gwitima.
Goalkeeper Prince Phiri and Kupakwashe Matake, both from Hwange, rising star Arnold Dirawo, veteran left-back Asani Nhongo and Ricky Bota are also part of the squad.
An exciting battle looms large in the Central Region where competition will be spiced by the presence of Chunga at Chapungu and Rahman Gumbo at TelOne.
Former FC Platinum coach Lizwe Sweswe is now at Filabusi-based side Trukumb.
“We now have a legend in the league — Bambo(Moses Chunga). He comes with vast experience and it’s good for my former side Chapungu.
“We are privileged to have Chunga here in Gweru; he is adding the spice to the Central Region Division One League. He also ups the ante in terms of competition.
“It won’t be easy winning the ticket to the Premiership. Our competitors have also been doing their things silently. You have TelOne, a very strong side; there is Tongogara, perennial campaigners, and also Trukumb.”
Chidawanyika and his executive, which also includes secretary Hapazari Chemhere, believe they have done their part, the club’s groundsman Talent Dembedza is confident Gweru Sport Club will be certified fit to host Division One matches, and the onus is now on Nyikadzino and his troops to deliver.