The Sunday Mail
FOOTBALL legend Moses “Bambo” Chunga, who won the 2009 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title with Gunners against all odds, is tipping Joey Antipas and his Chicken Inn outfit to win the title this year.
The self-anointed Doctor of Football Luke Masomere, whose Amazulu team dethroned a then rampaging Highlanders in 2003, says there will not be any “Dynamos miracle” this year.
Masomere reckons FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza can do it for the second time in his career.
“Joey is not a novice; he is one guy who knows his stuff. He knows what is to be done at this stage, Chicken Inn will do it,” declared Chunga.
And Masomere, who was sacked by How Mine, last month, has ruled another DeMbare Houdini Act.
“Dynamos have miraculously won the league for the past two seasons but my feeling is they will not do it this time around,” he said.
“I am not casting a bad omen on them, am just speaking out my thoughts. Chicken Inn have the advantage but I still think FC Platinum can spring a huge surprise.”
Antipas’ Chicken Inn lead the race with 52 points, Mapeza’s swashbuckling FC Platinum follow on 48 while Tonderayi Ndiraya’s never-say-die DeMbare lie third on 46 going into the last five games of the season.
Chicken Inn host FC Platinum in the next round of fixtures.
The game has been dubbed the championship decider.
“Whoever wins that one will go on to win the league, but like I said, Antipas can do with a draw, not FC Platinum,” predicted Chunga.
The Premier Soccer League trophy has never been won by a team from outside Harare since 2006 and neither has the crown been worn outside the two big cities of Harare and Bulawayo since 1980.
No team has won five league titles in a row since the country’s Independence.
Highlanders attempted and faltered at four during a memorable run between 1999 and 2002.
DeMbare, who have won the championship since 2011, are chasing that record but their chances of bagging it are hanging by a thread.
Dynamos’ goalless draw with Harare City last weekend saw them conceding the title while Chicken Inn needed a late show to get the points against How Mine.
Log leaders Chicken Inn trailed How Mine 0-1 until the last three minutes of the game when top scorer Edmore “Span” Chirambadare and an unheralded Toto Banda engineered one of the most memorable comebacks in Premiership history.
The Gamecocks won 2-1.
As Chicken Inn were sweating for the points, Mapeza’s flamboyant FC Platinum were giving WhaWha a sobering 3-0 hiding at Mandava.
The Gamecocks, who enjoy a seven goal advantage over DeMbare, now need 10 points or at least three more wins to effectively eliminate the defending champions who can only finish on 61 points if they win all their remaining five matches.
A victory against FC Platinum in their next fixture will see Antipas open a seven point gap over Mapeza and leave the Gamecocks two wins away from the title.
Chicken Inn can bank on history as they have never lost to FC Platinum in Bulawayo.
However, the Zvishavane miners are looking dangerous and are unbeaten since May 10.
FC Platinum are also the Premiership’s highest scorers with 46 goals.
Antipas’ men have played Pure Platinum Play nine times since 2011 and the two teams have each won twice while five matches have ended in stalemates.
The reverse fixture ended 3-1 in favour of Chicken Inn at Mandava on April 11.
Chicken Inn, who have picked up 20 out of 30 points in the second half of the season, have shown some signs of choking.
They lost 0-1 to DeMbare at home in Week 24 and needed a dramatic comeback to win against How Mine last Saturday.
On average, the Gamecocks have collected 9,5 points in the last five fixtures since 2011 and this season they have FC Platinum (home), WhaWha (away), Tsholotsho (away), Harare City (home) and Flame Lily (away) in the last stretch.
Harare City, who beat Chicken Inn 2-0 at Rufaro in Week 2, could be tricky for the log leaders but the Sunshine Boys, like FC Platinum, have never won against the Gamecocks in Bulawayo.
FC Platinum, whose 46 goals contribute 11 percent of the 409 total goals scored so far, are the best team in the second half.
They have collected 26 out of 30 points — an 87 percent pass mark — and have banged 19 goals at an average of 1,9 per game.
Apart from chasing a maiden title, FC Platinum could also erase Dynamos’ five-year record of 58 goals in a season set n 2012. The Premiership record tally is 79 goals scored by DeMbare during the 1996 season they came second to Caps United.
Mapeza’s boys have three potential banana skin ties — after Chicken Inn, they will also face Chibuku Super Cup finalists Harare City and Caps United at Mandava.
Away trips to relegation teams Flame Lily and Dongo Sawmill also await Pure Platinum Play.
FC Platinum, who have won only once against Caps United, have lost four times to the Harare side while four games have ended in stalemate.
Although DeMbare appear to have conceded the title following last week’s 0-0 draw against City, their perennial never-say-die spirit, especially in the last stages of the season, should scare both Chicken Inn and FC Platinum.
Only once, when they lost 1-2 to ZPC Kariba in Week 29 last season, have DeMbare lost a game in the last five fixtures since 2011 and on average, they have collected 11 points during the period.
Their former player and coach Chunga foresees tough matches for Dynamos.
“Their fixtures are easy on paper but playing relegation teams Flame Lily and Buffaloes as well as a rising team like Chapungu should be difficult,” he said.
DeMbare, who have amassed 19 out of 30 points in the second half, also engage long time foes Caps United in Week 27 while a trip to Dongo Sawmill will come soon after.
The demise of Triangle (38), who have not won in the last seven rounds, scoring only once, has set up an intriguing top four race involving Caps United (37) and Harare City (36) while resurgent Hwange (35) are also charging in.
Makepekepe will face Triangle (home), Dynamos (away), How Mine (home), FC Platinum (away) and WhaWha (home).
Inconsistent Harare City have fixtures against How Mine (home), FC Platinum (away), WhaWha (home), Chicken Inn (away) and Tsholotsho (away).
At the bottom end, Dongo Sawmill on 18 points, will be effectively relegated if they lose two matches and 12th placed Buffaloes collect a single point.
It looks all over for Lloyd Mutasa’s second from bottom WhaWha, who have the league’s worst defence.
WhaWha have leaked in 44 goals.
The worst defence in the history of the Premiership remains that of Gweru United who leaked in an embarrassing 94 goals on their way to Division One in 1997.
Tsholotsho FC, Flame Lily, Buffaloes and ZPC Kariba look set to fight against the guillotine too.
. . . And the coaches speak
As the season heads for the wire, Premiership coaches are using the international weekend break to take stock of what has been an intriguing season so far. Here is what some coaches told Ishemunyoro Chingwere . . .
Everybody at the club is pushing towards the title and it is our hope to be crowned champions at the end. But if it doesn’t come our way, we will just have to live with it, in football winning and losing is the order of the day, but we obviously hope to win.
Everyone is talking about us now because of where we are, but I still maintain my stance . . . we are fighting to finish in a respectable position, a top four will be good.
Every coach would want to be on that podium but look, there is Chicken Inn, Dynamos and the other teams behind us who can win the league if they perform well in the last five games.
Our wish at Dynamos is to win the title year in year out, but reality on the ground is that it’s no longer in our hands.
However, we are still hopeful that teams at the top will drop points and we win all our remaining matches, but again it won’t be easy.
We had quite a brilliant start to the season but the second round has been very difficult for us.
Our hope now is to finish in a comfortable position that will prepare us for a bigger challenge next season. Maintaining our current position or even trying to climb the ladder will be good for us.
Having recently joined the team, my immediate target is to improve the quality of the team.
I am disappointed we couldn’t mount a title challenge but at the same time I have always been realistic enough to say we won’t be challenging. The good thing is we are not in danger of relegation, so for the remaining games I will preoccupy myself with making important decisions as to the playing arsenal that I will want for next season.
I have always told my boys that let’s play all our games to win then we will look at the log at the end of the season.
If I start telling you now that we are targeting such and such a position, definitely I will be lying to you.
A top eight finish will be OK for us. Last year we fought relegation and survived on the final whistle of the season, so if we can achieve that (top eight), it will be a big improvement and we really must be happy.
We might be ninth on the log but if you do your mathematics you will realise that we are not yet safe from relegation.
So the primary target is to win at least two of the remaining matches to guarantee our survival.
There is no target that we are working on. Targets are for machines which are programmed to produce particular results in a particular time.
At Highlanders we take it one match at a time, we are not looking at the five games you are talking about, our only concern for now is our next match against Chapungu.
Our priority is to survive relegation, nothing more, nothing less. If by any chance we go on to get something, like a higher position then that will be a bonus.
Every match of the remaining five is very important and we will be targeting maximum points. We are not worried about relegation, we are looking for a more respectable position and that position is amongst the best eight.
My primary aim when we got promoted was to expose these boys to the highest level of competition.
That we have since achieved but the remaining five games are the most important for every team. We are now playing for dear life and from now on we are working on players’ minds to make sure they understand that we really can escape relegation.
It’s pretty obvious, there is nothing at stake for us besides survival. We are fighting for survival and we will not give up until we achieve our goal.
The position that we find ourselves in is very precarious. Unlike other scenarios where with five games to go one would say if we can win three we might have a chance, our current situation demands that we win all our matches. But we are not throwing in the towel, in football you live on hope and we will remain hopeful as long as there is a mathematical chance of survival.
It’s very unfortunate that results have not been forthcoming for us despite the good football that we have exhibited.
We will seek to continue with our brand of football in the remaining matches and will not give up until the very last match even if we are to be officially relegated before the last match.