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Eddie Chikamhi and Tadious Manyepo
AFTER their historic adventure into the Champions League group stages, FC Platinum today turn their focus to a domestic Premiership they have dominated in the past two years, as the 2019 Castle Lager Premiership season starts at Rufaro this afternoon.
The Zvishavane side are in the capital, to start the defence of a title they have won in the last two years, although there is a feeling a third straight title, which could see them join immortals like Dynamos and Highlanders — will be a tougher battle.
DeMbare and Bosso are the only local clubs to win the title three times in a row.
Norman Mapeza and his men take on Harare City.
The match comes just days after the Warriors, whose first game in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers was under Mapeza before Sunday Chidzambwa took over, sealed their place in Egypt with a solid 2-0 win over Congo-Brazzaville.
The Premier Soccer League leadership believe that success story could help spike spectator interest in football across the country and they hope to benefit from that with more fans coming to the stadiums to watch the league matches.
The return of Edward Sadomba to the domestic Premiership, after about a decade in foreign leagues, has also sent expectations exploding among the Dynamos fans.
The two other members of the Big Three of the domestic Premiership — CAPS United and Highlanders — are also in the capital this weekend for the start of their new campaign.
Both clubs are expected to be boosted by a new sponsorship deal, worth more than $1,5 million, from their flagship sponsors NetOne.
The company, which sponsored both Makepekepe and Bosso last year, have committed themselves to bankrolling the two giants for another three years and will not only pay the salaries for the players and coaching staff but also the winning bonuses for the two giants.
DeMbare were part of the group of clubs who were being bankrolled by NetOne last year but the Glamour Boys have gone into bed with a cigarette manufacturing firm.
All eyes, today, will be at Rufaro when the champions roll into town and Harare City have promised to give them a good run for their money.
“We are well prepared for the match against FC Platinum. We have tried our level best to condition the players for the first match of the season against the defending champions,” said coach Mark Harrison.
“But, in terms of match fitness, we are not at the same level as FC Platinum, who have been playing in the CAF Champions League since the end of last season.
“FC Platinum are at total match fitness, unlike us.’’
They took on board ex-Dynamos captain Marshall Machazane, Walter Mukanga from Ngezi Platinum Stars, the duo of former CAPS United midfielders, Milton Ncube and Peter “Rio” Moyo, as well as Tatenda Tavengwa from Bulawayo City.
Rufaro will also host Dynamos’ first match against Mushowani Stars tomorrow but there are doubts on Sadomba could miss that game because of injury.
“He has got a knock, so we have been cautious. He is going to be assessed, he is going to see a professional physiotherapist who is going to give us a professional recommendation,’’ said DeMbare coach Lloyd Chigowe.
“We hope he recovers in time to lead his troops on Saturday but, if not, the other guys will do the job. His chances are 50-50.’’
Chigowe, who helped the team escape relegation last year after taking over a sinking ship from Lloyd Mutasa, said they were keen to do better this time.
“Obviously, it will take a soothsayer to predict what is going to happen on the field of play but I think we are not going the same route as last season,’’ he said.
Dynamos have a host of new players, including four imports — Robert Sackey, Ngandu Mangala, Herve Vincent Mbega and Ngahan Claude Junior.