‘Central region haunted’

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ZIFA’s Central Region Division One Soccer League seems to be the weakest league among the four First Division leagues in the country, a survey by Patriot Sport has revealed.
The Eastern, Southern, Central and Northern regions make up the four who feed a team each into the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
At the end of each season, four teams are demoted from the top flight while four are promoted to replace the axed quartet.
Lower divisions are usually used as feeder leagues to the teams in the topflight but that has not been the case in the past few years where promoted teams resorted to recycling players.
This scenario has stunted the growth and development of budding stars across the country.
Over the years, teams from the same region have been struggling for survival due to their failure to promote raw talent.
Their demotion from the PSL tells a lot.
The latest casualty from the region is Shabanie Mine, while danger is also stalking Nichrut from the same region.
Chapungu are not yet safe as they are still in the relegation matrix.
Shabanie Mine, the oldest club in the country, established in 1914, was relegated last week.
Out of 31 matches, the ‘Chinda Boys’ (Shabanie Mine) won two and drew 13.
They lost 16 matches.
The two matches Shabanie Mine won were against Bulawayo Chiefs and Triangle.
All matches were won at Maglas Stadium.
Nichrut, the team from the Chrome mining town of Shurugwi, are on the verge of retracing their prints to the Central Region from where they got promoted last season if they lose their remaining matches.
They sit on the relegation cut-off with 37 points, four points shy of safety.
They will need the airmen Chapungu to lose at least two matches in order for them to survive.
Ironically, Chapungu are from the same region.
With the way things stand, it is all doom for the Central Region who might have to contend with two casualties.
This season, the Central Region had FC Platinum who are on the verge of clinching the title for the second season running as well as Chapungu, Nichrut and Shabanie Mine in the top flight.
FC Platinum are on the brink of making history for the region by retaining the Cup.
There are several teams that have come into the premiership and gone from the Central Region.
ZISCOSteel, the club that produced the likes of Paul Gundani, Ephraim Moloi, James Takavada, Bernard Zikhali, Simba Shoniwa and Ali Saidi among others, sunk from the premiership in 1999.
Tongogara, an army side who bit the dust in 2000, are in the trenches of Central Region.
They failed to get a ticket back to the big boys’ club this season, needing a draw against TelOne.
However, it was the telecoms company who won the title-decider at Ascot Stadium last week and earned the sole ticket into the PSL from Central Region.
Chrome Stars sunk in 2003 while Kwekwe Cables followed suit a year later.
Lancashire Steel and Chapungu were relegated the same year in 2008.
However, Chapungu were re-admitted into the top flight in 2013.
T&H Buses-sponsored Hardbody FC, who had a one-season dance in the premiership, were relegated in 2012.
Then came Triple B, owned by businessman Edward Kanyangu in 2013, who got booted out the same year.
Prison Wardens and Wha Wha FC represented Central Region but they failed in their maiden season in 2015.
The following year (2016), Border Strikers then entered the fray to put Beitbridge on the football map, but that dance lasted only a season.
Border Strikers were an effort of the community who mobilised resources for a team that failed to last the distance.
Last year, Central Region did not have any team relegated as Hwange, Tsholotsho and Bantu Rovers were relegated from the same region (Southern).
The fact that we have one region (Central) having a turnover of teams at such a rate tells a big story.
Perhaps it might have to do with the weakness of the league where it is a case of teams making the numbers, compromising competitiveness.
Four First Division leagues mean teams do not struggle much to foot the travelling and accommodation expenses as they are geographically nearer to each other.
With the league, each having up to 20 teams, about 80 teams make the four leagues.
Having so many teams compromises the quality of our top flight league.
The number of matches the teams that are relegated from the premiership won is so pathetic.
The teams are not so competitive and have problems with resources.
For a stronger and competitive league, there is need to cut the First Division leagues to at least two or one so that the promoted teams will have the pedigree to last the distance in the top flight.
It will mean mergers of teams and pooling of resources.
In the same vein, ZIFA should make it mandatory for every registered team to adopt a comprehensive junior policy plan.
This will help in harnessing emerging talent from across the board.
The Central and Eastern regions have similar troubles.
It is even worse for the Eastern Region which only have Triangle, Mutare City Rovers and Yadah in the premiership.
Mutare City have been relegated, leaving two from the region.
Zimbabwe’s football future lies in the First Division leagues and the more it becomes competitive, the better it is for football development.
However, the First Division has become home to some senior players who have become midwives for teams to secure premiership berths.

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