PSL teams' pre-season plans in disarray

HARARE - Most of the Castle Lager Premiership clubs had their pre-season training programmes interrupted by the violent fuel hike protests that rocked Harare, Bulawayo and other towns last week.

With the 2019 season set to start in March, a number of clubs had already began their preparations in order to be ready by the time the league commences.

However, after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a significant increase in fuel prices on January 12, the country descended into total chaos.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) called for a three-day national shut-down starting last Monday until Wednesday.

The situation quickly disintegrated into anarchy as some of the protestors became violent as they looted shops and attacked public transport operators that that not heeded the stay away call.

To make it worse, the government also reacted violently with the police and the army firing live ammunition to quell the demonstrators.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) revealed that at least 68 people had suffered gunshot wounds during the skirmishes while at least six people had lost their lives.

While the ZCTU had said the shut-down was supposed to last for three days, as of yesterday, most shops had not yet opened their doors while transport was scarce for commuters.

The few public transport vehicles that were on the road were charging exorbitant prices which most commuters cannot afford. 

Premier League clubs were also not immune to the skirmishes as their players could not report for training.

Bulawayo was one of the worst affected areas and Highlanders were not spared either according to the club’s spokesperson Ronald Moyo.

“So far, we last met on Monday and dispersed because of the situation,” Moyo told the Daily News on Sunday. “Our proper pre-season was supposed to start on the 27th of January with medicals for all our players.

“After that we were supposed to go on a training camp on the 3rd of February. As things stands, I cannot comment on whether those dates are going to change or not since we have not been going to work.”

With head coach Joey Antipas away in Germany for a three-week attachment at Bundesliga club Werder Bremen, his assistant Prince Matore was supposed take charge of the Gamecocks pre-season training but nothing materialised.   

“We were supposed to start on Monday but our players were not able to travel for our first training session,” Matore told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Luckily for us, no one from the club was caught up in the violent that ensured on Monday and the following day.

“We are now hoping that we can start be able to start our training this coming week because the situation is much better.  

“Our season is supposed to start probably in mid or at the end of March so we still have about six to eight weeks of pre-season training which is still good.”

In the capital, CAPS united also could not commence their pre-season training last Monday on the day the riots broke out.

“We should have started on Monday but unfortunately we could not do anything because of the protests,” Makepekepe team manager Shakespeare Chinogwenya told the Daily News on Sunday. 

“There were a number of our players that had travelled out of Harare back to their respective homes but they couldn’t get transport to report for training.

“Some of our players are stuck in Gweru where they could not proceed with their journey here. It’s a terrible situation and it has affected us very much.”

Chinogwenya said the delay in starting their pre-season training has greatly affected their plans. 

“By now, if we had started our pre-season training on Monday, this would have given the coaches enough time to assess some of the new players that had indicated they want to join us,” he said.

“By the second week of training, the coaches would have made up their minds and selected the full squad they want to work with.

“After this process that’s when we would have had a chance to organise our pre-season training camp away from the capital so that we can really start to get down to business. Right now all those plans are in disarray because of the current situation across the country.”

Dynamos had already started pre-season training two weeks ago but coach Lloyd “MaBlanyo” Chigowe had to abandon their preparations for the whole past week.

“As you know, we had started our pre-season training last week and everything was going according to plan,” DeMbare team manager Richard Chihoro said.

“However, everything we had done has gone down the drain because since Monday, we have not been able to training or do anything.

“Hopefully, we will be able to resume training this coming Monday but it will be like we are starting from afresh since we have not been able to do anything this whole week.”

Herentals coach Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva said: “We were supposed to start this past Monday but nothing happened because of the protests. I’m just glad that we managed to communicate with all our players and they are OK; none of them were caught up in the skirmishes. 

“I’m hoping that the situation will improve and we can get back to serious business this coming Monday. According to our training programme most of the work we were going to do it here in Harare and as we move towards the start of the league in March, that’s when we are going to travel outside for at least a week for the boys to bond.”

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