Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE 2018 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League will start on March 10 with 18 teams.
The PSL said fixtures for the season will be released in due course.
The announcement of the season kick-off date gives clubs room to plan their pre-season training programmes.
Newly promoted sides Bulawayo Chiefs (Southern Region), Nichrut FC (Central Region), Mutare City Rovers (Eastern) and Herentials (Northern Region) will get to rub shoulders with seasoned campaigners, hoping to avoid relegation on their maiden appearances.
The promoted sides along with 14 teams from last season have been given a provisional deadline of February 23 to register their squads.
In a statement, the PSL said: “This will enable the verification of players’ information and processing of licences. The first player transfer window closes on 31 March 2018. Clubs can still alter their squads until the player transfer window closes.”
All teams have already started their pre-season training.
Champions FC Platinum set up temporary base in Bulawayo a fortnight ago as they began preparations for the Caf Champions League.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza declared his desire to retain the title, having led the cash-rich Zvishavane side to history by becoming the first club from outside Harare and Bulawayo to win the modern PSL title.
They will face stern competition from sides like last season’s runners-up Dynamos, Ngezi Platinum Stars as well as Chicken Inn, who were in the top four.
Just like FC Platinum, who have bolstered their squad, Dynamos, Ngezi and Chicken Inn have retained the bulk of players from last season, giving them a cushion for continuity, with the hope that new faces will bring a new dimension to their play.
Chicken Inn, who finished fourth last season, have re-engaged Joey Antipas, a gaffer who led them to the 2015 title. Antipas takes over from Rahman Gumbo.
Antipas held his first training session yesterday at Hartsfield Ground and was happy with the turnout.
“There are new faces that we are trying to sign and the good thing is that the core players from last season are here. Our focus is to build a squad that will effectively compete,” said Antipas.
New faces at Chicken Inn include midfielder Simon Munawa, who was offloaded by Highlanders, young striker Obriel Chirinda, who was at South Africa’s Ubuntu FC, ex-Tsholotsho FC utility player Xolani Ndlovu, How Mine’s central defender Kudzi Chideu and goalkeeper Takudzwa Ndoro.
Other sides with new coaches are Highlanders, who appear to be taking a rebuilding route, with Madinda Ndlovu, who replaced Erol Akbay, while Darlington Dodo filled the vacant post at Bulawayo City.
ZPC Kariba replaced Sunday Chidzambwa with Godfrey Tamirepi, while Godfrey Maruwa took over from Stix M’tizwa at Black Rhinos and Bekithemba Ndlovu was elevated to head coach after Kelvin Kaindu’s exit.
Meanwhile, the PSL will hold its annual general meeting on March 4.
Some of the key issues to be discussed at the AGM include club licensing, club structures, crowd management and competitions.