THE Premier Soccer League (PSL) has pushed the Castle Challenge Cup to February 24, a clash that had been initially scheduled for a week earlier.
PSL chief executive officer Kenny Ndebele told delegates at a stakeholders’ workshop in Harare yesterday that the Challenge Cup featuring 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions Ngezi Platinum Stars and Dynamos, who won the Chibuku Super Cup, had been moved from the original date of February 17.
He later explained to journalists that dates had been moved to allow for the conclusion of the pending matter in the Eastern Region Division One where the promoted side is yet to be confirmed due to a dispute between Tenax and Bikita Minerals.
Ndebele said that he is confident that the matter will be concluded in time for the league programme to kick off a week after the Castle Challenge.
The case, which is before Zifa Appeals Committee, will resume with a full hearing on Friday.
“We haven’t deferred the start of the season. We are just waiting for the confirmation of the Eastern Region champions so that we have a full complement of the teams. We have resolved that the Castle Challenge be played on the 24th, but the team will announce the venue for that match,” Ndebele said.
Bikita Minerals were initially crowned last season’s ERSL champions via a boardroom decision after the club won a case in their final league game against Grayham, from which they were awarded three points after the latter used an ineligible player.
With the three points, the Bikita based side was confirmed ERSL (Eastern Region Soccer League) champions as they moved ahead of Tenax, who had finished top of the log standings.
Tenax did not appeal the ERSL decision with the league, but instead took the matter directly to Zifa, who referred it to its Appeals Committee, thereby automatically putting on hold Bikita Minerals’ Premier League promotion.
The lithium miners were subsequently barred from attending the Premier Soccer League 2024 preparatory and induction workshop in Bulawayo last month where all other topflight teams were in attendance to set the ground rules ahead of the start of the new season.
PSL have said they will also not release the 2024 league fixtures until the ERSL promotion saga has been resolved, leaving teams with less than a week to plan their schedules for the start of the upcoming season.
Clubs have previously complained to the PSL for their late release of fixtures, which they say makes planning difficult.
It appears the clubs will have to endure the usual nightmare in planning for the opening matches.
Yesterday’s stakeholders workshop brought together the media, security, medical, stadium owners and the PSL management.
Several issues were raised from all sectors which PSL hopes can improve the league ahead of the big kickoff.