HARARE – It has become customary at the beginning of each season for football punters to tip one of either Dynamos, Highlanders or CAPS United to lift the Castle Premiership title.
But the form exhibited by Harare City in the 2013 season thus far coupled with the slump in form of the so-called big three has put a twist to that pattern.
The Sunshine Boys are just two years old in the top flight league but the maturity Bigboy Mawiwi’s side has displayed after 16 games of the season belies their premiership age.
And as City shot to the top of the table after defeating Hwange 2-1 on Saturday while Dynamos were shocked 1-0 by How Mine and Highlanders and CAPS United played out a goalless draw, there was an unmistakable sense that the destination of the league trophy had been thrown into City’s corner.
The Sunshine Boys sit at the summit of the log with 31 points from 16 games, one ahead of second-placed Chicken Inn, who drew 1-1 with Shabanie on Friday.
Apart from garnering a reputation of being one of the most consistent teams in the league, City have also shown their ability to stand toe-to-toe with the traditional big guns of the league.
They have drawn four times and lost thrice in between harvesting nine wins, one of the those draws has been against Dynamos, who they are still to meet in the reverse fixture.
That they briefly stalled Dynamos’ march to the championship last season, with a 1-0 victory, will give Mawiwi confidence that they can beat the reigning Zimbabwe champions again.
But what will be more satisfying to the Citizens’ supporters is that their attack has been as impressive as their defence so far this season.
City have scored 25 goals, one less than second-placed Highlanders.
City goalie Maxwell Nyamupanedengu has been one of the standout goalkeepers in the local league, though he has not featured in every one of their league games owing to national team commitments.
City have conceded 15 goals and it is no surprise that they have the second best defensive record after Highlanders shot stopper Tichaona Diya, who has conceded one less goal.
But what makes their season even greater is that City has had the backing of their executive from the very beginning.
In a league where club’s executives have been more of an enemy from within to the coaches of their clubs, a different story has characterised the running of the Sunshine Boys.
At the beginning of the season City of Harare unveiled $820 000 budget for the team, only 200 000 short of what is spent in running the country’s biggest knock out tournament the Mbada Diamonds Cup.
This allowed the club to enjoy a pre-season shopping spree that saw them unveil 13 new signings who have backed their ambitions.
Bit by bit, they are starting to dominate teams too, taking control of the ball and pushing opponents back. Yet they remain hard to break down.