Zimbabwe’s qualification for the 2017 African Nations Cup in Gabon next month puts further pressure on an already constrained 2016/17 Premier Soccer League season. With Bafana Bafana having failed to reach the finals there was the possibility that the PSL would scrap the January/February break for the continental finals, opening up match days early in the New Year.
Zimbabwe have a number of players at PSL clubs and their visit to Gabon for the finals means that the likes of Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, BidVest Wits, Orlando Pirates and Maritzburg United could all lose key players over that period. That does not take into account what transfers may happen in the next two windows, but it is clear the PSL will be seriously affected.
Yesterday Warriors booked their place in the Finals after beating Malawi 3-0, eight players ply their trade in the PSL. This includes the Mamelodi Sundowns duo of Khama Billiat and Cuthbert Malajila, Orlando Pirates’ Tendai Ndoro and Willard Katsande of Kaizer Chiefs.
The PSL had been considering not breaking for the Nations Cup tournament, as it has for previous finals, due to the likelihood of Bafana qualifying being slim. Now it has transpired they are out of the running.
While clubs are allowed to request postponements if they lose players to international duty, the PSL figured there would be minimal disruption with just a handful of clubs affected, officials disclosed in a series of interviews.
But with Zimbabwe now emerging a finalist for the first time in a decade the picture is significantly altered and the PSL will now likely stop just before Christmas and only resume in early February imposing a significant hole in the calendar.
Previous plans had the league halting for Christmas and New Year but resuming in the second week of January.
This is because there is already a congestion problem with the 2016/17 season scheduled to start one month later than usual because of South Africa’s participation at the Olympic Games.
Traditionally the league gets underway on the first weekend of August but this year, the men’s football tournament at the Olympics in Brazil runs from August 3-20. South Africa qualified for the tournament last November and the under-23 side is virtually made up of home-based players.
The next league season is therefore scheduled to start on the weekend of August 26-27 and with a programme of 30 rounds of league fixtures plus three knockout tournaments to fit into a nine-month schedule, there is a chance clubs will be playing virtually twice a week.
It is exacerbated by FIFA-enforced breaks for international football in September (when the African Nations Cup qualifiers conclude), October (when the group phase of the World Cup qualifiers start) and in March 2017 (also World Cup qualifying)