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NORTHERN Region Division One soccer league returnees Seven Flames say they are ready to battle it out in the upcoming season scheduled to start on April 4. Seven Flames were among the six clubs relegated at the end of the season last year when they finished in 14th place in the 18-team league. However, they got an invitation to return to the league when three clubs — Commando, DT Africa and ARV — failed to pay their affiliation fees. The other two teams that have returned to the league are Lake Harvest and Blue Swallows.

All the three clubs have accepted their invitation and by yesterday they had already paid their affiliation fees.

Seven Flames team manager Zebedia Mangara said they were ready to compete and had retained the bulk of their players as they were preparing to fight their way back into Division One.

“Our position at the end of last season was just one down the chop and I had a feeling that we were going to play in Division One again. We have since paid our affiliation fee.

“We have managed to retain almost the whole team. We have only two players, our former captain Peter Rupiya and Terrence Mandere, who have left the club.

“Rupiya is club-hunting and Mandere joined DStv Rangers. The bulk of our players are soldiers and so we still have them,” said Mangara.

Seven Flames made their debut appearance in Division One last year under the same conditions after some clubs failed to meet their financial obligations.

Mangara is optimistic they will do better since they have the experience about what to expect when competing in Division One.

“This time I am confident that we won’t go down because we have learnt from our mistakes from the previous season. Last year we got an invitation again after some of the teams failed to pay their affiliation fee. We were supposed to play in Division Two.

“The invitation was okay, but we had not prepared that much since we were playing in Division Two. Last team we were playing in Division One and we now know what to expect. It’s a bit of an aantage and we have called in some other players, some were back at Commando and we have since recalled them,” said Mangara.

The army side’s team manager, however, said they are expecting to rope in a few more players to reinforce the team.

“If we could get five or so players we will be done. We are looking at a defender, striker and two midfielders,” said Mangara.

Meanwhile, the league has released its fixtures for the season set to kick-off on April 4, with most of the teams that finished in the top five last year starting their campaigns at home.

Gunners, who were the runners-up together with Mushowani and Ngezi Platinum, will be at home in their opening matches of the season as well as Black Rhinos, who were relegated from the Premiership last year.

New clubs that will be fighting for honours this season are Cargo Carriers, ZATEX and Darwin.

Source : The Herald