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JUST when the championship marathon was beginning to gather momentum, Premiership clubs will next month have to make do with an enforced mid-season break to pave way for the Warriors’ international commitments.Zimbabwe’s Warriors will return to African Cup of Nations qualifying action on June 13, a year after the senior team under Ian “Dibango” Gorowa, suffered the embarrassment of being knocked out at the preliminary round stage of the 2015 tourney following a 3-2 aggregate defeat by Tanzania.

The Warriors will begin their bid for a place at the 2017 tournament with an away assignment against Malawi on June 13.

If the Warriors have been terrible in the Nations Cup, they will be eyeing a record of their own in the second tier African Nations Championships where they will be aiming at a fourth successive appearance.

The journey for qualification to the tournament in Rwanda in January 2016 will also begin next month with the Warriors having been drawn against the Comoros Islands whom they will host on June 21.

Zimbabwe recorded their best finish at a CHAN tournament in Cape Town, last year, when Gorowa’s men defied odds to secure fourth place at the competition won by Libya.

Given the significance they are attaching to the Nations Cup and CHAN tournaments, the PSL have indicated they won’t arrange matches on the dates on which the Warriors will be involved in the qualifiers.

PSL chief executive, Kenny Ndebele, said yesterday although his league was already battling against a congested fixture programme, they will have to shelve their matches next month when the Warriors plunge into Nations Cup action.

Ndebele said the PSL had in trying to balance their act ensured that no matches would be postponed during the COSAFA Cup and the national Under-23 games although they would not offer a counter attraction in the capital on the Young Warriors’ Match Day.

“We will probably have games in the first weekend of June and the last weekend but really we have said we will reserve the weekends that are meant for the AFCON and the CHAN games and this means our 2015 calendar is now likely to spill into the first week of December.

“Of course that would be a challenge to the team that will participate in the Champions League because the CAF deadline for registration is November 30.

“We have also been requested by ZIFA to make a provision in our dates for the Gushungo Cup while there is also still the ZNA Commander’s Charity Shield Cup final and at the moment we are looking at having those competitions played on the international weekends when the national team would be away,” Ndebele said.

The PSL boss said owing to their congested programme the league would not entertain any impromptu tournaments as they had factored in the Warriors’ 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign despite the country being currently suspended from taking part in the qualifiers owing to ZIFA’s failure to pay former national team coach Valinhos his outstanding salaries.

“We cannot fit in any new tournaments this year and anything that comes up would have to be for the off-season. We still have the One Wallet Cup and the Chibuku Super Cup to be played.

“It also means there will be an increase in mid-week games as we try to play catch up but we are unlikely to even have any mid-week games in June as the Warriors would need to remain camp in order to travel away for matches or return home after away assignments.

“In order to ensure the clubs also do not suffer financially the mid-week games will be spread during the course of the second half of the season.

Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we do not have a team still participating in the Confederation Cup where a club would need to play more games than in the Champions League to reach the final,” Ndebele said.

Ndebele has always maintained that the PSL took pride in backing the CHAN squad “which is basically our PSL Warriors”.

This is because the CHAN is a tournament designed exclusively for players playing in their domestic leagues and it can be argued that it stands as a gauge of the homegrown talent in each of the participating countries.

The draw for the 2016 edition was done based on the zonal representation of the national associations affiliated to CAF which meant the Warriors had to be pooled against any of their COSAFA rivals.

After the first leg at home on June 21, the Warriors will then travel to Comoros on the weekend of July 3-5.

In the event that Zimbabwe overcome the Comoros, currently rated 177 on the FIFA World rankings, they will proceed to face the winner between Lesotho and Botswana.

Source : The Herald