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THE Mbada Diamonds Cup will not be played this year after the Premier Soccer League revealed yesterday that they had run out of time to deliver a tournament consistent with their event management systems and guaranteeing their sponsors the mileage they deserve.

PSL chairman Twine Phiri told The Herald yesterday that the Mbada Diamonds Cup, in its present four-team format featuring the sides that finished in the top four in the Castle Lager Premiership championship race this year, was likely to be the season-opener of their programme next season.

The PSL leadership have been struggling to find dates for the 2014 edition of the Mbada Diamonds Cup and yesterday conceded defeat and revealed that the tournament will not be staged this year and, tentatively, has now been moved to be the season-opener next year.

League champions Dynamos, debutantes ZPC Kariba, Harare giants CAPS United and Zvishavane side FC Platinum qualified for the Mbada Diamonds Cup after the top-flight league and the sponsors announced in September that this year’s edition will only feature the top four teams in the final Premiership standings.

But PSL boss Phiri revealed yesterday that the league’s plane flew into heavy turbulence, as they tried to play around with the dates to deliver a tournament that would not only satisfy their event management systems, but also guarantee the sponsors their mileage.

Phiri said the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Games, which get underway in Bulawayo tomorrow and only end on December 15, had complicated matters given that the PSL could not organise a high-profile football tournament in this country, during the duration of this youth sporting festival, without the running the risk of providing a counter attraction.

At the end of the Youth Games, the PSL would be left with just one weekend, before Christmas, and Phiri said they felt this did not provide enough time for them to run the Mbada Diamonds Cup without giving a raw deal to their sponsors who need the mileage to justify their investment into the tournament.

The Mighty Warriors usually host a foreign national team, in the annual Unity Day Challenge Cup, on December 22.

“We have been looking at the calendar and the possible dates left to run a proper season-ending Mbada Diamonds Cup tournament without really making a rush job of the whole exercise and jeopardising the event management systems that we have at the PSL,” said Phiri.

“It’s a very tight programme, in terms of the dates that are left, and we realised that if we try to push the tournament through, we would be squeezing things a little bit and when you do a rushed job, chances are that you will make some very big mistakes, in terms of organising the matches.

“We have to think about our sponsors, who are putting in a lot of money in a very challenging economic environment, and they also want mileage for their sponsorship, and if we were going to squeeze things, and worse still make mistakes, the damage will fall on us and them.

“We have had a very good PSL programme that saw an incredible league championship race in which Dynamos and ZPC Kariba fought until the last minute, something which the sponsors want to see, and the last thing we need to do is to mess it all up now.

“In terms of time, we have to say that we don’t have enough, between now and Christmas, for us to organise a flawless tournament, especially one featuring traditional sponsors who have been there with us for the last four years.

“We can’t take chances and that is why we have decided that we buy more time by moving the tournament, possibly, at the beginning of next season where the four-teams will be involved in a season-opening tournament.”

The PSL chairman said they could not hold the Mbada Diamonds Cup at the same time that the Region Five Under-20 Youth Games, which only end on December 15, are being held in Bulawayo.

Phiri said doing so would be offering a counter-attraction, to a high-profile regional event, that the country has invested a huge amount to stage it in the City of Kings.

“We could have used this coming weekend for the semi-finals but that will be providing a counter-attraction to the Youth Games and it’s something that will be in bad taste because we believe all the focus should be on the Games,” said Phiri.

“The country has used a lot of money to stage these Games and, as football, we have a national team playing in those Games and these are the Under-20 players that we believe could form the core of the g senior national team that we are trying to build.

“Those Young Warriors need our support, in these Games, and it’s important that they also get the focus of the nation rather than a situation where we will also be running a counter attraction by staging the Mbada Diamonds Cup when they are playing and representing our country.

“As football, we have also benefitted from these Games because there have been renovations done at Barbourfields and Luveve and we should appreciate that by letting the Games go on, without running a counter attraction through the Mbada Diamonds Cup.”

The 2014 Mbada Diamonds Cup was launched in September this year with the company’s corporate services executive, George Manyaya, saying that it would only feature four teams while the other 12 teams will be given US$10 000 each.

Mbada also pledged to fund the top-four teams’ transport, accommodation and branded kits and the man-of-the-match for the three games, but revealed there will be no previous individual prizes like the Goalkeeper, Player and Top Scorer of the tournament

The four teams were set to fight for the US$250 000 prize money.

“As a company, in just three years, we have made a big impact in terms of changing the face of our football and we have been humbled by the goodwill messages that we have received from all sectors of our national game, pronouncing the appreciation that this game has of the part we have played so far,” said Manyaya.

“We have also religiously invested in our representatives in the Caf Confederation Cup, offering them a helping hand in terms of a healthy sponsorship package, hoping that once we do that, the teams will be able to represent our beautiful country without carrying the punishing weight that comes with worrying about the cost of taking part in such an aenture.

“We are concentrating on balancing our efforts in enhancing our operational capacity and efficiency as well as fulfilling our normal corporate social responsibility investment thrust.

“The current environment poses its own operational challenges, which have affected us as a corporate and cumulatively, our stakeholders.

“Our strategic thrust for 2014 is to heavily invest into mining of deep-seated conglomerate kimberlitic material which requires an extensive capital outlay. As a result, we embarked on major cost-cutting initiatives that have seen us reducing budgets in all facets.

“It is against this background that the 2014 edition of the Mbada Diamonds Cup comes in a different but more exciting format which we believe will make a bigger impact on the standard of the competition.”

Source : The Herald