Northern Region Soccer League (NRSL) promotion saga rages on


The controversial nature in which the Northern Region Soccer League (NRSL) is going about its promotion matrix ahead of its 2024 season has given commentators another bone to chew.

Northern Region Soccer League, Zimbabwe football crisis, Norton Times, ZIFA 2024, ZPSL 2024
Of Playoffs and Confusion: An announcement of a change in the promotion/relegation regulations in the NRSL has brought about sheer confusion amongst teams playing their trade in Zimbabwe's second-tier league.

At the end of last season, the league announced that it was only taking three provincial champions in, a change from the usual six. 

The NRSL is fed by Harare Metropolitan, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West provinces. With each of its feeder provinces running two-pool leagues, the NRSL insisted on the provinces scheduling playoffs to determine one provincial champion each.

There has been a lot of bickering over the issue, with the NRSL standing its ground while the provinces protested the “ambush” nature of the condition. 

Reluctantly, two of the provinces have conducted their playoffs, while Mashonaland West remains adamant. 

The issue has even been escalated to the FIFA-appointed ZIFA Normalisation Committee (NC) running domestic football affairs.

In Mashonaland Central, Agama FC won their playoff against Zambezi G & S Mine FC. 

In Harare Metropolitan, Simbisa Brands FC prevailed over Royal Stars FC. 

That leaves Norton Community FC and CCLEE Mhangura FC for the Mashonaland West decider.

According to the NRSL statement released at the death of last season, they were promoting three provincial champions and relegating four clubs to compensate for an extra northern region demotion from the Premier Soccer League (PSL). 

The team placed fifth from bottom in the NRSL would then go into another series of playoffs with the three losers of provincial playoffs. 

Under that stipulation of the NRSL, Commando Bullets, Omnia, ZRP Harare and Concession were automatically relegated. 

By finishing fifth from bottom, Shamva Mine FC would then go into playoffs with provincial playoff losers — Royals (Harare Metropolitan), Zambezi G & S Mine FC (Mashonaland Central) and one of Norton Community FC and CCLEE Mhangura (Mashonaland West).

But now, something strange, and contrary to its own dictates, has been done by the NRSL. 

Shamva Mine have reportedly won reprieve from relegation by winning a “playoff” against Zambezi G & S Mine FC on 11 February 2024! 

A Zambezi G & S Mine FC official told this reporter that they played all their playoffs under protest and they feel their quest for a place in the NRSL has always been unfairly hindered since 2022.

“Having won the Mashonaland Central Division 2B League, we got involved in playoffs under protest. We lost on penalties to Mashonaland Central Division 2A champions Agama FC. 

"We were then told to play a relegated NRSL side, Shamva Mine, losing on penalties again after a 1-all stalemate. Even the player who scored their goal was not registered”, said Zambezi G & S Mine FC’s chairperson Oliah Chiwara.

Chiwara added that their sponsor had bought a bus for the team soon after they were crowned champions, for use in the NRSL, only to be told at the last minute that they were going to play another series of matches before securing promotion.

How the NRSL navigates this will be interesting. 

Zambezi G & S Mine FC were losers of a provincial playoff, falling to Agama FC. But they got a second chance, losing to Shamva Mine. 

Will Royals, who lost a provincial playoff to Simbisa Brands, get a second chance too? Against who? 

Was it not supposed to be Zambezi, Royals, Shamva and a Mashonaland West team in the playoff for the last berth?

So many questions, even more confusion, no answers being provided. 

In Mashonaland West, there are unconfirmed reports that CCLEE Mhangura have opted out of the playoffs. 

If that is true, Norton Community gets a place in the NRSL as Mashonaland West champions. That leaves Royals as the only provincial loser still to get a second chance. Who will they play, and for which place?

“We are aware we still have another chance. We are just waiting”, said a Royals official when reached for comment.

When Martin Kweza published the letter announcing the changes to promotion regulations last year, the administrators expected a walk in the park.

However, as it unfolds, it seems this is only just beginning of the confusion and madness.

This saga seems like a storm in a teacup, but it reflects just how muddy football administration has gotten in Zimbabwe.

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