Bongani Mafu’s task to help Highlanders end nine years of Premier Soccer League title drought would be under severe check once again in this afternoon’s derby clash against How Mine at Barbourfields.|
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Having lost four games and drawn three in 12 outings, Bosso have so far dropped a staggering 18 points that can make Mafu a failed man.
Managing just five wins, Highlanders have set themselves a tall order to catch up with leaders Chicken Inn.
Since Methembe Ndlovu struck gold in 2006, Madinda Ndlovu, Mohammed Fathy, Mkhupali Masuku and Kelvin Kaindu failed to deliver the championship and Mafu’s record so far is of a man who is on course to extend Bosso’s title jinx.
With pressure mounting on Mafu from a large section of Bosso fans, this afternoon’s derby confrontation is likely to ring a death knell for the coach in case Highlanders lose.
But even if he is fired, his successor will still inherit a sinking ship.
To many Bosso supporters, they have retired hopes of winning the league title and Mafu also seems to have lost that hope.
“My target is to win the next game but I do not want to talk much about targets,” said Mafu.
“The league is taking a break and it makes me mad talking about what I want to achieve by the halfway stage of the season. It is confusing me. I would rather not talk about it.”
While Mafu has sometimes complained of injuries or players being away on national duty, he will today be robbed of some excuses for defeat following the return of Thomas Chideu, Nqobizitha Masuku and defender Teenage Hadebe who were with the national Under-23 team for the past two weeks.
Ozias Zibande, Gabriel Nyoni and Mthilisi Maphosa are however out injured. Having failed to win four league matches at home, Mafu’s reign has turned Barbourfields into a territory where enemies can fancy high their chances of collecting maximum points.
“We need to make Barbourfields a fortress but I do not want to put players under pressure. I want them to play with freedom at home and the calmness will bring good results,” said Mafu.
Highlanders have already lost a derby match this season after falling down 2-1 to Chicken Inn last month. Highlanders fans are angry with Mafu and have been baying for his head at Barbourfields in recent home games in which they have also marched to the clubhouse in protest over the coach.
Bosso fans’ anger has become a concern for How Mine coach Luke Masomere more than Mafu.
“I am worried about Highlanders fans,” said Masomere.
“They might influence the referee’s decision because of their anger.
The referee might be forced to favour Highlanders so as to avoid chaos. A loss for Highlanders means violence and the referee is likely to control the fans in a favourable manner and that can deny us a win.”
Just like Highlanders, How Mine entered into the season with expectations high on them after heavily beefing up their squad during pre-season.
A strikeforce that include Limited Chikafa, Charles Sibanda and Kuda Musharu has paltry contributed in the 14 goals that the club boasts of in 12 matches.
“Our position on the log does not matter at the moment. I will start looking at where we are standing in the second half of the season,” said Masomere.
In other matches, Dongo Sawmill welcome Harare City at Vengere while Buffaloes entertain Whawha at Sakubva.
FC Platinum will make a long trip to the Colliery for a date against Hwange while Tsholotsho FC travel to the lowveld to taste Triangle sugar.
The CAPS United, Flame Lily encounter at the giant National Sports Stadium completes week 13 PSL action.