Tonderai Ndiraya will this afternoon plunge into his first ever task as head coach of a top-flight league team when he leads Dynamos into the ZNA Charity Shield final against old foes Highlanders at Rufaro.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
The tie might be merely a charity match, but any result will certainly leave lasting impressions on Ndiraya, who assumed DeMbare reins on interim basis following the sacking of David Mandigora on Thursday.
Dynamos have dangled a permanent job carrot to Ndiraya if he wins the league title, but the journey begins today and the Bosso contest could prove to be the most important match of his life.
While Bongani Mafu has extended Highlanders’ struggle to beat their old foes Dynamos, more attention will fall on Ndiraya whose tactical acumen will be under severe scrutiny.
What could make his day hard is that his opponents are seriously wounded, having struggled to beat Dynamos in any competition since 2011.
Mkhupali Masuku led Highlanders to the Independence Trophy in 2011, although not in glamourous style as they required a penalty shootout to decide the contest after a 1-1 regulation time draw.
This leaves Highlanders’ record against DeMbare a grim reading, having last beaten the Harare giants inside 90 minutes way back in 2006.
For Dynamos to lose inside regulation time this afternoon, would be a historical disaster for Ndiraya whose consequence would be loss of trust from the blue fans. But a win will certainly have Ndiraya’s name boldly engraved in their hearts, at least for now.
The prospect of beginning his reign against a traditional giant is not one to cherish, but Ndiraya says he is ready for the task.
“Football is football (sic),” said Ndiraya. “Whether we are playing against Highlanders or those teams you call small, it is the same. The only difference in playing Highlanders is that there is some pressure. But if we get our tactics correct, we will win. To me it is going to be a great feeling walking into the pitch for the battle. I am ready and I am looking forward to it.”
Dynamos will be without midfielder Ronald Chitiyo who failed to recover from injury in time. But they welcome back Stephen Alimenda who was suspended in league matches.
Ndiraya has been involved in matches against Highlanders as assistant coach to Kalisto Pasuwa and Mandigora, with the most recent being the 3-2 league win at Rufaro in June, as well as the 1-1 draw seven days ago at Barbourfields.
“This is a Cup game and it has to end on the same day, so the approach is different from league matches. If you lose, you are out of it. We are prepared for this game and we hope to win it,” said Ndiraya.
For Highlanders coach Mafu, losing to Ndiraya might wipe away the little trust Bosso fans still have in him. With Mandigora having been fired, a defeat for Bosso could also ring the death knell to Mafu’s reign.
So far, Mafu has had two duels against Dynamos, all ending with no joy. But the coach feels he is this time around geared more to face their archenemies after studying them in the two games they have played them.
“As usual, we are ready for this match. Yes, the fact that we played them twice this year helps me because I now know them. I am now fully aware of what we are dealing with,” said Mafu.