GWERU-based side TelOne FC were last week celebrating yet another milestone after earning promotion to the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League following their Zifa Central Region Soccer League triumph and it appears the sky is the limit for the WiFi Boys.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA
Promotion to the Premiership was the culmination of a dream, which started just three years after their formation and subsequent debut in the Zifa Midlands Division Two.
The ambitious side has been on a steady rise since being promoted into the Central Region Soccer League in 2016, culminating in a memorable promotion into the top-flight after shrugging off stiff competition from seasoned campaigners such as WhaWha and Tongogara.
After a poor campaign in 2017 under the mentorship of Jeremiah Neganda, it was the arrival of former Warriors forward Joel Luphahla, which proved the masterstroke for TelOne as that immediately breathed a new life to the financially stable side.
“We had a dream as a team to play in the top league. Generally that is the ultimate goal of every team that plays football on the local front and I’m glad we managed to achieve that objective,” Luphahla told Standardsport in an interview last week.
“I have been there and I have fond memories of my days at Highlanders where we won titles, we lost games, but never quit.
“We had a fighting spirit that kept us going even when the odds were against us. That same fighting spirit has led me and these young boys this far.
“I told the boys that we are the best and they proved that they are the best, it was a difficult path to walk with youngsters some of whom needed extra care but we made it,” he said.
With promotion sealed, the next chapter in their journey is to establish themselves as a Premiership team for many years to come.
“You know Division One football is different from Premier League football. In the top-flight we have to be strong in all aspects, mostly mentally and financially,” said Luphahla, who has had several coaching spells at CAPS United and Border Strikers.
“In terms of personnel I can safely say I’m happy with the squad I have, but I also feel there are areas we can improve on and we might need to acquire two or three experienced players to strengthen the team. But we will have to wait and consult our bosses so that we map the way forward.”
Luphahla has assembled a team of mainly youngsters and the name that immediately stands out is that of former Young Warriors striker Blessing Sibanda who is regarded as a top talent at the club.
TelOne also owe much of their success to Sibanda, their leading scorer. the former Tsholotsho striker finished the season with a modest eight goals.
While there has been speculation that they could relocate to Harare after their promotion, Luphahla is optimistic the club will maintain its roots in Gweru and look to tap into the talent in the Midlands capital.
“We have a football-loving community and I urge those who feel they can compete to come forward and see if they can find their place.
“This team is Gweru-based, so it is in our best interest to make sure we assemble a team with as many local players as possible because this community has been with us since the team’s days in Division Two and I can tell you that they have been the driving force behind the team since I came here earlier this year,” said Luphahla.
The club’s treasurer Maxwell Bitasi affirmed that they had sufficient resources to compete with other top teams in the country and the telecommunications firm would continue investing in the team.
“The company [TelOne] is very much interested in seeing this team succeed. But one most important thing is that Gweru has been privileged to have the team on board, hence they should identify with this team. I believe that will make it a formidable force,” he said.