Inside sport with MICHAEL KARIATI
There is no discussion on Zimbabwean football right now that comes and passes without the mention of Highlanders, and, in particular, where they stand on the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) order.
Four points from a possible total of 21 points is not good for a team that has a reputation and has a long and illustrious history as the oldest club in Zimbabwean football.
Although the season is still fresh, Highlanders should not have been second from the bottom in the 18-team PSL assembly, but should have been up there jostling for the leadership of the top- flight league.
Traditionally, during this time of the season, Highlanders are usually among the front runners and alarm bells are ringing that at this 20% performance rate, Bosso might find themselves fighting relegation throughout the season.
Although it would be too much to talk of Highlanders playing Division One football, no team is bigger than Zimbabwean football as evidenced by the manner in which Zimbabwe Saints and Black Aces fell from the PSL to Division One and later into oblivion.
Nobody expected “Shaisa Mufaro” — who gave Zimbabwe some of its greatest players — and Saints — who dominated Zimbabwean football in 1988 — where they won the league title in style — to go the way they did, but they did.
The names of Archieford Chimutanda, Wilfred and William Mugeyi, Roderick Muganhiri, Brenna Msiska, John Mbidzo, and others are forever on the fans’ lips, but where is Shaisa Mufaro?
So is Zimbabwe Saints that gave Zimbabwe the likes of Moses Moyo, Ephraim Chawanda, Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo, Andrew Kadengu, Joseph Machingura, and Henry McKop, who dropped to Division One despite their popularity on the domestic football scene.
Even Dynamos, widely regarded as the most popular football team in the country, nearly went to Division One last season until they fired coach Lloyd Mutasa and replaced him with Lloyd “Mablanyo” Chigove, who conjured the escape act.
In fact, the Premiership family is already bigger than the sponsorship that is available, and there is no way — as was suggested in the case of Dynamos last season — that teams will be increased irrespective of who finishes in a relegation position.
What is ironic in the case of Highlanders is that the Bulawayo giants are playing exciting shortpassing football, but are not scoring goals and thereby not winning. One of the team’s most faithful fans, Simbai Mahachi, was quick to find a scapegoat claiming that the team “has been cursed”, but by whom?
“There are people within our team who do not want us to win. Maybe, they do not want the coach or the executive and so, they have closed the gates for us. In fact, they have removed the gates from all the stadiums,” claims Mahachi.
Whatever the problems Highlanders have, whether they come in the form of the coach, club leadership, or finances, those are for the Bosso family to resolve.
What Zimbabwean football followers —including those from Caps United, Dynamos and FC Platinum — want is a Bosso side that does not at its best play to a draw, but should also win matches.
In fact, matches between Dynamos and Highlanders are classified among the top club meetings in African football, placed alongside those involving Al Ahly and Zamalek in Egypt, Esperance and Club Africaine in Tunisia, Wydad and Raja Casablanca in Morocco, AFC Leopards and Go Mahia in Kenya, and the one in South Africa involving Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
The first of those games between Bosso and DeMbare is still to come and the Zimbabwean football public is hoping that when that day finally arrives, Bosso would have resolved whatever problems they have to give the game the groove it deserves.
The consensus among the legions of Highlanders followers is that coach Madinda Ndlovu has failed and should be sacked. However, football decisions are a gamble which can either pay off or fail to yield the required results.
Whatever decision Highlanders are going to take, one thing they should bear in mind is that under Ndlovu, things might not change, or might change for the better. On that premise, there is also no guarantee that bringing in a new coach would produce the required results.
There are so many examples that have taken place in Zimbabwean football which bear testimony to this. Dynamos kept Mutasa for almost the entire season hoping things would improve and nearly went to Division One.
Monomotapa were so patient with Norman Mapeza that they kept him on the bench after losing all his first four matches of the season, but still went on to win the 2009 league championship.
Only this season, Dynamos parted ways with Chigowe and now things seem to be moving in the right direction under Tonderai Ndiraya, who, ironically, was last season fired by Ngezi Platinum Stars for poor results.
The most important thing right now is for Highlanders to start picking up points because the route they have taken is a dangerous one, and such an institution should not crash to Division One. Some might say it is too early to think of that, but seven games are a fifth of the domestic league programme, and matches are moving as fast as they come, but Highlanders’ points are not increasing.
Bosso should rise before the situation gets out of hand. Now is the time to start picking up points before the situation becomes desperate as happened to Dynamos in the year gone by.
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