BY FORTUNE MBELE
WHEN striker Prince Dube returned from an unsuccessful stint with South African Premiership side SuperSport United and was signed by Highlanders last year, the Bulawayo football giants’ coaches and fans went wild with excitement.
Despite being signed as a free agent, he was not eligible to play at that time, but Highlanders were quick to swoop on him as the forward had also attracted interest from champions FC Platinum and Chicken Inn.
Despite overtures from both clubs, Dube opted for a return to his former team.
He left Highlanders in the mid-season of 2017 with six goals on his back and on his return expectations were obviously high that the Young Warriors star was the answer to Highlanders’ prayers for a goal-getter of high prowess.
But so far it has not been a happy return for Dube with 14 games played so far in the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season.
Despite his coaches saying Dube is playing well, the striker has only scored a single goal when the Bulawayo giants lost 3-1 to Harare City at Rufaro Stadium in April in Highlanders’ third game of the season and after that it has been big yawns as he continues to miss several scoring opportunities.
He has played virtually all the games so far save for the away game against Ngezi Platinum Stars at Baobab Stadium when he was on suspension and came in from
the bench in the 1-1 draw against Black Rhinos in Harare and the goalless draw to Hwange at Barboufields Stadium.
The frustration of not scoring was exhibited by Dube in the 1-0 win over Dynamos at Barbourfields just before the break for the Africa Cup of Nations.
The striker ventured beyond goalkeeper Simbarashe Chinani and fiddled with what looked like the goal minder’s gloves bag believing it contained black magic that stopped him from scoring.
Highlanders technical manager Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu, who took over from Madinda Ndlovu and has coached Dube at national level, believes that not scoring has put the young player under intense pressure, which could affect his game.
Emissaries, believed to be former club players, roped in by Madinda to help scout around players but have not been formalised into the Highlanders structures,
have been sent out to talk to Dube, as a means of counseling.
“Prince is getting help psychologically. The boy is under pressure, one can tell. He is 22 and at this stage in this team we are saying he is our top striker.
He has been missing a lot of scoring opportunities”, Mpofu said.
“There was a lot of expectation from everyone that he was going to be the same Prince that he was before he left, but nothing has happened especially in terms
of scoring. As a club we are trying to help him as much as possible. He is a fantastic player, but something is happening in terms of his mental strength. In
terms of playing, he is doing well, but it’s just the scoring part.”
That position has been reiterated by Mpofu’s assistant Bekithemba ‘Super’ Ndlovu, who said they have been talking to the player to try and restore his
“We have been talking to him to get his confidence back and sometimes we do extra work after or before training for all the strikers to try and perfect their
finishing,” Super said.
Dube was unearthed by former Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu when he was only 15 while learning at Somvubu High School in Inyathi in Matabeleland North He was
turning out for a team called Shooting Stars in the rural set-up.
Mafu brought him to Bulawayo where he played for his juniors’ side Lobengula Stars and took him to Highlanders when he became the Bulawayo giants’ head coach
in 2015, where the young became an instant hit.
Dube will be eager to rediscover his scoring prowess when Bosso travel to Rusape for a date with Manica Diamonds at Vengere today.