Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS players, who only trained for 20 minutes last week due to a strike over winning bonuses left for Hwange yesterday for a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League fixture at the Colliery Stadium this afternoon.
The players only called off their strike on Friday afternoon having missed training since Tuesday. The industrial action over the extra incentives was abandoned after the players met with Highlanders board chairman Mgcini Nkolomi, acting executive chairman Modern Ngwenya, treasurer Donald Ndebele and chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube at Barbourfields Stadium.
Coach Erol Akbay, in an interview before the team left for Hwange that all he can hope for is that the players come to the party even though they fine tuned for just 20 minutes.
“In this kind of moment you never know what to expect as a coach but only what you hope is that the players give everything to make sure that we win our match. If you are not paid money and there is lots of problems with money issue, of course the mood is not good enough, we want to win the game tomorrow,’’ Akbay said.
Highlanders will be led by defender Peter Muduhwa, who was announced as part of the leadership together with speedy winger Gabriel Nyoni and veteran striker Ralph Matema. The club executive suspended the leadership group of Erick Mudzingwa, Ariel Sibanda and Rahman Kutsanzira over accusations of leading the strike.
Akbay yesterday disclosed that the executive wanted Mudzingwa, Sibanda and Kutsanzira frozen out of the team for the rest of the season but he stood his ground. Mudzingwa and Sibanda were part of the team which left for Hwange yesterday while Kutsanzira missed the trip due to suspension after accumulating three yellow cards, the same scenario with Matema.
“The executive have suspended them for the rest of the season that’s why they are pushing me to get a new captain but it was not my decision. They also tried to say they should not play but I refused to accept it, one punishment is okay but not more than that,’’ said Akbay.
Highlanders acting chairman Modern Ngwenya said the team leadership was suspended for not respecting authority after they ignored a directive to report to the club offices to discuss their grievances last Wednesday.
“I summoned the captains to the office through the manager Vezigama Dlodlo but they refused to come but instead they insisted that the executive comes to them. We don’t discuss issues pertaining to the team in public. That on its own its insubordination, we had to replace them, we tasked Erol Akbay to choose the new leadership,’’ Ngwenya said.
The players are owed winning for their victories over Shabanie Mine, Chicken Inn, Triangle and Black Rhinos. Bosso players get $170 each for an away win and $140 for winning at home which means they are owed $650 each. Their salaries are paid by the club sponsors BancABC while Highlanders are responsible for the winning incentives. Ngwenya described the strike over winning bonuses as being unfortunate because it is the players’ unsatisfactory display which has driven the fans away from Bosso’s home matches.
“You cannot strike over bonuses, we pay them as and when we have them. People are not coming to the ground, it’s the very players who are not performing, bonuses come from turnstiles, it is the players who bring spectators,’’ he said.
Highlanders are fighting to end the season in a respectable position with the best they can achieve mathematically being fifth, occupied by Caps United at the moment a team which leads them by 10 points with Bosso having 12 points to play for.
Meanwhile, title chasing Ngezi Platinum Stars will look to maintain the momentum when they face already demoted Bantu Rovers at Luveve Stadium. Dynamos, also in the race for the championship clash with Chapungu at the National Sports Stadium while Triangle have an opportunity to steer clear from the relegation zone when they take on Harare City at Gibbo.
Today: Bantu Rovers v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Luveve), Hwange v Highlanders (Colliery), Triangle United v Harare City (Gibbo), Dynamos v Chapungu (National Sports Stadium)
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League results at a glance
Friday: How Mine 0-1 Caps United, Chicken Inn 1-0
Yesterday: FC Platinum 3-0 ZPC Kariba, Black Rhinos 1-1 Shabanie Mine, Yadah 2-0 Bulawayo City.