The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS did not enjoy a great start to the 2021/22 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season when they lost 2-0 to Black Rhinos at the National Sports Stadium recently.
Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu, the Highlanders coach has an opportunity to make amends for that season opener defeat when he faces Ngezi Platinum Stars at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon. The Bosso coach is a man under pressure to deliver positive results after the club chairman Johnfat Sibanda declared at the start of the season that Amahlolanyama, last crowned champions in 2006 were gunning for the championship.
Sponsorship from Sakunda Holdings has changed things at Highlanders as players, who went for three months without getting salaries are now getting their dues on time, with their focus now on the field of play.
Mpofu spoke of the enthusiasm from his players to face Ngezi Platinum, with the coach mentioning that he was finding it hard to select the starting line-up since everyone wants to play in Bosso’s first home game of the season.
“The competition is just unbelievable, I am finding it difficult to come up with the first eleven that’s going to play on Sunday because everyone wants to play, the first game at Barbourfields after two years where fans are available,’’ Mpofu said.
The hard to please Bosso fans should come out in their numbers to witness their team in action after the PSL reduced entry fees.
A sizeable number pitched up for the initial fixture between the two teams that was cancelled after referees decided to disappear from the stadium. On that day, they parted with US$10 for the rest of the ground, with that being reduced to US$3, something that most of the spectators can afford.
Fans who paid to watch the abandoned match will be able to find their way into Emagumeni without being required to pay again, which should boost the numbers for Highlanders. Around 8 000 spectators are allowed to get into Barbourfields to witness what promises to be an exciting contest.
Mpofu is excited to have the Bosso fans back into the stadium, since the spectators give the players the zeal to perform.
“It’s a plus for us and the team, now that the gate charges have been reduced, it means we will get better numbers than what we got when we wanted to play the last time. They (fans) drive the team, they are the owners of the team, so we are happy that they are back,’’ Mpofu said.
The last time the two teams met was in the final of the 2019 Chibuku Super Cup final, a contest Bosso won 1-0 courtesy of a brilliant yet contentious goal scored by Prince Dube.
While Bosso came home empty handed from Harare, Madamburo clobbered Bulawayo City 5-0 in their season opener. Nyasha Chintuli scored the first hat trick of the season in his league debut for Ngezi Platinum. Chintuli, together with a rejuvenated Denver Mukamba are the men to watch from the visitors.
Bosso had to face Black Rhinos without their captain and first choice goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda who drooped off the team bus on the way to Harare after getting news that his grandfather had passed away.
That saw Future Sibanda start in between the sticks and conceded two goals. Ariel’s return brings calm to a Bosso defence that should be marshalled by national team defender Peter Muduhwa. Nqobizitha Masuku usually brings the much needed cover for the backline while engineering things in the middle of the park.
The biggest concern for Highlanders is the strike force which fired blanks against Rhinos.
Bosso also found the going tough in their last four Chibuku Super matches which all ended in draws while they only scored twice in those fixtures. Lynoth Chikuhwa, Toto Banda, Roddy Sibanda and Wellington Navaya are the men tasked with finding the goals for Highlanders.