The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
LAST Sunday saw Highlanders fail to find the target for the second time in the 2021/22 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season as they fired blanks to draw 0-0 with Ngezi Platinum Stars at Barbourfields Stadium.
The match was played at such high tempo as the two teams did not hold back, with the spectators who pitched up getting value for money, with of course the only thing they did not get being goals.
Highlanders, whose fans came out in numbers to witness their team for the first time at Emagumeni since they last did so in March 2020 were particularly impressive in midfield. Winston Mhango did well at defensive link after coming in as a replacement for Nqobizitha Masuku, Joel “Josta” Ngodzo was exceptional and so was Bukhosi
“I think everyone did pretty well especially in the middle of the park where I lost Nqoe (Nqobizitha Masuku) on the last day. Winston came in, gave us a bit of stability, so was unbelievable Josta, I believe he is getting better in terms of fitness. Zakhu, Bukhosi, he showed that Zakhu we know, he played very well,’’ said Highlanders coach Mandla Mpofu at the end of the match.
It was no doubt the display by Ngodzo that took Highlanders supporters down memory lane and left them awe-struck. Those who watched a younger Ngodzo in 2009 and 2010 were last Sunday reminded of what “Josta” could do. Ngodzo bulldozed his way in midfield with some pinpoint passing, he made football look so easy just like he did in the Highlanders colours in 2009 and 2010 before he moved to FC Platinum in 2011.
Ngodzo broke into the Bosso first team in 2009 as a 20-year old and the following year, his excellent display in Bosso colours saw him being one of the favourites to win the 2010 Soccer Star of the Year, an award that eventually went to Charles Sibanda then of Motor Action.
Many felt that Ngodzo deserved to be voted the country’s best domestic footballer for 2010 ahead of Sibanda, later to be his teammate at FC Platinum. Of course, Sibanda and Bhekimpilo Ncube had the advantage over Ngodzo since they had won the 2010 championship with the now defunct Motor Action.
Ngodzo’s magnificent show for Highlanders in 2010 saw him earn himself a rewarding move to free spending FC Platinum for the 2011 season whose proceeds he is understood to have used to buy himself a house in one of Bulawayo’s leafy suburbs, something not so many 22-year-olds have been able to achieve in Zimbabwe.
Fitness issues were raised by then Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu who excluded him from his plans in 2015.
Mafu felt that Ngodzo was overweight and this saw the midfielder move to Caps United where he, however went on to excel and won the championship in 2016 and bagged the Soccer Star of the Year in 2019.
Despite being 32, Ngodzo seems to have worked hard on his fitness which saw him last the full 90 minutes against Ngezi Platinum last Sunday. He was full of energy right till the end.
Mpofu now knows not to worry much about the midfield, with the biggest concern being the strike force as Bosso have now gone for 180 minutes without finding the back of the net while they have conceded twice.
The display by the Ngodzo inspired midfield has cut out the work for the Highlanders coaches.
The hard to please Bosso fans will be hoping for more of the exquisite stuff from Ngodzo and his midfield partners in the remaining 32 matches as Amahlolanyama hunt for their first championship in close to two decades having last been crowned Zimbabwean club champions in 2006 when the bulk of the current players were just little ones. — @Mdawini_29