Despite Highlanders’ pre-season shopping spree where they acquired three strikers, coach Erol Akbay has dampened any optimism among the supporters ahead of the new season by suggesting that his crop of players don’t match the quality needed to win the Premier Soccer League title.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
With the arrival of former Dynamos striker Roderick Mutuma added with the signing of Manuel Esono Obiang Buale (23) from Equatorial Guinea and Tambwe Kalunga (28) from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an air of buoyancy had built in the Bosso faithful ahead of the new season expected to burst into life next month.
But Akbay has given his honest assessment of the situation and poured cold water on any title talk with Highlanders having gone more than a decade without lifting the most sought-after silverware on the domestic scene.
“I have not heard the acting chairman (Modern Ngwenya) saying that he has given me the players and he wants me to win the championship. I know everyone wants the championship, even Tsholotsho want to win the championship, but we have to be realistic. I don’t have championship-winning material. The club has no money to buy the best players, but I only hope that we can put more pressure to the boys to do better than last year,” Akbay said yesterday.
In the early stages of last season, Akbay also dismissed his side as title contenders, instead tipping Caps United, FC Platinum and ZPC Kariba, but Bosso were heavily involved in the tussle towards the end before finishing third.
They finished seven points behind eventual winners Caps United while FC Platinum collected five points more than the Bulawayo giants.
It had been suggested that the Highlanders management set a title target for the Dutch coach, but that notion was dismissed yesterday.
Club secretary Emmett Ndlovu said no targets had been set for Akbay, as the executive did not want to put the technical team, players and supporters under pressure.
“We are not going to set any targets now. It’s early days and we are not going to put our technical team, the players and the fans under unnecessary pressure. We are not under any pressure to do that. We are seized with preparations for the ZNA Charities Shield semi-final against FC Platinum, which will be played at Luveve Stadium on Sunday,” Ndlovu said.
Buale and Kalunga, who played for Border Strikers last year, will not feature in Sunday’s game as they are yet to acquire work permits.
Highlanders also snatched midfielder Denzel Khumalo from Bantu Rovers and he too will have to wait on the sidelines.
Akbay described Khumalo, who did not feature in the 2-1 loss to Zambia’s Power Dynamos in an international friendly at Luveve, as not fully-fledged to command a first-team jersey and would be gradually introduced into the team keeping faith in young right-back Bukhosi Ncube.
The Bosso mentor said their preparations were being affected by the rains, forcing them to use the small five-a-side artificial turf pitch at the Football for Hope Centre in Luveve as most of the grounds had become
The semi-final clash, which had been initially scheduled for February 26 at Barbourfields Stadium, was postponed due to the incessant rains that have been pounding the city recently.Newsday