By Ricky Zililo
Bulawayo giants, Highlanders, did not bolster their squad during the mid-season transfer window that closed on Monday night, with coach Erol Akbay keeping faith in the players he registered at the beginning of the season.
Highlanders lost two strikers, Prince Dube and Rodreck Mutuma.
Dube signed a four-year deal with South African side SuperSport United, while Mutuma terminated his contract to join Harare-based Premiership new boys, Yadah Stars FC.
Akbay had indicated interest in signing a left-back to deputise Honest Moyo, but the gaffer had a change of heart and decided not to promote any player from the club’s development side, Bosso 90, who compete in the First Division.
Bosso 90 left-back Mbongeni Ndlovu, younger brother to ex-Bosso captain Bekithemba ‘Super’ Ndlovu, is a consistent performer in the First Division and is viewed as a suitable deputy for Moyo.
Nhlanhla Dube, the Highlanders’ chief executive officer, said Akbay felt Ndlovu needs time to develop in the First Division.
“We didn’t make any additions to the squad after losing Dube and Mutuma. On Mbongeni Ndlovu, the coach decided he be kept in the developmental side so that he gets game time, as he continues with his development. The coach didn’t want to rob the youngster the development he needs between now and the end of the season so that he starts next year more mature and ready to compete in the senior team,” Dube said.
Highlanders are not the only Bulawayo side that decided against bringing in new faces into their squad.
How Mine were inactive in the market, as they did not release or sign any players.
“All players we started the season with are here. One thing we looked at was the financial position of the club. We also looked at the fact that it took time for players to understand the philosophy and they have just started to gel, so adding new faces or releasing some players was going to disturb our rhythm. Another thing we looked at was that senior players are the ones driving the team and we want to give youngsters some game time so that they learn from the influential seniors,” said Kelvin Kaindu, the How Mine gaffer.
Championship contenders Chicken Inn, who lost defender Teenage Hadebe to South African giants Kaizer Chiefs and midfielder Tafadzwa Kutinyu to Tanzania’s Singida United added six players mostly from their development side.
Chicken Inn signed attacking midfielder Collins Dhuwa from Shabanie Mine, recalled winger Michael Kudu Bhebhe from his loan at Zim Leopards in Division One and promoted four players from their Division Two side.
The quartet of midfielder Vumani Khumalo, defenders Tinashe Mthimkhulu, Sean Guchu and Mbongeni Ncube graduated from Chicken Inn’s development side.
Ambitious Zvishavane side, FC Platinum reinforced their attack by roping in seasoned strikers Mkhokheli Dube and Takesure Chinyama, former TP Mazembe midfielder Ali Sadiki and unheralded forward Hamadzaishe Moyo from Blanket Mine.
FC Platinum lost Talent Chawapiwa to South African Premiership side Baroka FC and loaned out the trio of Agrippa Murimba to Shabanie Mine, Ishmael Wadi (Bulawayo City) and Nigel Papias (Bantu Rovers).
Rovers made nine additions as they fight for survival. Goalkeeper Wellington Muuya (Amagagasi), defender Lindelani ‘Vice’ Ncube (Bulawayo City), Pride Ziwengwa (Tsholotsho FC), striker Remmington Masuku (Botswana), Papias (FC Platinum), the trio of Marvin Sibanda, Samson Sakala and Sibusiso Moyo from their juniors and goalkeeper Elton Sibanda (Talen Vision) will help Rovers fight relegation in the second half of this season.
Rovers lost captain and the league’s leading scorer with 10 goals Bukhosi Sibanda and Obriel Chirinda to South African National First Division side Ubuntu Cape Town and released goalkeeper Stephen Chimusoro, who has since joined Black Rhinos.
They also released the pair of striker Newman Sianchali and goalkeeper Ndodana Sibanda, who joined Bulawayo City, as well as US-bound teenage winger Michael Kutsanzira and defender Junior David Mubaiwa.
Mkhokheli Dube, goalkeeper Ashford Katsande, defenders Peace Tshuma and Lindelani Ncube as well as midfielder Kelvin Madzongwe left Bulawayo City during the midseason break.
Bulawayo City only brought on board three players, Wadi (FC Platinum) as well as the pair of goalkeeper Ndodana Sibanda and Newman Sianchali from Rovers The Chronicle