By Fungai Muderere
BULAWAYO – Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu had a pool of 180 players to choose from for his final squad of 30 players.
Whatever result comes out of the team’s expedition this coming season it will be a result of a choice of 30. “In total we had 180 players having trials at Highlanders including those that had running and expiring contracts,” Mafu said.
Although nothing new to him, choosing from a large pool of players is never an easy thing.
“I have done this before in my coaching career. I held trials for junior teams and reserve sides in the United Kingdom but I must admit, the process of coming up with the final team is very long and demanding,” he added.
Mafu said he did not entirely base his selection process on talent. There were also other things to consider.
“It’s not all about tactical awareness of a player. We needed players with a Highlanders mentally,” he said.
Since there was overwhelming response from players, he ended up taking more than Highlanders can chew.
“We were in the process forced to sign 10 more players that we loaned to other clubs,” said Mafu. Notable names that made it to the final 30 are Zephaniah Ngodzo, Lindelani “Vice” Ncube, Lawson Nkomo, Qinani “Chroma” Sibanda, lanky striker Xolani Ncube and the club’s juniors product Ryan Mabhena.
Mafu also revealed, he still had plans for injured young midfielder Arnold “Punky” Ndiweni.
“Arnold is still a Highlanders player. It’s unfortunate he received a nasty injury during our friendly match against Chapungu. He is not training but if possible we will register him during the mid season transfer window,” he said.
Punky an attacking winger was previously loaned by Bosso to How Mine and Southern Region Division One club Black Boots where he went to command first team jerseys courtesy of his skill, speed and tactical awareness.
The pre-season period saw the arrival of Bantu Rovers quartet Takunda Mutanga, Teenage Hadebe, Obadiah Tarumbwa and Nqobizitha Masuku at Bosso.
Mutanga finds stiff competition from seasoned goalkeepers Njabulo “Popo” Nyoni and Ariel Sibanda.
Stocky defender Douglas Sibanda was recalled from loan to Shabanie Mine. He fights for the central defence and anchorman’s roles together with Eric Mudzingwa and captain Felix Chindungwe.
Masuku’s midfield competitors are Tendai Ngulube, King Nadolo, Welcome Ndiweni, Mthulisi Maphosa, Simon Munawa and Edmore Muzanenhamo.
Highlanders were frantically hunting for a seasoned striker to add firepower to their attack and the capture of Tarumbwa was sweet music to their ears.
Tarumbwa, who has had playing stints in Belgium, Cyprus, Kenya and South Africa, possesses the experience that the Bosso coach needs and has already shown some glimpses of brilliance upfront where Ozias Zibande, Gabriel Nyoni and new signing Thomas Chideu are also fighting for recognition. B Metro