By Ngqwele Dube
Highlanders captain, Ariel Sibanda has revealed the agony of being handed the leadership mantle at a time when the club has been going through one of its most difficult moments and having to overcome it.
Sibanda said he did not have the luxury of celebrating ascending to one of the most coveted positions in local team football as leading Highlanders on the field of play is a great honour. He said he has had to dig deep into his leadership reservoirs as he navigates the difficulties brought by what could be the team’s worst start in 48 years.
“It is obviously a difficult period for everyone being given the leadership role is a big test for me, I think it is a blessing in disguise because it gives me the opportunity to put my leadership skills to the fore. It is keeping me on my toes but I believe I am going about it properly and it will certainly make me a better leader going forward. It is certainly a test of character for me,” said Sibanda, who is affectionately known as Mangoye (cat) by the Bosso faithful.
Highlanders is the only team yet to win a game in the Premiership with eight games being played and alarm bells have been ringing within the Bosso camp as they lie second from bottom in the 18-team league.
Sibanda said captaining such a big team as Highlanders was a great honour but it came with a huge responsibility not only in the field of play but also outside.
“Having to lift the mood of my team mates in such difficult times is not easy but I believe I am handling it well. I have to keep on making them have faith that we will be able to turn around the corner and start bringing in positive results.
“Highlanders have a passionate set of fans and I have to make them believe we can still give them something to smile about,” he said.
“The fans are also playing a big role in keeping us motivated as they are continually showing faith in us by attending games in their numbers.”
Sibanda believes his reserved demeanour will not get in his way in executing his duties as some believe.
He said being a captain doesn’t mean one has to be loud or emotive but the ability to create understanding with his teammates and engaging with other parties in the field of play such as the referees and the opponents.
Sibanda (30) was named the Castle Lager goalkeeper of the Year last year and this came following the return of goalkeepers coach, Tembo “Chokri” Chuma to the Highlanders technical bench.
Mangoye was ironically received the same award in 2012 when he was also under the tutelage of Chokri.
This highlighted the understanding the two have developed and Sibanda believes it is the coach’s work ethic and openness that has allowed him to flourish under Tembo.
“He is always there for me even outside training hours he would call to find out if everything is in order and he is always encouraging me to be positive. He has a high work ethic and is willing to listen to players’ suggestions and opinions, he allows us to say how we want to work,” he said.
Sibanda still dreams of donning the Warriors jersey despite adding consistency, focus and hard work can see him representing the country again.
He still recalls the nightmare of being punished by former Manchester United striker Angolan, Manucho in Luanda on that hot afternoon of 14 October 2012, when he was handed the Warriors number one jersey.
With Zimbabwe carrying a seemingly healthy 3-1 lead and looking headed for the 2013 Afcon finals saw Manucho score two headers inside the first seven minutes to see Zimbabwe off.
Sibanda, who is married with one kid, revealed his dream of playing abroad has not waned and with hard work and consistency, he feel he can find himself shining outside the country’s borders. Sunday News