By Ricky Zililo
Resurgent Bulawayo giants Highlanders will wrestle for the Chibuku Super Cup against Ngezi Platinum Stars at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon hoping to land their first major silverware in six years.
The Chibuku Super Cup, a tournament that headlined yesteryear football calendars, was reintroduced in 2014, and Highlanders will be aiming to become the first traditional football giant to lift the latest version of the competition.
FC Platinum won the 2014 edition, Harare City were crowned champions in 2015 and 2017, with Ngezi Platinum winning the 2016 edition and Triangle United claiming the 2018 crown.
This year’s edition is being sponsored to the tune of $1.5 million by Delta Beverages and winners of today’s final will pocket $225 000 and earn the right to represent Zimbabwe in the Caf Confederation Cup. The losers will get $150 000.
Highlanders and Ngezi Platinum are facing each other for the second time inside three weeks at the same venue where they drew 1-1 in a league match.
Ngezi Platinum coach Rodwell Dhlakama stoked the flames ahead of today’s encounter by saying they would have beaten Bosso in the league match had they not been awarded a questionable penalty that forced a draw.
Dhlakama, a former Young Warriors, Monomotapa and Chapungu coach, told our Harare Bureau that they are coming to finish off Highlanders in their backyard.
“It’s unfortunate that there are some people who have the kind of thinking that it will be one way. But we fought all the way and got here, which means we also want to win it.
“Obviously, we are aware that we are playing away from home. The environment gives the home team an edge, largely because of the supporters who make up the 12th man,” said Dhlakama.
“That is why we have stressed the importance of psychological preparedness. Of course, you will never get to a point where you say you are 100 percent satisfied, but I believe our guys will be up to the task.
“I am sure they already know what to expect. If you remember earlier this month, we played Highlanders at Barbourfields in a league match and I should say they were very lucky to get a point.
“We had the upper hand and they got a penalty, which I thought wasn’t warranted for the equaliser. I am not a prophet, but I prepare my team well,” he said.
Ngezi Platinum will miss the injured pair of Nelson Ketala and Tichaona Mabvura.
Their hopes will be pinned on goalkeeper Nelson Chadya, experienced defenders Qadr Amini and Polite Moyo, former Ajax Cape Town defensive midfielder Gerald Takwara, Frank Makarati, attackers James Nguluve and Marlon Mushonga.
They also have Donald Teguru, arguably one of their best performers this season.
Bosso, whose preparations for the final were boosted by goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda and striker Prince Dube being voted among the country’s soccer stars, will hope the pair continue with their fine form in the tournament. Sibanda is yet to concede in the tournament, while Dube has scored at every stage.
Sibanda kept a clean sheet in the opening round where they beat Dynamos 1-0, as well as the 3-0 quarter-finals victory over FC Platinum and the 1-0 semi-finals win against ZPC Kariba.
Dube scored in all those matches, with Tinashe Makanda and Denzel Khumalo also on target against FC Platinum.
The quartet as well as defenders Peter Muduhwa, McClive Phiri, Andrew Mbeba and Mbongeni Ndlovu, defensive linkman Nqobizitha Masuku and central midfielder Brian Banda are expected to power Bosso to victory.
“I believe in a good result, but I respect the opponent because it’s a good side. I believe it will be the small details that will matter on Saturday.
“It will not be an easy game, but I believe in a good result. We’re ready for the final,” said Highlanders coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh.
Possible starting XI Highlanders
Ariel Sibanda, McClive Phiri, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Peter Muduhwa, Andrew Mbeba, Adrian Silla, Brian Banda, Nqobizitha Masuku,Tinashe Makanda, Denzel Khumalo, Prince Dube
Ngezi Platinum Stars
Nelson Chadya, Qadr Amini, Gerald Takwara, Polite Moyo, Frank Makarati, Tatenda Mchisa, James Nguluve, Mandlenkosi Mlilo, Nielson Ketala, Malon Mushonga, Donald Teguru, Keith Murera
Road to the final Preliminary round:
Mushowani 3-2 Bulawayo Chiefs, TelOne 1-1 Yadah (TelOne won 8-7 on penalties)
First round: Caps United 0-0 Harare City (City won 7-6 on penalties), Chicken Inn 1-1 Manica Diamonds (Manica won 6-5 on penalties), Ngezi Platinum 2-0 ZPC Kariba 2-1 Hwange, Highlanders 1-0 Dynamos, Black Rhinos 2-0 TelOne, FC Platinum 0-0 Chapungu, Triangle 3-0 Herentals
Quarter-finals: Black Rhinos 0-0 Ngezi Platinum (Ngezi won 5-3 on penalties), Highlanders 3-0 FC Platinum, ZPC Kariba 2-1 Manica Diamonds
Semi-finals: ZPC Kariba 0-1 Highlanders, Harare City 1-1 Ngezi Platinum (Ngezi won 7-6 on penalties) The Chronicle