By Ricky Zililo
Highlanders will not participate in next year’s Caf Confederation Cup, sources said yesterday.
Bosso, they said, want to concentrate on building a strong squad to challenge for the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title to play in the Caf Champions League.
The Bulawayo giants won the right to play in the less glamorous continental inter-club tournament after beating Ngezi Platinum Stars 1-0 in the Chibuku Super Cup last week.
Sources said Highlanders informed their primary sponsors NetOne yesterday that they are unable to raise funds to participate in the Caf Confederation Cup and the club would “officially” inform its members about the decision before the end of this week.
“A decision was reached last week that the club will not participate in the Caf Confederation Cup because it was viewed to be costly. The club’s leaders also traced back the debt that Highlanders finds itself in and saw that irrational decisions like participating in continental competitions in the past led to all these huge debts, which are threatening the existence of the club. Moves have been done to arrest the debt from ballooning and playing in Africa will create lots of problems for Highlanders,” said the source.
“Instead, what the club leadership resolved is that resources be channeled towards strengthening the team and challenge for the Premiership title. Remember, we last won the league title in 2006 and that is now our number one priority.”
The source said Highlanders also analysed their squad and noted that for them to effectively compete in Africa, they needed a much stronger team.
“There was a three-year plan that the club embarked on and the first year was to assemble a squad and instill Highlanders’ philosophy. The second season was to compete for top honours and that target has been met by winning the Chibuku Super Cup. Next season, which happens to be the third year, the club will compete for the title and the general thinking within the club is that by then, barring any loss of players, the squad would have matured and ready to compete at continental level,” said the source.
Highlanders chairman Kenneth Mhlophe had indicated last week that deliberations between the board and the executive would determine the club’s position.
He said they were also going to engage their sponsors on their continental football participation.
Yesterday Mhlophe said they will advise their members through a media statement on their status.
He could neither confirm nor deny that Highlanders will not be heading to Africa.
“Trust me, whatever decision that we will make is for the good of the club. We have to safeguard the club’s interests. Consultations and conversations are going on and our members will know the position of the club soon,” said Mhlophe.
His executive doesn’t want Highlanders to further be banned from participation in continental football.
In 2012, Caf slapped Highlanders with a three-year ban from its inter-club competitions for declining to participate in the Caf Confederation Cup when they had already been registered. That ban elapsed in 2014.
In 2013 Highlanders won the Mbada Diamonds Cup, but could not compete in the Caf club competitions due to the ban and were replaced by losing finalists How Mine,
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said the deadline for clubs to register for continental football is next year.
“As Zifa we get the names of teams to forward to Caf for registration in continental football from the PSL. Registration for the 2020/21 Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup is in mid-2020,” said Gwesela. The Chronicle