By Raymond Jaravaza
The year 2020 has been one of the most difficult in Highlanders’ history and the executive would not have steered the club through the rough seas without the benevolence of its members, chairman Kenneth Mhlophe has said.
Bosso lost their principal NetOne following the lockdown and some top players also left for greener pastures.
Head coach Mark Harrison also left the club to return to England, as they could not afford to continue paying him with no football action taking place.
Mhlophe gave a candid assessment of the year to Chronicle Sport, indicating that Bosso fought many battles on different fronts.
He touched on various issues from a supporters’ driven initiative to clear a legacy debt that Bosso has been battling with for years, losing sponsorship at a time when the corporate world is hesitant to sponsor football, players leaving as well as a gold mining venture the club recently embarked on.
“No organisation can survive or function effectively with a huge debt hanging over its head and Highlanders is no exception, and the legacy debt was one thing that gave us sleepless nights as an executive.
When Nodumo Nyathi and his team approached us to help the club clear the debt, we welcomed their idea with open arms, gave them our utmost support and they kept us in the loop every step of the way,” said Mhlophe.
“When club members entrust the executive with funds, it’s an endorsement from the Highlanders family that we are doing the right thing in office, so I would like to thank Nyathi and his team for leading the debt clearance project, which was a great success because today we stand debt free as Highlanders Football Club,” he said.
Nyathi is the outgoing Bosso South African Supporters Chapter chairman and was at the forefront of canvassing for funds from Highlanders supporters worldwide to clear the legacy debt. Bosso owed service providers, former coaches and ex-players, among others, close to $1 million.
On the withdrawal of sponsorship by mobile network operator NetOne, Mhlophe said the decision to pull the plug couldn’t have come at the worse time.
NetOne announced its decision to withdraw from sponsoring football early this year, saying it was channeling its efforts to helping fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“To be honest, the decision by NetOne to pull out of the sponsorship deal hit us hard because we had to find ways to pay coaches, players and staff members for a whole year, a situation we had not planned for, but through the benevolence of our members we managed to handle the situation.
“It was tough, but we survived. I remember getting calls from some of our members asking how much our wage bill was and they would pledge to pay salaries for the players, some whose contracts had expired, and coaches for a month. It was through the generosity of those club members that we survived an otherwise very difficult year,” Mhlophe said.
Following the departure of former coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh, midfielders Brian Banda and Denzel Khumalo followed their ex-coach to league champions FC Platinum in quick succession, while Tinashe Makanda joined bitter rivals Dynamos and Prince Dube was sold to Tanzanian side Azam FC.
“Players come and go and that is the nature of football, so we are not going to lose sleep over players that joined other teams. Our job is to make sure that Highlanders has a strong squad for next year and we will be announcing new signings before the end of the year,” he said.
Bosso have already signed Winston Mhango, who joined from Kabwe Warriors in Zambia.
“One player that will be difficult to replace is Prince Dube because there is no other player of his calibre in the local market at the moment. On the issue of junior development, let me assure our supporters that it’s not true that we want to do away with junior structures.
“Junior structures are the backbone of Highlanders and we will continue to support our junior teams. As we speak, a full complement of kits for the boys from the Under-13s up to the Under-18s have already been delivered courtesy of generous club members,” said Mhlophe.
Bosso recently acquired a gold mining claim in Inyathi, Bubi District, and operations are expected to start soon.
The venture is expected to turn Bosso into a profit-making entity.
“One of our biggest achievements was getting the gold mining claim, which we hope will improve our cash flow, as we try to turn the club into a successful business entity,” he said. The Chronicle.