By Langton Nyakwenda
What a timely reunion it would have been: Star midfielder Joel “Josta” Ngodzo returning to his boyhood club at a time Highlanders are gearing for the Chibuku Super Cup title defence.
Sadly though, the reigning Castle Lager soccer star will be missing in action when the country’s premier knockout competition kicks off on Saturday.
Ngodzo, who has made another sensational return to Highlanders exactly 10 years after smashing the local transfer record, is not eligible to feature in the Chibuku Super Cup competition.
The player, who was the last to be crowned best player in the land before Covid-19 halted football activities, is yet to get his international clearance following his return to the Bulawayo giants from Zambian side Buildcon in March.
The 32-year-old midfielder can only feature in the local league from July 1 when the mid-year transfer window opens.
However, Ngodzo’s return to Highlanders – a decade after a record US$65 000 transfer from Bosso to FC Platinum – is being celebrated by the Bosso family.
Highlanders coach Mandla Mpofu, who described Ngodzo as a special player during an interview with The Sunday Mail Sport, is highly optimistic.
“I am glad and excited as a coach that I managed to sign Joel Ngodzo from Buildcon of Zambia.
“Ngodzo is a player that I want to build a team around – a very talented player. We really know how talented Josta is and I want to build my team around him.
“Josta can win me matches, he can win me the championship, so he is a very important player, a special player,” Mpofu said.
“But it’s unfortunate we cannot use him in the upcoming Chibuku Super Cup because he is yet to get his international clearance.
“He can only get that one from July 1. But, whoever comes in can also play his part so that we can progress beyond the group stage.”
The 2021 edition of the Chibuku Super Cup will be played in a mini-league format at four centres – Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Zvishavane.
Highlanders are in the same group with city rivals Chicken Inn, Bulawayo Chiefs and Bulawayo City.
And the defending champions are fancying their chances.
Highlanders have enlisted the services of former FC Platinum and Kabwe Warriors midfielder Winston Mhango.
Steely defender Peter Muduhwa has also returned from a short and unhappy stint at Tanzania giants Simba SC.
But, just like Ngodzo, the duo cannot feature in the Chibuku Super Cup because they similarly have not been cleared.
The Chibuku Super Cup will be sponsored to the tune of US$375 000 and is expected to finally kick-start domestic action that has been hold since March last year.
Bosso are the defending champions after beating Ngezi Platinum Stars 1-0, courtesy of a Prince Dube strike at Barboufields Stadium in November 2019.
There was no tournament in 2020 as the PSL season was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Local football is now back and traditional sponsors Delta Beverages added interest in when they unveiled a new package for three competitions — the Castle Premiership championship, the Chibuku Super Cup and the Castle Challenge Cup.
Ngodzo’s return to Highlanders has been one of the most prominent moves during the prolonged off-season.
Ageing as he is, Ngodzo has, however, proven to be one of the most creative midfielders in the local league in the past decade.
He left the Zvishavane side after a fruitless spell and returned to Highlanders in 2013.
Ngodzo had a highly controversial stint back at Highlanders before he packed his bags for Harare where he joined CAPS United in 2015.
He won the league championship with Makepekepe in 2016, before clinching the 2019 Soccer Star of the Year award.
He is now back at Highlanders, who have also roped in former Harare City and Hwange left-back Pritchard Mpelele, Crispen Ncube and Toto Banda.
Keith Mavhunga and Lynoth Chikuhwa are also now at Bosso.
“We are the reigning champions of the Chibuku Super Cup and we would want to defend that title,” said coach Mpofu.
The Bulawayo giants will not enjoy the vociferous crowd, especially those who are normally housed in the intimidating and yet notorious Soweto stand, as football is returning without fans owing to Covid-19 safety protocols and guidelines. The Sunday Mail