Sikhumbuzo Moyo Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS’ new Dutch head coach Erol Akbay has expressed his eagerness to start work at the Bulawayo giants, although he stressed the need to allow his work permit application to go through the normal process without any undue pressure.
Speaking from his home town of Almelo in eastern Netherlands yesterday, the father of two, said once his papers were ready, he would be on the first plane to Zimbabwe.
Almelo is located in the province of Overijssel and is former industrial and manufacturing hub, which has lost nearly all of this to other countries.
Akbay sounded a bit worried by the departure of some senior players from Bosso after the expiry of their contracts but hoped the club would find good replacements.
Highlanders lost the Bantu Rovers’ trio of Teenage Hadebe, Obidiah Tarumbwa and Nqobizitha Masuku to Chicken Inn and FC Platinum respectively while talented midfielder Valentine Ndaba has since joined their bitter rivals Dynamos.
Highlanders’ interim technical advisor Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu is presently in charge of Bosso’s pre-season training and he indicated a fortnight ago that the club would not acquire any new players, but instead promote players from their developmental side that recently won promotion into the Southern Region Division One.
“I want to get down to business, but my permit is not yet ready,” said Akbay.
“I heard that some important players left the club and also that there is a possibility of getting an equal number as replacements, while five juniors have also been promoted to the first team.”
Akbay also revealed that the club had appointed two assistant coaches to work with him, but was not aware of their identities.
“The club has chosen assistant coaches since I know little about Zimbabwean coaches. I just gave them my ideal candidate for an assistant coach and I think they have found two coaches, but they are yet to tell me their names.”
Former interim head coach Amini Soma-Phiri last week told Chronicle Sport that he had been offered the assistant coach’s job and it is believed that Zulu is the other assistant.
Akbay was non-committal on his championship prospects in the 2016 season, amid reports that the club’s hierarchy had set a top four finish for him this year, with the league title a must in the 2017 season.
A league title this year would be a welcome relief for Highlanders, who last lifted the championship in 2006 under Methembe Ndlovu.
“As for the championship, that takes a bit of time and I wouldn’t want to promise our fans that, not as yet. Maybe let’s wait for the season to start,” Akbay said.
He said that he did not forward any particular demands to the club in terms of training equipment and facilities as “I trust that the assistants can do the job while I’m still here”.
The Dutchman said he had done his research about the history of the club and knows the pressure and expectations that come with the Highlanders’ job.
“I’m prepared to stand the heat. I know Highlanders is a big team and a lot of pressure comes with being associated with it in whatever capacity, but I’m prepared,” Akbay declared.