Geophrey Sifani Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS started their pre-season training at Barbourfields Stadium’s B arena yesterday without Amini Soma-Phiri, whose deal as interim head coach expired on December 31.
The club’s chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede had tasked the 2015 interim technical committee to lead Bosso’s pre-season training after it became clear that the newly appointed head coach Dutchman Erol Akbay’s work permit would not be processed in time for him to take charge of the training.
Soma-Phiri and interim technical advisor Cosmas Zulu led Highlanders to a sixth-place finish in the league and they also won the Easycall Cup during a 12-game stint in which they were only paid allowances.
Zulu led yesterday’s training session with the help of last season’s interim assistant coach Melusi Sibanda, who has now been moved to the club’s Division One side Highlanders Academy, and the academy outfit’s manager Mark Ndlovu.
Soma-Phiri went for a two-week attachment stint with South African First National Division side Moroka Swallows, but is rumoured to be back in Bulawayo despite his no-show.
Also absent from yesterday’s training session were striker Ralph Matema, goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda, who was said to be attending to “personal matters”, and Rahman Kutsanzira, who is said to be unwell.
Zulu revealed that Bosso were not going to have trials, but instead will promote players from the club’s juniors.
“We want to reinforce the team by getting talent from our Division One team instead of depending on players from other teams that can be recalled anytime,” said Zulu.
He said they had managed to renew contracts of most players that did duty for Bosso last season despite losing striker Obidiah Tarumbwa, midfielder Nqobizitha Masuku and defender Teenage Hadebe following the expiry of their loan deals on December 31. The trio was on loan from Division One side Bantu Rovers.
Masuku joined FC Platinum while Tarumbwa and Hadebe preferred Caf Champions League football with league champions Chicken Inn.
The good news though is that Highlanders are likely to retain prolific goal scorer Knox Mutizwa, who is still in talks for a deal with South African Premiership side Bidvest Wits after impressing during trials. The Clever Boys are likely to loan Mutizwa back to Highlanders for the first half of the season as they have already exhausted their foreign players’ quota of five.
Yesterday’s training session featured skipper Felix Chindungwe, Erick Mudzingwa, Simon Munawa, King Nadolo and Godfrey Makaruse, among others.
Bruce Kangwa and Mutizwa are in camp with the Warriors preparing for the African Nations Championship (Chan).
Prince Dube, who was the Zifa Bulawayo Division Two top goal scorer in 2015, Brian Banda, Adrian Sila and Charlton Siyalonga, have been promoted into the first team and were part of yesterday’s training.
Zulu said they were hoping to organise some friendlies this weekend to assess the developmental side.
“Basically we’ve kicked off with conditioning the team, but we’re also doing ball possession techniques and picking position. They should learn to give quality passes so that they score goals as well. This will be our focal point,” said Zulu.