Ricky Zililo Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS will take on FC Platinum in the first semi-final of the ZNA Charities Shield at Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday. Bringing the semi-final forward instead of waiting for the Easter Holidays should be a relief for Highlanders, who had a wasted weekend following the cancellation of the Bob 92 Super Cup final.
The Highlanders and FC Platinum clash will certainly be a thriller as both sides have in the past exhibited some flawless football.
In their last visit to Bulawayo in 2015, FC Platinum beat Bosso 2-1.
The Zvishavane-based platinum miners booked their ZNA Charities Shield semi-final place after dismissing How Mine 2-1. Their goals came from Winston Mhango and Walter Musona with How Mine’s face saver coming from former Chicken Inn winger Toto Banda.
FC Platinum had goalkeeper Wallace Magalane, who is on loan from Division One side Bulawayo Chiefs, to thank as he made a series of stunning saves to keep them in the game.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper is one of the players to watch this season and is expected to provide tough competition to regular first choice Petros Mhari this season.
Other FC Platinum players to watch are Musona, Brian Muzondiwa, Obrey Chirwa, national team winger Marshal Mudhewe, Mhango and Nqobizitha Masuku, who will be playing against his former paymasters for the first time.
They also have defensive midfielder Gerald Takwara, winger Ishmael Wadi, on loan from Bulawayo Chiefs, defenders Kevin Moyo, Elvis Moyo and Gift Bello.
Having lost the league championship to Chicken Inn last season, FC Platinum will want to dump Bosso out of the tournament and be in line for their first silverware of the year.
On the other hand, Highlanders are also keen to win the ZNA Charities Shield and add silverware to their cabinet so that they celebrate their 90th anniversary in style.
Highlanders, who fielded old horses in their victory over Chicken Inn in the quarter-finals a fortnight ago, may decide to field some youngsters such as midfielder Adrian Silla and Prince Dube.
Silla can give the Bulawayo giants some creativity, which was missing against Chicken Inn, while Dube will compete with veteran Ralph Matema, Knox Mutizwa and Kasimero Chimbadzwa for a striking place.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Fabion Chitungo, the organising secretary of the tournament, said they had reduced gate charges for Saturday’s match from $3 to $2 for the rest of the ground.
“The idea is to fundraise and we believe that if we have more people coming to the stadium we can realise better returns. The rest of the ground will be $2, $5 for the wings and $10 for the VIP,” said Chitungo.
He said they would maintain the same gate charges for the other semi-final to be played on Easter Sunday at Nyamhunga Stadium in Kariba featuring ZPC Kariba and Harare City.