Ricky Zililo Senior Sports Reporter—
MAMELODI Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has sparked a psychological war by calling on Highlanders’ fans to rally behind his charges when they take on Chicken Inn in the first leg of the Caf Champions League preliminary round at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
The high-flying South African side is managed by legendary Bosso striker Peter “Nsukuzonke” Ndlovu and Mosimane said this is enough to draw support from Highlanders followers.
Mosimane also said they enjoy cordial relations with Highlanders, emanating from their past visits to Zimbabwe where they first played friendly matches with the Bulawayo giants before going to Harare to take on Dynamos and Caps United.
“We always land here in Bulawayo whenever we come to Zimbabwe and we hope people from ezimnyama ngenkani will support us. You know Highlanders are our good friends, we gave them Kuda Mahachi on-loan and we’re home to one of their greatest sons (Peter Ndlovu). I hope all Highlanders supporters will back us,” said Mosimane.
Besides banking on Highlanders fans, Sundowns will be ably backed by their supporters with reports from Chicken Inn saying that their agents at Beitbridge Border Post facilitated the entry of 12 buses with the South Africans’ followers.
A full house is expected at Barbourfields, with soccer hungry Bulawayo fans set to attend the high-profile encounter. Sundowns’ galacticos include their fearsome attacking trio of Colombian forward Leonardo Castro, Zimbabwean international Khama Billiat and South Africa’s Keegan Dolly. The three are now known as CBD.
The club’s poster boy and midfield star Teko Modise, goalkeepers Kennedy Mweene and Dennis Onyango as well as Zimbabwean international Cuthbert Malajila are part of the team that will face Chicken Inn.
Sundowns coach Mosimane, Billiat, Dolly, Modise and Malajila were swarmed by people who wanted to take photographs with them at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport.
The stars kept their cool and interacted with a handful of fans on their arrival. Sundowns seemed to have been charmed by the reception that they got. Turning to the game, Mosimane has seemingly done his homework which he demonstrated by naming Chicken Inn’s regular players.
He said he respects Chicken Inn and will take a cautious approach since they’re coming from a taxing 2-1 win against Orlando Pirates on Wednesday night.
“We don’t come with fresh legs. We didn’t have enough rest but that’s not an excuse because we’re professionals. I know Barbourfields is big and has a good pitch and our aim is to try and contain them,” Mosimane said.
“We’ve lots of respect for Chicken Inn, they’re a strong squad, we don’t have any surprises for them and they know a lot about us because we’re always on television. Even their coach (Joey Antipas) came to South Africa to do his work. The fact that they managed to stop Dynamos who had won the championship for four years shows that they’re a good side. I know they’re good ball passers, they’ve a good goalkeeper Chipezeze (Elvis), their central defender Lawrence Mhlanga is also good together with his partner Ben Nyahunzwi. Devine Lunga who plays left back is good and they’ve a brilliant midfielder Tafadzwa Kutinyu. I don’t know if Deco (Danny Phiri) is available but I know Matawu (Clemence) hasn’t been playing because of injury. Not forgetting dribbling winger George Majika,” he said.
The players that Mosimane named played a key role in Chicken Inn’s championship race.
Chicken Inn bolstered their squad for the Caf Champions League with defender Teenage Hadebe, strikers Obidiah Tarumbwa, Physwell Madhazi and Moses Demera. Only Hadebe has been ruled out of the fixture as he is not match fit.
Some of the players expected to play a key role in today’s encounter include Passmore