Geophrey Sifani Sports Reporter
AMINI Soma-Phiri says he will now take up the Highlanders’ assistant coaching job should the club make him an official offer. A club source yesterday said Soma-Phiri had been verbally offered the job to assist newly-appointed head coach Dutchman Erol Akbay and the club’s leadership was only waiting for his response before putting it in writing.
This represents a major climb-down for Soma-Phiri, who talked tough at the club’s final official press conference of 2015, saying he was ready to be the team’s “big man” as there was nothing new for him to learn.
Soma-Phiri also demanded respect from the Bosso hierarchy, saying appointing him interim head coach for the team’s dozen remaining matches in the 2015 season was actually a trap for him to fail so he could be silenced once and for all as he belongs to the vocal Amavevani group that is critical of the way the club is being run.
However, Soma-Phiri said he shamed his detractors by achieving a sixth-place finish in the league and winning the season-ending Easycall Cup with a team that had struggled for much of the season.
Highlanders’ chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede tasked the interim technical team of Soma-Phiri and Cosmas Zulu to take charge of the start of the team’s pre-season training when it became apparent that Akbay would not secure a work permit in time.
Soma-Phiri has not attended any session since Tuesday, increasing speculation that he had parted ways with the club, but he sought to clear the air yesterday saying his absence was due to a family bereavement.
He said his father-in-law passed away when he was away in South Africa on a two-week attachment to National First Division side Moroka Swallows.
“My father-in-law passed away and when I came back from South Africa, I couldn’t just abandon my wife in such a state and go for pre-season training. I didn’t go AWOL, but had a bereavement and have spoken to the executive now,” said Soma-Phiri.
“I’m still with Highlanders and I’m prepared to take up the position as assistant coach. There are a few things that we have to iron out and after that I will be content. Highlanders is my team and I will not abandon it. If their contract lasts for a year or month or weeks I will be ready to serve in their camp.”
Soma-Phiri said he would attend pre-season training once a few outstanding things he declined to name had been ironed out with the Bosso leadership.
However, Gumede yesterday denied that Soma-Phiri had been approached for the assistant coaching post.
“We never approached them for the coaching department. When Akbay comes, he will decide on who will be his assistant. We can’t decide who he wants to work with. If they wish to get the job, they have to scale up. We appreciate the work they have done,” said Gumede.
This is contrary to Gumede’s previous stance that the club would appoint Akbay’s assistants, who would be people with Highlanders’ blood in their veins after Bosso had rejected his suggestion to bring his own assistant from the Netherlands.
Akbay will become the third European coach to take charge of the Bulawayo giants after Britons Bobby Clark and the late Eddy May.