Beyond sentiment…Can Kaindu deliver the glory days or is past his prime? Kelvin Kaindu

Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected]

IN his inaugural tenure as Highlanders’ coach back in 2012, Kelvin Kaindu, hailing from Zambia, steered the Bulawayo giants to an unbeaten streak in the premiership, enduring an extraordinary 23 league matches without a single defeat.

During this remarkable run, the squad netted 47 goals out of their total seasonal haul of 49, concluding the league campaign on par with their fierce adversaries Dynamos at 69 points, with the Harare contingent securing the title based on a superior goal difference of +44, compared to Bosso’s +34.

The subsequent season witnessed both powerhouses locked in a tight race until the very end, but ultimately, a boardroom verdict favoured DeMbare, enabling them to hold onto their coveted title.

Kaindu’s association with Amahlolanyama came to an end in September 2014 after a 1-3 defeat inflicted by the then-unbeaten ZPC Kariba at Hartsfield Grounds.

Departing Bulawayo, Kaindu settled in the Lowveld, taking the reins at Triangle as head coach. His tenure there was cut short later that season in September, lured away by How Mine with a three-year contract offer, despite having moulded Triangle into a formidable contender.

At How Mine, Kaindu encountered a less than ideal working atmosphere, marked by a player boycott of training sessions, leading to his eventual resignation — his third departure from as many teams.

Kaindu then retraced his steps back to Zambia, securing his initial coaching position upon his return with Power Dynamos. However, his stint was curtailed after a year and four months.

His coaching journey continued with stints at Nkana Red Devils, Buildcon and Zanaco, all of which concluded with mutually agreeable separations when the anticipated results did not materialise.

Highlanders heralded the homecoming of their prodigal son 3 727 days post the Hartsfield Grounds incident, on December 12, 2023. This announcement followed a season finale that fell short of expectations, despite Portuguese national Britto’s promising start, which saw Bosso on a 19-match unbeaten trajectory, only to falter at the crucial juncture.

“Highlanders Football Club is delighted to announce the appointment of Kelvin Kaindu as the new head coach for the club’s first team. Kaindu is not new to the club, having previously played for Highlanders in 1997 before he was entrusted with the Bosso dugout between 2012 and 2014.

“The entire management at the club would like to extend a warm welcome to Kaindu and wish him all the best as he opens yet another chapter with Highlanders Football Club,” this statement by the club was met with joy and excitement by the multitude of the club’s die-hard supporters.

All seemed well, and in line with their hopes, Kaindu celebrated his Highlanders comeback with a triumph, notably over their arch-nemesis, Dynamos. By week six, the Highlanders remained unbeaten, showcasing the exquisite football for which the club is renowned.

The consensus was now apparent: the issue had never been the players but rather the coach, the departed Britto — at least from the fans’ perspective. Britto was likened to a disgruntled builder faulting his tools for subpar craftsmanship, especially after voicing that his pleas for quality players were ignored.

Fast-forward to the Kaindu era, particularly the last four matches where Bosso secured a mere three points from a potential twelve. In fact, Highlanders have forfeited eleven points at Barbourfields Stadium this season, a phenomenon once considered taboo.

During Britto’s tenure, the blame for unsatisfactory results was placed squarely on the coach. However, under Kaindu, it’s the perceived lack of quality in the squad that’s being criticised, not the coach’s capabilities.The players are now deemed substandard as they struggle to secure victories under a coach who is not only brilliant and astute but also revered for his integrity.

Kaindu’s affable nature is undeniable. Though it may still be premature to judge, for a club of Highlanders’ calibre to exult in breaking an eight-game winning streak of a relatively modest team and that too at Emagumeni, is indicative of a once-formidable force in decline.

“To get a point from this game and maybe just to stop them going forward was good,” Kaindu said in his post-match interview after the 1-1 draw against Manica Diamonds on Thursday.
Highlanders indeed merit a stronger performance. It’s unfathomable for the team to be settling for draws, much less defeats, at their fortress, Barbourfields Stadium.

I firmly reject the notion that Bosso lacks quality players. It’s a simplistic argument from those who favour Kaindu and are reluctant to confront him with the truth — that his tenure, thus far, hasn’t met the high standards expected of him. The fact that the team currently sits third on the table is of little significance, as their position owes much to the fortunes of other matches rather than their own prowess. The question remains: how long can they depend on such fortuity?

Kaindu’s task is straightforward: elevate his coaching to match the club’s esteemed legacy. Nothing more, nothing less.
“That guy is overrated, people just like him, people talk more positively about him than Rahman Gumbo, (the late) and Methembe Ndlovu who I think achieved more, lamehlula kibo,” noted a former member of the club technical team.

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