Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
BULAWAYO Chiefs FC director Lovemore Sibanda has quashed rumours that his team’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League franchise is up for sale, saying they are gearing up for their second season in the topflight.
Chiefs, who earned themselves the giant killers’ tag after claiming the scalps of champions FC Platinum, runners-up Ngezi Platinum Stars, third place finishers Chicken Inn and city rivals Highlanders, finished the season in 12th position in their debut season.
With minimal resources, Chiefs managed to escape relegation, something well-resourced clubs such as Mutare City Rovers and Bulawayo City, both bankrolled by their local municipalities, failed to do after they were relegated alongside Nichrut and Shabanie Mine.
Sibanda was happy his team finished above experienced campaigners Chapungu, who ended 14th.
“I believe there is room for improvement next season. Despite some negatives during the season, the players and technical team managed to keep cool heads and did well to fight for the team’s survival,” said Sibanda.
“Next season the step that I’ll love to see us taking is that of bringing in a couple of youngsters to learn from the seniors because I believe young players are the future of the team.
“Let me again put it on record that Bulawayo Chiefs is not for sale and those who claim to have spoken to anyone at the club should say who they spoke to because I’m the sole owner of the club and I know nothing about the sale of Bulawayo Chiefs,” Sibanda said.
Chiefs were forced to make amendments to their technical set-up, bringing in Garthly Chipuka to assume the position of head coach, while Thulani Sibanda was “reassigned” to technical analyst and fitness trainer.
This was done to circumvent Zifa’s coaches’ standardisation as Thulani didn’t have the required Caf A badge to bark instructions from the dugout.
Thulani was responsible for coming up with the team’s training programme as well as team selection, with Chipuka and Mduduzi Mpofu assisting him.
During the season, Chiefs lost central defenders Last Sithole to Chicken Inn and Polite Moyo to Ngezi Platinum Stars.
Goalkeeper Kelvin Nyoni joined Bulawayo City, while midfielder Brighton Madanhire moved to South Africa.
Sibanda, who acknowledged facing financial challenges that saw players going on strike, also said: “I’m driven by passion to empower youngsters. Of course, being an individual there are financial constraints and it’s not only Chiefs who were affected (by economic challenges), many others were affected, but because we were playing some good football, we attracted lots of attention. It’s good that we’re getting the recognition and our boys are also attracting interest from other teams.
“At Chiefs we don’t have a policy to stand in any player’s way should they want to move; all we want is for these youngsters to develop and if they go for greener pastures where their careers will develop, then we are happy that we’ve set a foundation for empowerment.”
Some Chiefs’ players that had a good season include captain Gracious Muleya, who scored nine PSL goals, Shadreck Nyahwa, who is with the Young Warriors at the Cosafa Under-20 tournament in Zambia, attacking midfielder Perfect Chikwende and the defending pair of Malvin Mkolo and Andrew Tandi.