Lovemore Dube Senior Sports Editor
ONE of the season’s most outstanding players in the Castle Lager Premiership Douglas Sibanda believes he is ripe for a return to Highlanders FC for the 2015 season.
Having failed like many young players to break into the Bosso first team set up in the last two years, Sibanda was shipped out to Shabanie Mine where he found regular game time. He has been a revelation at the former asbestos miners and saw his stock rise even higher last Sunday when he partnered Bantu Rovers steely defender Teenage Hadebe in the Warriors central defence against Morocco.
With young How Mine goalkeeper Donovan Benard, the two were responsible for shutting out Chamakh Maroune of Crystal Palace (England), Lazaar Achraf of Palermo in Italy, El Kaddouri Omar of Torino (Italy), El Ahmade Karim of Feyernoord (Netherlands) and Levante’s (Spain) El Adoua Issam.
One would have thought the duo had played together for a long time yet it was their debut match at that level. The match also served to expose weaknesses within the Highlanders system because despite all the promise Hadebe, was let to slip out of the club and join Bantu Rovers while Sibanda could not fit into coach Kelvin Kaindu’s set up having been a benchwarmer for most of 2013.
In an interview in Casablanca on the Warriors’ return from Agadir, Morocco’s fifth largest city on the Atlantic Ocean coast, Sibanda said he did not begrudge anyone for his lukewarm 2013 stay at Highlanders. He conceded that the pressure on the coaches was high for them to deliver the title after finishing second best to Dynamos in 2012 tied on points but having an inferior goal difference.
“The pressure on the coaches I appreciate was quite high. Expectations were that they should deliver the title and hence for young players getting a trial run was never going to be easy.
“I am happy I have had an opportunity to play regularly at Shabanie Mine. I am grateful for all they have done for me in making me a better player and gaining confidence that I can do it.
“The national team exposure and coming up against such high profile names has helped build my confidence that I can grow as a player. I want more success and I will work harder now that I have even been capped as this could open up avenues for me elsewhere in the world. It’s been quite motivating travelling with this team and playing so well against Morocco,” said Sibanda.
On Highlanders, he said he was looking forward to his return but that solely depended on the Bulawayo giants.
“I believe I am now ripe to return to the club and help it regain its place among the top clubs in the land. I have to work harder and break into the starting 11 when I am given the chance to return,” said Sibanda, a versatile player who can also play in midfield and packs a ferocious shot.
While he was said to be a bit slow at Highlanders, against Morocco he showed none of that, matching the marauding North Africans for pace and big match temperament.
Sibanda was outstanding two weeks ago when his Shabanie Mine outfit beat Bosso 2-1 at Maglas.
Highlanders’ chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede on Wednesday confirmed interest in the player. He said they had already started engaging Shabanie with a view of recalling Sibanda and another outstanding star on loan there Gift Saunyama.
“We have already started talks with Shabanie. The two players are part of our plans for next season,” said Gumede.
Bosso could be forced to release a substantial number of under achievers to restore brand value next season after a free fall that began with a second place finish in 2012 and saw the club not going into the market in the first window of 2013. It is where the plot appears to have been lost as other clubs strengthened their squads and the loss of form of Peter Moyo, Mthulisi Maphosa, Innocent Mapuranga and Masimba Mambare did not help the Highlanders cause last year.
For the first half this year Bosso held on owing to the exploits of the talented duo of Milton Ncube and Kudakwashe Mahachi who left for South Africa leaving Bosso to collect a measly 12 points from a possible 42 under both Kaindu and Mark Mathe.
Sibanda has an imposing physical presence on the pitch and will be a worthwhile addition to Bosso.