Ricky Zililo Senior Sports Reporter—
FOUR foreign players took part in the Bulawayo Football Festival marking part of Highlanders’ 90th anniversary celebrations at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday. Each of the four teams that took part in the tournament- eventual winners Highlanders, losing finalists Bulawayo City, How Mine and Tsholotsho FC, – fielded a foreign player each.
Tsholotsho, who survived relegation on the last day of the 2015 season, fielded Italian goalkeeper Giacomo Ratto in the first semi-final against City that was decided through penalties after the two sides had played to a goalless draw.
Tsholotsho lost 1-3 in the penalty shootouts, with Ratto only managing to save Xolisani Moyo’s effort. City’s Mkhululi Moyo, Brian Chikwenya and Guinea Bissau winger Mohamed Kourouma Kourouma all beat the Italian. Ratto, 29, is looking forward to impressing Tsholotsho coach Lizwe Sweswe and probably replace Mariyoni Chang, who has reportedly left the club for Triangle United.
Ratto, if signed, will battle for a first team place with Nickel Marichi.
“My teammates are a lovely group and they’re making my stay good. This is a good country and when my agent said there’s a possibility of me playing in Zimbabwe, I did some research and saw that the league is competitive before making a decision to come. I want to work hard and stay as long as possible here. I want to be part of the squad for the season and help the team win,” said Ratto.
According to online information, Ratto has played for seven clubs, two in Italy, two in Switzerland and three from Malta, Panama and Nicaragua. He was hardly tested in yesterday’s encounter against City, but his teammates said he had demonstrated good goalkeeping basics.
Sweswe said he was still assessing the Italian. “We haven’t signed Ratto. He’s still trying his luck and we will see how he performs at training. “He arrived last week and we need time to look at him,” said Sweswe.
Bosso had Zambian goalkeeper Sitali Nyambwe while City used Guinea Bissau’s Kourouma and How Mine had Zambian striker Sakala Mukundike.
Nyambwe kept a clean sheet for Highlanders, who beat City 1-0 in the final. Mukundike who was at Triangle last season played as a defensive midfielder for the gold miners in the third-place playoff against Tsholotsho.
The tall Zambian striker has since completed his move to How Mine. “All the guys you saw today are our players,” said Kelvin Kaindu, the How Mine coach. City’s Kourouma featured in the semi-final win against Tsholotsho and came on as a second-half substitute against Highlanders in the final.
City’s coach Philani “Beefy” Ncube was impressed with Kourouma. “We haven’t signed him because there are issues to do with paperwork that are outstanding. “He’s a good player from what I’ve seen so far and can add value to our squad,” Ncube said.