Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
VETERAN former AmaZulu and Monomotapa utility player James Phiri is training with Castle Lager Premier Soccer League returnees Bulawayo City with the hope of clinching a deal.
Phiri (39) returned from India in August last year and has been strutting it out at City’s St Columba’s training base, showing flashes of brilliance.
Phiri set the Premiership alight about two decades ago with his trademark direct goals from corner kicks.
He was a member of AmaZulu’s 2003 championship winning team that had, among other stars, prolific goal scorer Norman Nkomani, former Warriors’ midfielder Esrom Nyandoro, Herbert Dick, Golding Dube, Ronald Gidiza Sibanda, Goodson Gama, the late David Mkandawire, Nkosana Gumbo, Mkhuphali Masuku and Voster Chitemu.
Sibanda and Dube are part of City’s technical team, with the former engaged as team manager, while the latter is second assistant to head coach Philani “Beefy” Ncube.
Phiri was a close buddy of Mkandawire and at one time the two tagged along to seek greener pastures in India.
The soft-spoken Phiri boldly declared that he is at City to fight for a place.
“Ngizodlala ibhora (I’m here to play football),” said Phiri with a chuckle.
The former AmaZulu utility player, who is comfortable on the right side of defence, right midfield or central midfield, declined to grant an interview, saying he wants to concentrate on impressing coach Ncube.
“I’ll talk to you when trials are done,” Phiri said.
Besides Phiri, some of notable players training with City include 2010 Soccer Star of the Year Charles Sibanda, whose contract with champions FC Platinum ended last December.
Ex-Quelaton, Bulawayo Chiefs and How Mine attacking midfielder Eddie Nkulungo, 18-year-old former Bantu Rovers player Mpumelelo Bhebhe, who was with City’s development side last season, Edward Halungu, formerly with Tsholotsho and goalkeeper Liberty Chirava, who was at Bulawayo Chiefs last season, are also training with City.
Former Dynamos striker King Nasama, who spent last season at ZPC Kariba, was also spotted at City’s training ground last week.
Coach Ncube is satisfied with his side’s pre-season preparations.
“When we started last week, we had over 80 players and now we are left with 40 after trimming. Everyone here is working hard to impress the technical team and this week we should be having the team that we will work with for the coming season.
“We are looking at having a mixture of talented youngsters, who will compete with seasoned players to give direction and guidance as we try to get a strong footing in the opening games. We won’t throw youngsters into the deep end, but we will gradually introduce them so that they gain confidence,” said Ncube. – @ZililoR