Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS Football Club captains believe winning the opening game of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season against ZPC Kariba will be key in igniting their championship dream.
Bosso face ZPC Kariba at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday, hopeful that their followers will come in their numbers to create an intimidating atmosphere for the visitors.
Ariel Sibanda, the Highlanders captain, declared his team ready to improve on last year’s record.
Last season, Highlanders who finished on position five, opened the 2021/22 campaign with a 2-0 away defeat against Black Rhinos in Harare. The Bosso skipper believes their preparations for the season went according to plan.
“I think we had a fairly good pre-season and we’re looking forward to the game on Sunday. The boys are ready. This year, our aim is to improve on last season’s performance. We also want to collect maximum points on our first game,” Sibanda said.
Having last won the championship in 2006, Sibanda believes if their supporters rally behind them, they might end the 17-year wait.
Sibanda made an impassioned plea to fans to rally behind the squad.
“If you were in position five last year, then if you finish in the top four you can get the championship, then we would have improved.
“We’re in this (championship fight) together with fans. We must come together because it’s been long and I think everyone has a part to play. So, if we come together, fans and us, I think we can get something at the end of the season,” said Sibanda.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title starved Highlanders’ five opening games will have a big tell in their title quest, as they face tricky opponents who include champions FC Platinum and old foes Dynamos.
After the ZPC Kariba tie, Bosso travel away to face Black Rhinos, then square off with FC Platinum at Barbourfields before locking horns with Chicken Inn in a local derby.
On matchday five, Highlanders welcome archrivals Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium.
Highlanders vice-captain Peter Muduhwa said they can win the opening five games with the right attitude.
“To me, the opening five games are not tricky at all. What we need to do as the coach (assistant Antonio Torrres) said, is to win our first game against ZPC Kariba. We can win all those five games because we do have quality players who can stand against any opponent.
We just need to make sure that we make use of our scoring chances and make sure that we defend well. Our plea is for supporters to rally behind us throughout the game,” Muduhwa said.
Meanwhile, Bosso have assembled a squad that Torres believes is stronger than the one that they had last season.
Bosso announced a squad of 25 players that has seven new signings, with Pritchard Mphelele a notable absentee.
The confirmed seven new arrivals at Bosso are defenders Marvelous Chigumira and Gillian Nyathi, midfield-quintet of Melikhaya Ncube, Brighton Manhire, Elshamar Farasi and McKinnon Mushore as well striker Calvin Chigonero. Chigumira join Bosso from TelOne, while Nyathi, who can play as a central defender as well as defensive midfielder was promoted from the Bosso90 alongside Mushore who is a left attacking midfielder, with the pair of anchorman Ncube and winger Farasi joining Bosso from relegated Bulawayo City.
Defensive midfielder Manhire comes to Highlanders following a stint he had with South Africa’s Premiership side Richards Bay when they were in the first division.
Chigonero, scorer of 17 goals in the Zifa Southern Region Division One is on a season’s loan from Talen Vision.
Speaking at the club’s first press conference yesterday, Torres said: “Under the circumstances we have, we’re happy with the squad. At the last conference we told you that we don’t want to make many changes. In our opinion we didn’t make lots of changes and we’re stronger than last season because sometimes it’s about creating stability, creating dynamics.
“We trust the boys, they know words are good but their actions on the field speak a lot. They’re the boys of the group and we think they can command very well and think they’ll do well.”
During the offseason, Bosso parted ways with defensive midfielder Nqobizitha Masuku, Adrian Silla, Bukhosi Sibanda, Toto Banda and Crispen Ncube. Goalkeeper Romeo Zimba has been demoted to Bosso90, with Reward Muza recalled from a loan at Bulawayo City.
Highlanders 2023 squad
Goalkeepers: Ariel Sibanda, Raphael Pitisi, Reward Muza
Defenders: Peter Muduhwa, Andrew Tandi, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Archiford Faira, Godfrey Makaruse, Marvelous Chigumira, Gillian Nyathi, Andrew Mbeba
Midfielders: Rahman Kutsanzira, Melikhaya Ncube, Divine Mhindirira, Elshamar Farasi, McKinnon Mushore, Mason Mushore, Ray Lunga, Prince Ndlovu, Darlington Mukuli, Brighton Manhire
Strikers: Stanley Ngala, Washington Navaya, Lynoth Chikuhwa, Calvin Chigonero.