Is Highlanders going the Zim Saints way?

BULAWAYO - Many people who were present during the Highlanders Annual General Meeting at the beginning of this year laughed their lungs out when the outspoken Cosmas ‘Tsano’ Zulu warned the club’s leadership to modernise lest they risked going the ‘Zimbabwe Saints’ way.

Zulu’s major concern was that the present set up where there are no technical people in the Bosso executive was a recipe for disaster as the technical team could easily get away with murder.

Fast forward to present day and alarming bells are starting to ring in the Highlanders camp that they seem to have lost their status as the undisputed Bulawayo giants.

What with the poor performance against their less illustrious city neighbours, How Mine and Chicken Inn?

I am sure many in that crowd that attended the Highlanders AGM must be wondering if Zulu’s words are proving prophetic.

And the former Highlanders player, coach and team manager says some of those who had brushed aside his comments have been calling him up to tell him he was right after all.

“I won everything that was on offer with Highlanders and so when I give advice to the team’s leadership I will be talking from experience but they do not listen,” says Zulu.

“We need to go back to grooming our own players who will be 100 percent Highlanders, players that will fully understand the team’s culture as that is the foundation on which the team’s success was built on back in the day.”

The veteran coach has never hidden his low opinion for the calibre of players currently on Highlanders’ books and those that have sat close to him at Barbourfields will testify how Zulu will have other spectators in stitches as he makes fun of the players when they fail to play meaningful football.

“I told the executive at the beginning of the year that what they were doing was the same as relying on old and torn clothing which has been patched up because the players at Highlanders are not good enough but they thought I was being funny.

“I have since resolved to keep quiet because my advice has been falling on deaf ears but look how we have become a laughing stock after losing twice to a small team like How Mine,” Zulu says.

In the past, Highlanders did not depend on the cheque book to sign the best football talent but the club groomed their own stars within their junior structures that were led by the legendary Ali ‘Baba’ Dube.

Club greats like current Bosso welfare manager Willard Khumalo and the greatest Warrior of all, Peter Ndlovu, were produced through that system, which has however, become less and less productive over the years.

One of the major reasons why Highlanders has of late been failing to produce quality players is poor funding for their junior structures which has seen the club losing potential stars to better funded rivals.

Some of the brightest prospects in local football at the moment like Chicken Inn’s exciting midfielder Kuda Mahachi, the FC Platinum twins Elvis and Kelvin Moyo, were part of the Highlanders juniors set up a couple of years ago but they were lured to Bantu Rovers, where promising players get assistance with their school fees among other things.

This is a situation that any parent will readily accept even if their allegiance is with Highlanders.

A perfect example is the presence of the sons of current Bosso staffers, namely welfare manager Khumalo and juniors coach Gift Makheyi Lunga at Bantu juniors.

And this does not only concern the offspring of Bosso technical team members but even prominent Highlanders marshal Russell Lunga has a son who turns out for Tshintsha Guluva.

The situation is not all gloom though as a couple of years ago the current Highlanders juniors coach Dumaza Dube proved that Bosso can return to being the producers of future stars through some shrewd talent identification and grooming processes.

Dube won the Under -14 and Under -18 Bulawayo Province Junior League titles in 2011 after going on a massive recruitment exercise which is something that is lacking in local football as teams seem not believe in scouting for talent.

That Under -18 side boasted of a bunch of players that represented Zimbabwe at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 but this project lost momentum when the coach was relieved of his duties despite his success.

Dube has since bounced back as Highlanders juniors’ coach and has begun to rebuild.

“This year has been the recruitment phase and on the first week of October we will submit to the office our players for the next two years in the Under -16 and Under -18 age groups.

“The only team that will recruit new players is the Under -14 side and judging from the material that we have assembled I can put my head on the block and say that next year we will be the best juniors outfit around,” Dube declares.

The Highlanders juniors coach is also a qualified school teacher and believes he is the right person to lead the production of a new generation of home grown stars at Bosso.

“Nowadays you need coach educators to handle young players because the modern coach should not only be well versed in football issues but be able also to understand the players’ psyche.

“An example of one such coach is Methembe Ndlovu and look at the players that he has produced in a relatively short period like the France-based Marvelous Nakamba and (Kuda) Mahachi,” Dube adds.

Indications are that Highlanders will also start assisting their juniors with school fees as they try to compete against their better sponsored rivals.

The problem at a community team like Highlanders is that leadership changes usually result in the abandonment of the outgoing executive’s programmes and maybe the club should consider employing a Chief Executive Officer to maintain continuity.

Comments (1)

Your grand mother is going the Zim Saints way.

Oscar Wa Runa - 30 September 2013

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