Kapini revels in Highlands Park's promotion

HARARE – Former Warriors captain and goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has no plans of retiring any time soon after guiding his South African side Highlands Park back into the big time again.

Kapini, who turns 34 in July, captained the trailblazing Lions of the North to the South African National First Division title as they finished with 69 points while their nearest challenger — Jomo Cosmos — were on 50 points.

This was a surprising turnaround because after only five games in the South African second tier, Highlands Park had won their first two before going onto lose three on the trot.

For a team that had just been relegated from the Super Diski, it was a disastrous start to the campaign and ultimately, it cost the jobs of coach Thierry Mulonzo and his assistant Les Grobler.

The duo was replaced by Owen da Gama, who went on to do wonders for the Lions of the North.

Under da Gama, Highlands Park never lost a match as they picked up 19 wins and six draws in the remaining 25 matches to blow away the rest of chasing pack in the National First Division.

“It has been an amazing journey for us during the just ended season. It’s simply amazing going for 25 games without a defeat,” Kapini told the Daily News on Sunday.

“We are glad to be back in the Absa Premier League again and this time we are going there to stay. After our relegation last time around, we learned a lot of lessons and there is no way we will repeat the same mistakes.”

Kapini goes into detail of the mistakes Highlands Parks made in their Absa Premiership debut in the 2016/17 season.

“What went wrong the last time out is that, the club made a number of new signings after winning promotion with big-name players likes Collins Mbesuna and Franklin Cale joining the team,” he said.

“I’m not saying they were bad players but there were a lot of egos in the squad and we were no longer playing as a team. Even some of the youngsters seemed afraid to play alongside some of these top players.

“The directors and the coaches have now learned their lessons; this last season we were playing as a team and I don’t think there will be many new faces coming in.

“We are also starting our pre-season early this time around unlike last time when we didn’t have a proper pre-season because we were promoted via the play-offs.”

The former Black Aces and Highlanders goalkeeper credits da Gama for the unbelievable turnaround by Highlands Park which sealed their promotion.

“After our poor start, I never thought we will get promoted because Jomo Cosmos, Turks and Stellenbosch were flying at that point,” Kapini recalls.

“When coach Owen came on board, he restored belief in the entire squad. Before his first game, he told us that we were going to win and we indeed won 1-0.

“We slowly started to get back on track and before long; he was telling us that we will be hammering teams and all of a sudden, we were beating teams 4-0 and 7-0.”

Kapini is now looking forward to proving his critics wrong in the Super Diski next season despite heading into the mid 30s.

“Age is just a number in football; look at Gigi Buffon and (Siyabonga) Nomvethe, who are still playing despite their age,” he said.

“If your body allows you to play then you can keep on going; the club has offered me another three-year contract so I’m going to work hard to remain in shape and fight for a place in the team.

“I’m just grateful to the Lord because He has blessed me with this body and as long as I can, I will keep on playing.

“I’ve not given up on playing for the Warriors either, if the national team coaches consider me for duty, I will gladly accept the call up.”

Comments (2)

the guy is great, actually he is older than Buffon but he is still performing the heroics between the sticks

chris ndlovu - 30 May 2018

Kapini the number jersey in zim national team is urs

g40 - 30 May 2018

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