'Highlanders will bounce back'

HARARE - After struggling to adjust to a new environment, Zimbabwean footballer Bruce Kangwa, pictured, now feels at home with Tanzanian giants Azam.

Not many Zimbabwean footballers had made the move to Tanzania in the past but it all started to change in 2015 when former FC Platinum players Donald Ngoma and Thabani Kamusoko joined Young Africans.

Kangwa followed suit in August 2016 when he signed for the Dar-es-Salaam-based Azam after a stellar career with Bulawayo giants Highlanders. Like anyone moving to a new country, it was not all smooth sailing for the 30-year-old during his first days in the Tanzanian capital.

“The food was the hardest adjustment for me when I moved here in 2016,” Kangwa told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Of course they do have some of the food we eat back home like pap (Tanzania’s version of the staple sadza) but the major difference is how they prepare it. It’s totally different from the way we prepare it back home. At that time I was staying at the club’s complex and had to eat from the canteen.

“I had to get used to the food though. But right now it’s now better since I now have my own place and I can cook what I want.”

The language barrier was not difficult for the Zimbabwean as it did not take him much time to get the gist of Swahili.

“I was hanging out a lot with my Tanzanian teammates and along the way I started picking up on the language,” Kangwa said.

“Right now, I can speak a few words and I can make my way around – greeting and talking to people in Swahili.”

On the pitch, the Zimbabwean had to adjust fast because of the intensity and physicality of the Ligi Kuu Bara.

“The football here is very different from Zimbabwe. When we are playing teams like Simba and Yanga, it’s more open and tactical,” he said.

“Just like our team, these two teams like to play a passing game but the rest of the other teams in the league play long.

“So we know that when playing most of our games against the small teams, we have to win the second ball and for that, you need to be very physical.”

Although Kangwa is not the physical type, he has managed to be the mainstay in Dutch coach Hans Van Der Pluijm’s team.

“They say height and size does not play football but you need to use your brain. I have had to adjust quickly to be able to compete,” he said.

The Ligi Kuu Bara title race is always a three-way fight between Yanga, Azam and Simba.

Since arriving in Tanzania, Kangwa and his teammates have played second fiddle to Yanga.

At the moment, Azam is in second place on the log — some 10 points behind Yanga with over 19 games to go before the end.

“Our rivalry with Yanga and Simba is very intense. The games are fully packed and everything changes that week when we are playing against these teams,” he said.

“It’s like you are playing a final; the attitude of the players, the attitude of the coaches and the fans all changes.”

Although he is now living over 2 500km away, naturally the conversation with Kangwa turns to his childhood club Highlanders.

He still keeps abreast with what is happening at Bosso, who finished in sixth place last season — some 27 points behind champions FC Platinum.

“I always follow the Zimbabwe league and especially what is happening at Highlanders; they will always be my team,” the defender said.

“They started the year very well considering they had a new coach and a very young squad. What people don’t understand is that they did very well under such circumstances.

“When you have a young squad, it takes time for the players to learn what needs to be done and in that regard they did very well especially at the start of the season.

“I also salute the players because they finished in a respectable position despite the problems they faced in the second half of the season.”

Kangwa has backed his boyhood club to do well when the 2019 season commences in March.

“Last season the squad was learning the ropes but this year they now know what it takes to win matches,” he said.

“I think they will do well considering that the core of the team has remained the same and they have added one or two new players.”

Ever since moving to Tanzania, Kangwa has had very limited opportunities with the national team which is surprising because he had become a regular in the Warriors squad in his last few years at Bosso.

He has not lost any hope though of returning to Sunday Chidzambwa’s squad especially with the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals later on in June.

“In the national team there are many good and talented players that are fighting for the country,” he said.

“At the moment I’m not part of the squad and I believe every player the coaches are picking deserves to be there.

“I will keep on working hard on my game so that when I get the call-up to get back to the national team, I will be ready to represent my country.”

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