AFTER a week of turmoil that culminated in the suspension of one player, written warnings to two and Innocent Mapuranga losing his captaincy, can Highlanders rise against How Mine in the Chibuku Super Cup football quarter-finals tomorrow?
The match, at Hartsfield in Bulawayo, will be broadcast live on SuperSport from 1445hrs.
Njabulo Ncube was given a two-week suspension, Charles Sibanda and Joel Ngodzo received warnings while goalkeeper Arial Sibanda is the new skipper, replacing Mapuranga.
No doubt, the Highlanders brand has been damaged by the behaviour of Ncube, Sibanda and Ngodzo ahead of the 4-1 thrashing by Dynamos in the TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup last Saturday.
This is a brand that has been built on loyalty, good behaviour and excellent management from the various executive committees that have been in charge of the Highlanders since the club was founded in 1926.
This brand cannot be destroyed overnight by overzealous players who don’t understand what it is to be in black and white. Ask Madinda and Peter Ndlovu today, they will tell you these players simply messed up.
Ask Willard Khumalo, Ernest “Mapepa” Sibanda, Rahman Gumbo, Douglas “British” Mloyi, Peter “Captain Oxo” Nkomo, Bruce Grobbelaar, Zenzo Moyo, Richard Choruma, Thulani Ncube, Methembe Ndlovu and Mark Watson, they will tell you this is not the way to do it at Highlanders.
And one can be sure that the late Adam “Adamski” Ndlovu, Tymon “Whitehorse” Mabaleka, Benjamin “Makanaky” Nkonjera, Mercedes “Rambo” Sibanda, Amon Chimbalanga, Mackay Nyathi and Titus Majola must be turning in their graves.
For the fans, it’s a sad story. They have stood by their team and blamed the technical team for the loss, not knowing that the players are at fault.
Their sponsors — BancABC and Adidas — must be feeling the crude tackle, but life has to go on and the game against How Mine has to be played tomorrow.
It’s all back to coach Kelvin Kaindu again on how he will handle tomorrow’s tie against a side they have struggled to beat since last season and who knocked them out of another competition in July.
Charles and Ngodzo must be thrust back into the starting line up tomorrow, in addition to new recruits Simba Sithole and Pasca Manhanga. Tapiwa Dephistara could play together with the hard-running Gabriel Nyoni.
Sithole could make his home debut for Bosso with Dephistara as Kaindu looks for a positive change for his charges-change that will take away the pressure of last week’s defeat and restore the Bosso pride.
What is grave for Highlanders is their porous defence.
The right wing is non-existent, the central defence pair of Mapuranga and Dumisani Ndlovu will have a torrid time with the duo of Kuda Musharu and Timothy January, who power the How Mine attack.
Luke Masomere is no stranger to duels against Bosso — let alone cup competitions.
Having seen the One Wallet Cup slip through his fingers in his first game in charge of How Mine against Dynamos, this is his chance to redemption.
The nomadic coach is likely to deploy a 4-4-2 formation, led by Musharu and January, with Thembani Masuku and Caleb Masocha as supporting acts.
Wonder Sithole and Godfrey Nguwodzawo are also likely to find space in the team.
At the back, the coach is expected to maintain a fine line led by Nyasha Mukumbi, Gilbert Banda, James Chitereki and Morris Kadzola.
Winners of the trophy are set to walk away with $75 000 while the losing finalists will take home $50 000.
The two losing semi-finalists will each pocket $25 000 while teams that get knocked out at the quarter-final stage will walk away $20 000 richer. Teams that were knocked out of the competition are guaranteed $15 000 each.