HIGHLANDERS head coach, Erol Akbay, is expected to jet into the country this afternoon to link up with the rest of the squad and technical team ahead of their two-week training camp in South Africa.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
Akbay left the country on December 12 for vacation in his native Netherlands and there had been speculation that he would not be returning to the Bulawayo football giants, but club secretary-general, Emmett Ndlovu yesterday said the Dutchman would be in the country today.
“I am happy to say things have gone according to plan and the team has started training and this week they were joined by (Amini) Soma-Phiri, while Erol (Akbay) is expected in the country on February 3 (today) and all things being in place, the team will travel to South Africa for a two-week training programme. We are not going to have friendly matches, but training games as the South African league has already resumed,” Ndlovu said.
He did not spell out which teams they will engage in South Africa, but it is likely that they could play Polokwane City, Baroka as well as Bloemfontein Celtic.
Ndlovu said the technical team would be making recommendations on the players that will be travelling to South Africa.
With the impending training camp, their ZNA Charity Shield semi-final tie against FC Platinum scheduled for February 18 at Barbourfields Stadium has been moved to February 26.
That will be on the same day the other semi-final pitting Dynamos and Caps United at Rufaro Stadium will be played.
“I told the organisers that we already had other plans and, in any case, it was too soon to engage in any competitive match, as it would be detrimental to our players. Our trip to South Africa has necessitated that the semi-final be played on the same day, as the other one, which is on February 26,” Ndlovu said.
Soma-Phiri said Highlanders had not done much in the first three weeks of training and due to financial constraints, the club had not been able to bring in any new faces to the squad.
He said they were awaiting Akbay’s arrival to finalise on the players they will be taking to South Africa and most of the players would be those that have not seen much of game time in the past as they build a team to compete this year.
Highlanders have already axed skipper, Felix Chindungwe, goalkeeper, Njabulo Nyoni and left-back, Julius Daudi, who are likely to be replaced by players from the junior ranks.