By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Premier Soccer League side Ngezi Platinum Stars have demanded nothing short of the league title from new coach Erol Akbay, as preparations for the 2019 season gather momentum.
Akbay took charge of his new team in their first pre-season friendly that finished in a 1-1 draw against army side Black Rhinos at Motor Action Sports Club yesterday.
The former Highlanders coach admitted that there was so much work to be done to build a championship winning team as demanded by the club executive in his contract.
The Dutchman will have to move mountains to live up to the club’s demands considering that he inherits a team that has lost a number of high-profile players since the end of last season.
“We have to be champions; it’s that simple according to my contract. The club is ambitious and I also want something (the title) with Ngezi and that’s why it’s no secret. They said we want to be champions, so we go for the championship,” he told journalists after the Black Rhinos match.
“If you start with this kind of a team you know they want something from you. They said we want to be champions and I said okay, I will do my best to do that,” he added.
Akbay replaced Tonderai Ndiraya, who was fired late in the league race last year at a time they were second on the log, just five points adrift of log leaders, and with a very good chance of winning the championship.
The Mhondoro side have since lost regular players such as Godknows Murwira, Walter Mukanga, Clive Augusto, Tichaona Chipunza and goalkeeper Donovan Bernard.
Akbay is not worried about the departures though.
He feels that the players that have remained behind can do the job.
“Today in the first half when the first team played, they played ‘okay’ football, but the tempo was too low especially when we got the ball. They moved it too slowly.
My philosophy is not to walk with the ball, but to play the ball and these guys have to do that.
“They are very good players, but if you don’t play the ball then you are only an ordinary player. In the first-half we got more problems from Rhinos than they got from us, but in the second half we improved and scored a goal.
“That is what I want to see, close together compact-play football and making sure that high tempo is there. We only trained for a little more than one week and I think we still have a lot to do,” Akbay said following the friendly draw.
Akbay returns to local football after leading the Bosso technical team in 2016 and 2017 with the team finishing third and sixth in respective season.
Frustrating for Akbay at the Bulawayo giants was the fact that the club kept on selling top players, thereby throwing spanners into the coach’s bid to build a formidable side.
Akbay is looking to guide the Mhondoro-Ngezi-based side to their maiden league championship since they joined the big league three seasons ago.