BY HENRY MHARA
HERENTALS Football Club had an incredible debut season in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League last year, and their coach Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva is hoping for another fairy-tale campaign this term.
The Students finished sixth on the log standings last season, and that they finished level on points with Highlanders and ahead of the country’s other big and most successful local clubs, such as Dynamos and Caps United, was in itself a beautiful story.
Mutiwekuziva says he wants to show that this achievement was not a fluke by writing another Cinderella story this year. He revealed that the club had set themselves lofty targets this year.
“We want to do better this season, to go beyond that number six position. We want to better everything from last year, including our points tally, and our goal-scoring record. Those are the targets that we have set ourselves, and we feel we can achieve that.”
Herentals finished the season with 51 points, three ahead of Caps United, and nine better than Dynamos.
Mutiwekuziva’s boys had a difficult start to this term after being outclassed by newboys TelOne in their season opener and were lucky to get away with a point in a goalless draw, before losing 1-0 to ZPC Kariba last week in controversial circumstances.
But the coach is not panicking. He had the same sluggish start last season, losing the first two matches, before gradually improving.
“We have had a slow start. Actually, it’s a bad start, but it’s better than last year. We did not score in our opening two fixtures which shows we are not doing well in terms of scoring, but we are creating chances which is very positive. Defensively we are doing very well, because we have not been conceding many goals.
“Against ZPC Kariba, we did very well. Unfortunately, we lost that match through a soft penalty. We felt hard done by the referee, who awarded the home side a penalty in the 85th minute. But looking at those two games that we have played so far, we did much better against ZPC. There were a lot of positives from the boys in that match. We had improved our tempo, and the mentality had changed.”
Herentals have a perfect chance to pick their first three points of the season when they play Yadah at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday, who are currently also not in the best shape, having lost their opening two matches.
“We are better than Yadah. We want to start picking points, so we are going out in search of our first set of three points. That is what we are targeting. Just like last year, when we started picking our first win in the third week, we believe history will repeat itself,” Mutiwekuziva said.
Some critics have disparaged him for fielding regularly 45-year-old Innocent Benza in the team, who is the owner of the club. But Mutiwekuziva has a defence for his decision.
“He is the hardest working person I know and that is what I like best about him. We are going to see him regularly again this season. He played a very pivotal role last season, and I expect more positive things from him, more than what he did last season since he continues to work hard. We look up to him most of the times when things are difficult in the field, so we hope he will play more.”