BY FORTUNE MBELE
AFTER 13 years on the local football scene, Soccer Star finalist and Highlanders goalkeeper, Ariel Sibanda, hopes for a Chibuku Cup triumph against Ngezi Platinum Stars at Barbourfields Stadium today for a ticket to participate in the Caf Confederations Cup, which could set him on the path to unlock the elusive move to a league outside the country.
The 30-year-old shot stopper was named among the 11 Castle Lager Soccer Stars of the Year for 2019 this week for the second year running and for the third time in his career.
Sibanda, who goes by the moniker “Mangoye” (The Cat), said he wished Highlanders won the Chibuku Super Cup and the Bulawayo giants represent Zimbabwe in the Caf Confederation Cup to provide him with a platform to showcase his ability on the continental stage.
“Remember, in 2013 when we won the Mbada Diamonds Cup and qualified to represent the country in the African Safari, we were still under a Caf ban. It is my hope that we win the Chibuku Super Cup and we play in the Caf Confederation Cup and I can make a move outside the country,” Sibanda said in interview with Newsday Weekender Sport.
“I am very confident that I can do it and I think I still have a chance to make it outside. I am not even thinking about retiring. As long as I can still play, it’s game on.”
Sibanda, prolific in taking penalties and saving them, was surprised to make it among the country’s best 11 footballers from the current season.
“I was not expecting to make it into the final 11 this year. As Highlanders, we started very badly this year and I am overwhelmed,” he said.
“This is just great. I feel very honoured because there are a number of talented and good goalkeepers in the country.”
This afternoon, Sibanda will be hoping that the door to his ambitions can be opened by winning the competition that would take Bosso to Africa.
But in Bosso’s way are a formidable Ngezi Platinum and a shrewd tactician in gaffer Rodwell Dhlakama.
Dhlakama has already said he would look to exploit the pressure that Bosso will be under as they play in front of their multitudes of supporters at their home ground.
Since the arrival of Dutchman Pieter de Jongh, Highlanders have gone unbeated and have soared on the league table while enjoying success in the cup competition and that has created an air of expectation.
The fans will demand that the team wins the cup.
“The fact that we are in the final means we have to win it. We prevailed in the early stages and we deserve it. Our objective is to win. We play entertaining football and we don’t want to disappoint the fans that will throng Barbourfields Stadium, the ceremonial home of football. We just don’t want to put our players under pressure and we hope the match official will also not disappoint and the fans will support without any uproar,” Dhlakama said.
“We know Highlanders will be under pressure and we are looking to use that to our favour. It is good that this match is being played at Barbourfields, it suits us very well.”
Bosso coach De Jongh knows that his side face an uphill task against a strong Ngezi side.
“A cup game is totally different from a league game because in a cup game, there will be an outright winner come Saturday (today) after 90 minutes or the penalties. Ngezi are a good team, there is no dispute about that. They have very good players with a lot of speed,” he said.
“This is their second time in the Chibuku final, so they have the experience. It’s our first time in the final, but we have players with good age and we are in high spirits. I believe we will come out with a good result. We have respect for the opponents (Ngezi) because they are a
good team. Hopefully, it comes to our side, but it’s going to be a tough game.”
Prince Dube, who has scored in each of the stages of the tournament with three goals to his name, will be the man to watch and he will be partnering Tinashe Makanda upfront.
The workaholic Ray Lunga should form a solid midfield with Adrian Silla and Nqobizitha Masuku, while Peter Muduhwa marshals the defence.
Devine Mhindirira has returned after a long lay-off due to injury.
Ngezi will be looking to the talent of forwards Donald Teguru and James Nguluve for penetration upfront.
They have good experience in Qadir Amin and Gerald Takwara in midfield so much that the midfield battle against Bosso’s lot could be key in this match.