HIGHLANDERS are likely to forgo the opportunity to play in the Caf Confederation Cup next year due to financial constraints.
BY HENRY MHARA
The Bulawayo giants booked their ticket to represent the country in the continent’s second tier club competition after winning the Chibuku Super Cup at the weekend.
Star striker Prince Dube scored the all-important goal as Bosso beat Ngezi Platinum Stars 1-0 at a heaving Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday to lift the trophy, which comes with it a ticket to play in the African safari.
However, there are indications that Highlanders will not take up the opportunity, with sources yesterday telling NewsDaySport that the club is financially hamstrung to partake in the resource-draining excursion.
“Unless the club’s sponsors chip in and avail the resources, the club cannot afford, unfortunately,” a club source said.
“A lot of resources are required to play in Africa as you are well aware, resources that we don’t have. The club’s financial standing is well known, we just don’t have the resources.”
The club is bankrolled by cellular network operator NetOne, which provides the team with most resources to run its operations, including player’s salaries. Bosso, who command a huge following in terms of numbers that attend matches in the league, also rely on gate takings to cover their other costs.
But the source said the club might need to find other streams of revenue to be able to take part in the African competition.
Dynamos have in the past failed to participate in continental football, because of financial limitations.
The Harare giants failed to participate in the 2015 Caf Champions League due to a lack of sponsorship.
Highlanders have also in the past passed on the opportunity to represent the country in Africa, pulling out from the Caf Confederation Cup in 2011, due to lack of funds.
Asked by NewsDay soon after lifting the Chibuku Cup on Saturday, on whether the club will take part in the Confederations Cup this year or not, Highlanders chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube, could not give a straight answer.
“Let’s celebrate today, and let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s enjoy the victory that is today, and let then regroup and focus on what this means and what we need to do about it. So I think it’s a question for another day. Today’s question is ‘are we going to sleep?’ and the answer is absolutely not!”
If Highlanders decide to pull out, it’s highly likely that the opportunity would be passed on to Ngezi Platinum Stars.
The well-resourced Mhondoro Ngezi side participated in the Caf Confederation Cup two years ago after winning the Chibuku Super Cup in their debut season in the Premiership, but crashed out of the competition in the first round.
If Highlanders also decide to pull out, it would be a huge disappointment to their fans who are looking forward to seeing their club rub shoulders with the best of the continent.
It would hurt their players even more, who gave it their all hoping to play in Africa, an exercise that usually opens opportunities for players. Dube said he was proud of the team’s heroics in the Chibuku Super Cup, claiming that they had actually surpassed their target for the season.
Highlanders started the season slowly in the league and at some point fought relegation, but picked up form late into the campaign where they are now fighting to finish in the top four.
They were unplayable in the Chibuku Super Cup, accounting for some of the big teams in the country on their way to lifting the cup, including their most bitter rival Dynamos, and defending league champions FC Platinum.
“Winning this says we achieved slightly more than what we set ourselves to. According to our plan, we had wanted to, at least, get into a major final, and we did that, and we won it. So it means that we are maturing, the players are maturing maybe a little bit bigger than we thought. Maybe because we went through a difficult period at the beginning of the season, so it has matured all the players and everyone within the club. We have shown that patience, bravery, sticking together and doing things correctly will ultimately get you the prize,” Dube said.
“When we started this project, we wanted to do a few things; one, to get the fans to come back into the stadium by playing a certain type of football. And if you go to PSL and check the statistics for last season and this one, we are the most followed club in terms of stadium-going numbers. That means the club has been doing things that resonate with the fans.”