BY FORTUNE MBELE
HIGHLANDERS coach Mark Harrison is banking on the club’s multitude of fans to rally behind them as they seek an upset over FC Platinum when the two sides clash in a Castle Challenge Cup at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
The match is a precursor to the 2020 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season and is likely to draw a huge crowd, exhibited by impressive crowds that watched Highlanders’ last two friendly matches against Black Rhinos and Chapungu at BF and Luveve, respectively.
Harrison said he appreciated the contribution of the 12th man going into today’s match.
“The message to the fans is we can go out there and entertain them. They pay good money to come and watch us play and we appreciate that. I am sure the players will always give 100% commitment. We need them because they play a big part in this. If they fill up that stadium, it is intimidating for the opposition,” he said, adding FC Platinum could be better prepared for the match.
“FC Platinum are the champions and they have been playing the Caf Champions League in the off-season. They are probably match fitter than we are. Nevertheless, this will give us a gauge of where we are sitting,” Harrison said.
“We are here to compete this year. We want to have a go at the league. This game can answer a lot of questions for me and also the players but the priority is to go out there and try to win the game. It’s a cup final; a lot of money at stake and a lot of prestige as well. We will focus on trying to win in the 90
Winners of the match will walk away $400 000 richer while the losers will get $250 000.
Harrison was hopeful that four of his injured players, Prince Dube, Devine Mhindirira and new signings goalkeeper Chris Mverechena and Michelle Katsvairo, will be fit for today’s match.
In Dube and Katsvairo’s absence, Harrison has other options in veteran Mkhokheli Dube, Tinashe Makanda, Ray Lunga and Godfrey Makaruse, with captain Ariel Sibanda between the goal posts.
FC Platinum coach Hendrikus Pieter de Jongh, who dumped Highanders at the end of the season last year and crossed the floor to the Zvishavane-based side, is not intimidated.
“I am not scared of Highlanders. I am a professional coach, who wants results for his team. FC Platinum are ready for the Castle Challenge Cup. It is a match that is different from league matches because at the end of 90 minutes, there will be one winner. We hope it will be us winning this cup,” the Pure Platinum Play mentor said.