HIGHLANDERS coach Mandla Mpofu said a lot needs to be done to get the boys back in shape following the eight-month COVID-19 pandemic-induced football hiatus.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
The start of the 2020 Premier Soccer League season was suspended in March because of the pandemic which brought about a strict national lockdown and a ban on all sporting activities.
The Bulawayo giants started their group training last week at Ascot Race Course after going through the mandatory COVID-19 testing and clubs have been given the go-ahead to start training.
Mpofu yesterday said despite the excitement that they were back at work, most of the players were finding it difficult to adjust to initial stages of training, any indication that the individual training programmes designed for COVID-19 lockdowns might not have been adhered to.
“It’s hard, they are finding it difficult to adjust although they are excited to be back at work. They will get there gradually. There is a lot that has to be done but we are taking things with a lot of caution. We are just opening and working on the cardio aspect and building those muscles,” Mpofu said.
He said save for veteran Mkhokheli Dube, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Devine Mhindirira, Cleopas Kapupurika and Collin Mujuru, all the other players called in for testing and training.
Dube was involved in a road traffic accident a few weeks ago and needs six weeks to recover after suffering a neck fracture.
Mbongeni and the other assistant coach Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu, his brother, recently lost their father, but the defender started training yesterday.
Mhindirira, Kapupurika and Mujuru are based in Harare and Mpofu said he was expecting them in Bulawayo yesterday.
Mujuru joined Highlanders at the beginning of the year from Harare City while the Bulawayo giants lost Brian Banda to FC Platinum during the lockdown.
Tinashe Makanda’s contract expired in June and reportedly joined Dynamos while Mitchelle Katsvairo mutually agreed with the club to a termination of contract and joined Botswana side Township Rollers.
Goalkeeper Chris Mverechena is said to have joined camp and left. Neither Mpofu nor club spokesperson Ronald Moyo could explain his whereabouts.
The Bulawayo giants also lost Prince Dube to Tanzanian club Azam FC.
City neighbours Chicken Inn also started training last week and coach Joey Antipas yesterday said his boys looked good and believed they had been following training programmes the club designed for them.
“The majority of the boys are in good shape which shows they were committed to the programmes that our fitness trainer (Presley Mabhena) was posting on our players’ group,” Antipas said.
He said they, however, needed a full pre-season programme to prepare them for competition.
“We have to do a pre-season training programme to get them back ready for competition,” he said.
The 2015 championship-winning coach said only Brett Amidu, Donovan Bernard, Valentine Kadonzvo and Tichaona Chipunza, all based in Harare were yet to pitch up.
Dynamos, Caps United, Bulawayo Chiefs, Herentals among others have also started training although no official word has come from the league or Zifa on what the clubs were preparing for, save for the proposed two-week mini-league tentatively set for next month under the bio-bubble concept.
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