The Sunday Mail
HIGHLANDERS have changed coaches 10 times in the last decade, with nine different personalities taking charge at Zimbabwe’s oldest football club since January 2012.
A Zambian, a Briton, two Dutch mentors and a host of locals have all tried their luck at Bosso, but to no avail, as the Bulawayo giants are still to win a league championship since 2006.
Kelvin Kaindu, Bongani Mafu, Elroy Akbay, Madinda Ndlovu, Pieter De Jongh, Mark Harrison and Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu (with two spells) have all been in charge at Highlanders in the last decade.
Mark Mathe and Amin Soma-Phiri have also been in charge, albeit on an interim basis in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Coaches have come and gone, but it appears that the more things change at Bosso, the more they stay the same.
Championship glory has remained elusive.
In the last six seasons, Highlanders have managed a top-four finish only once.
They finished sixth last term, fifth in 2018 and sixth in 2017, and have fallen behind city rivals Chicken Inn in terms of achievements in recent seasons.
Could all this be blamed on coaches?
Or it could be a system that lacks stability and continuity, given that Bosso have almost had a new gaffer per season in the last decade?
Incumbent coach Mpofu is already under intense pressure following a string of uninspiring results and could become the latest casualty if he fails to inspire Highlanders to a positive result in today’s Battle of Zimbabwe Premiership clash against Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium.
But, is Mpofu the only problem at Highlanders, or the former Chicken Inn coach is just a victim of high expectations based on the club’s rich history?
A lot of questions have been asked about Bosso’s situation.
Here is a team that didn’t have resources and even struggled to assemble a squad before the 2021-2022 season.
Goalkeeper and skipper Ariel Sibanda had even waved goodbye, while the future of key players like Nqobizitha Masuku was uncertain.
This was a team that was saddled with huge financial problems and was facing the grim reality of even failing to fulfil fixtures until Sakunda Holdings gave them a kiss of life.
It remains a fact that Bosso only came to life after Sakunda chipped in with a hefty sponsorship package in September last year.
Would it not be an insult to other teams like Chicken Inn, FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars, who have invested heavily over the years, to expect a Bosso outfit that was recently staggering into the abyss to suddenly turn around instantly and become 2022 championship contenders?
By virtue of their status as giants, expectations will always be high that Bosso must win the league every year.
The reality on the ground, however, tells a different story, and that Bosso have drawn their last four games and are now 14 points behind log leaders DeMbare, who are unbeaten in their last nine matches, is no major reason to press the panic button.
Bosso have 16 points from 13 matches, just a point better than their tally during the comparative period in 2019 when they were still under Harrison.
Mpofu worked as assistant to Harrison before taking over on December 23, 2020 when the Briton left for his native England.
There was no football in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and top-flight action only returned in November 2021.
Mpofu has so far presided over 13 league matches, winning just three, losing as many games and drawing seven.
The former Warriors assistant coach admitted ahead of today’s encounter that the team were under pressure.
“We are getting into this game against Dynamos as underdogs, looking at the winning streak that Dynamos has so far — nine games unbeaten.
“So, it’s going to be a tricky one, but I hope everyone will be 100 percent ready for the battle come Sunday (today),” he told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“We really know how it feels to beat Dynamos and this could be our turning point going forward.”
Sadly, Highlanders are without key midfielder and dead-ball specialist Adrian Silla, who is suspended for this game.
Silla has been part of Bosso’s best-performing department – a midfield that also includes exciting Devine Mhindirira and Masuku.
Masuku, though, is expected back after missing last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Bulawayo Chiefs due to injury.
“Silla’s absence is a very big blow for us. We have got one of the best midfield departments in the country but we have rarely had the chance to use all the key players.
“We played against Chiefs and Nqo (Masuku) was not available and now I hope Nqo will be back, but Silla will not be available.
“It’s a tricky situation, but we have to soldier on.
“Maybe Nqo will make it as he trained with the squad. Rahman (Kutsanzira) is back from illness,” he said.
“Andrew Tandi (defender) is back from suspension and Ray Lunga is getting better in terms of his fitness, so let’s see what will unfold on Sunday, but it’s a must-win game for us.”
Mpofu has come under fire from a section of Bosso fans.
They want him out as soon as yesterday.
And the gaffer understands the fans’ feelings.
“These things happen, it’s life, it’s football. I can understand their (fans) feelings and they are within their rights.
“If the team is not posting good results, they are bound to do that, but I think I need to channel all my energy into preparation and make sure that we get the three points.
“But the feelings of the fans must be appreciated …
“We need to understand that this is a pressure industry, but I guess I will look at the positives. Let me appreciate the effort being put by my players.”
Strangely, Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya has also come under fire from some fans despite his team topping the table after 14 rounds of action.
His critics feel his type of play is not easy on the eye, but the gaffer has been adamant his priority is results and not sexy football.
Some DeMbare fans camped outside the National Sports Stadium last Sunday and expressed their frustration after the team’s 1-1 draw against bottom-placed Bulawayo City.
Ndiraya was appointed for his second stint at Dynamos on April 24, 2019 and the former Ngezi Platinum Stars coach made a huge promise at the unveiling ceremony held at the National Sports Stadium.
“I would like to really thank you (Dynamos executive) and I assure you that I can move the team forward,” Ndiraya promised.
Has he moved DeMbare forward?
He replaced Lloyd Chigowe, who had managed a single win in Dynamos’ opening four matches of the 2019 season.
Ndiraya then guided DeMbare to 11th position on the final log standings, six points above the relegation zone.
Dynamos finished ninth in 2019.
From fighting against relegation in 2018 and finishing ninth in 2019, he has now transformed DeMbare into serious title contenders.
They sit on top of the log with 30 points, two clear of second-placed Chicken Inn, with three games before the end of the first half of the marathon.
Dynamos are 11 points better than their tally in 2019 after 14 games.
Ironically, some fans are still not satisfied.
Today’s match against Highlanders is Dynamos’ 45th league match since Ndiraya took over.
DeMbare have won 17, drawn 20 and lost seven, translating to a 54 percent success rate.
The youthful gaffer is now looking to better that record with a victory against Bosso.
“The Highlanders match is a big match, one which players look forward to.
“We just have to be strong and get a result in Bulawayo,” Ndiraya said.