Sikhumbuzo Moyo in BULAWAYO
THERE appears to be confusion over Bulawayo giants Highlanders’ new technical set up after the Bulawayo giants finally sacked Bongani Mafu, with Cosmas Zulu refuting reports that he is the interim head coach.
Club chairman Peter Dube told a Press conference just after midday that Zulu had replaced Mafu and would be assisted by Amin Soma-Phiri and Melusi Mabaleka Sibanda.
However, Zulu sang a different tune when Chronicle Sport visited Bosso’s afternoon training session at Barbourfields Stadium.
“The man in charge is Amin. He is the one responsible for the final team selection and will be assisted by the young man there, Melusi. I am the technical advisor, who is also in charge of the training of goalkeepers.
“Remember I was the first goalkeepers’ trainer in this country trained by Bobby Clark (former Highlanders coach),” said Zulu.
Soma-Phiri was busy barking instructions to the boys while Sibanda and Zulu were engaged in some form of discussion. Contacted to clarify the roles of Zulu and Soma-Phiri, Dube said: “He (Zulu) is the boss and they (Soma-Phiri and Sibanda) are his lieutenants.”
Chronicle Sport is reliably informed that the Highlanders executive’s resolution was that Zulu would be technical advisor with Soma-Phiri assuming the head coach’s role while Sibanda will be his assistant. The trio came in after sweeping changes to the technical team that saw the entire Highlanders bench led by Mafu being shown the door after a string of poor results whose highlight was a hat-trick of losses last month.
Assistant coach Mandla Mpofu, goalkeepers’ coach Peter Nkomo and welfare manager Netsai Moyo were the other casualties.
Vezigama Dlodlo, previously kit manager, is now the welfare manager.
The new Highlanders coaches have been tasked with winning six of their remaining nine games, although Dube said it was not an ultimatum.
“These changes are a result of the situation that the club finds itself in on the field of play. We are not sitting comfortably on the table as the club has blown hot and cold, which has given us reason to believe that it may not continue to blow hot and cold but go one way,” said Dube.
He said it was their hope that the new appointments would stabilise the Highlanders’ ship.
“Zulu is a father figure. He has the experience as well as football mind that will help us address a few technical aspects of the game.
“Each of the individuals we have appointed relates to this institution in one way or another,” said Dube, whose executive has changed the technical bench four times in two years.
Dube’s executive axed Kelvin Kaindu last year before replacing him with Mark Mathe and Zulu.
This year the executive appointed Mafu at the beginning of the season before severing ties with him yesterday.
Questioned about the high turnover of coaches, Dube said: “I believe whatever appointments have been made, I have done my best to protect the interests of the team.” The new technical set-up takes over an ailing club that finds itself 10th on the table with 25 points, a massive 18 points behind leaders Chicken Inn.
Meanwhile, Mafu yesterday warmly greeted members of the media as he walked out of the Highlanders offices before driving off.
He later posted a farewell note on his Facebook time-line saying he had lived his dream by coaching Highlanders.
“Today my stay at Bosso as technical manager ended. I thank the boys for their effort and the supporters for their support. Coaching Bosso is a dream for any coach from Bulawayo. I have lived my dream, albeit without the necessary success. I have no regrets and will continue following the progress of this great institution,” Mafu wrote
His assistant Mpofu also said he was grateful for being part of the coaching staff of a big team like Highlanders.
“Personally I want to thank the Highlanders executive for entrusting me with such a big job on the domestic scene. I leave Highlanders not a bitter man, but a man who learnt a lot in my short stint. I am still young and learning. To the supporters, I call upon them to fully rally behind this great team and all its systems,” said Mpofu.