WHEN the Premier Soccer League season started, Highway Football Club and Highlanders were two of the most hyped teams, but now everything that could go wrong early on has gone wrong. Â
Following their colourful entrance into the PSL from Division One, there was common anticipation for Highway club to carry their glitz into the top flight.
A popular money-spinning industry in the Easterns Highlands was the foundation on which Highway was built. Spurred by instant wealth- young, flamboyant entrepreneurs with close links to the club turned Mutare into some kind of carnival on match days, driving into the Sakubva Stadium in posh cars and throwing hoards of Zim Dollars into the crowd.
With the new economic situation in the country, things have not been the same in Sakubva. The height of the uncertainty in the Highway camp was the recent desertion by coaches Lloyd Mutasa and Calisto Pasuwa barely into mid-season.
It seems Highway have been a victim of circumstances. A good team built on a wrong foundation.
Tomorrow, Highway host Highlanders in Mutare in a battle of two beleaguered sides.
Highlanders are coming into the match on the back of two defeats, a rarity for the former dominant club of Zimbabwean football.
Bosso started the season brightly, at their best winning six matches in succession. In Madinda Ndlovu they had a new refreshing coach, a passionate son of the club.
Ndlovuâ€™s CV as a coach is not one of the most impressive. He has won nothing of substance at home and in Botswana.
What was important at his appointment was that he was a club legend, fluent speaker of the Highlanders dream and an insider.
Now, like their hosts Highway, the pre-season romance has changed. â€œKhatazileâ€ is now under pressure from all quarters, and at the rate at which PSL coaches have lost their jobs so far in the season, one can actually see axes already hovering over his head.
Ndlovu however says he will not bow to pressure from the clubâ€™s supporters following the teamâ€™s streak of poor results.
Impatient club fans blame Ndlovu, a former club star player, for concentrating on â€œrebuildingâ€ instead of challenging for honours.
â€œI wonâ€™t change my policy because some sections of the supporters are not happy about the teamâ€™s results,â€ Ndlovu said. â€œIn soccer, fans should expect a win, a draw, or a loss, so if they donâ€™t want their team to lose then they should move away from soccer and find another sport to support.â€
Ndlovu said his rebuilding exercise is not to blame since it is not the young players who are under-performing.
â€œI cannot blame the youngsters, itâ€™s the senior players who are not playing to the level I expect,â€ Ndlovu said.
Unlike Highway, Highlanders are a big team and they will rise again. Maybe not this season, but they surely will. As for Highway, their position could be shaky because their foundation was not firm.
They will do well to stay up this season, and tomorrowâ€™s match against a wounded giant, at home in front of their multitudes, is a fitting character test.
Tomorrow: Gunners v Bantu Rovers (Gwanzura), Njube Sundowns v Monomotapa (Pelandaba), CAPS United v Shooting Stars (Rufaro), Highway v Highlanders (Sakubva).
Sunday: Dynamos v Lengthens (Rufaro), Black Rhinos v Kiglon (Gwanzura), Underhill v Eagles (Mucheke), Hwange v Motor Action (Colliery).
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO