PREMIER Soccer League (PSL) club Gunners were last night on the brink of signing highly rated Highway midfielder Willard Katsande in a move that could shake the local transfer market.
The 24-year-old talented linkman was yesterday negotiating a contract with the Gunners directors. This would be a coup for Gunners as Dynamos and Caps United are clamouring for his signature.
Even as Katsande was talking to Gunners, the two Harare giants were still putting offers on the table and hoping that the Gunners deal would fall through.
But Highway owner Binali Yard disclosed to IndependentSport yesterday that he preferred Gunners.
â€œI want the best deal for him,â€ he said. â€œPersonally I want him to go to Gunners because I am very good friends with (Cuthbert) Chitima (Gunners chairman) and I know he will look after the boy well.â€
Katsande was initially interested in joining Dynamos but it is understood he changed his mind after his unpleasant encounter with an unruly section of juju-believing Dynamos fans. He needed medical attention last Sunday after one of the hooligans threw snuff in his face during a league match at Rufaro, in which he shone despite the Mutare side going down 1-0.
Caps were hoping to have an advantage over the other front-runners because they have two players loaned out to Highway.
So highly-rated is Katsande that national team coach Sunday Marimo called him up to the Warriors when he was still playing in Division One last year.
Â Meanwhile, the PSL takes a mid-season break this weekend. Early indications are that leaders the league will go down to the wire.
Log leaders Dembare have amassed 32 points from 15 games.
In second place and trailing Dembare by four points are Gunners, a young Harare side with a burning ambition to follow into the footsteps of Monomotapa, who became only the third team outside the Big Three (Dynamos, Caps Utd and Highlanders) of Zimbabwean football to win the modern Zimbabwean premiership.
Last season Monomotapa won the league with 60 points, winning a total of 18 games â€” a warning to Dembare fans not to prematurely start celebrating.
What is however encouraging for Dembare is that they are playing like champions should, winning matches when they are not playing particularly well â€” the Highway win being a perfect example. There is good momentum in the squad and momentum in sports is difficult to break.
In coach Elvis â€œChuchuâ€ Chiweshe, who has not lost a game since taking over from David Mandigora after an indifferent start to the season, they have a coach the players listen to, believe in and want to play for.
A few seasons ago Dynamos wouldnâ€™t be too worried if the team breathing down on them was not one of their traditional rivals, Highlanders and Caps United.
But, again, they will look at last season when everyone thought Monomotapa were mere pretenders to the throne but went all the way.
One encouraging aspect of Zimbabwe football is the emergence of the smaller teams as genuine premiership contenders as opposed to being content with mid-table positions and lifting the odd cup competition.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO AND KUDZAYI TIGERE