HIGHLANDERS coach Hendrikus Pieter De Jongh has attempted to relieve his players of the pressure of expectation by telling them to play for fun when the Bulawayo giants clash with Ngezi Platinum Stars in the 2019 Chibuku Super Cup final at Barbourfields Stadium (BF) on Saturday.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
The Bulawayo giants have an opportunity to redeem themselves after a tough 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season that gave them no chance of featuring in the title matrix.
If they win the cup competition they could transform what has been a mediocre season into a descent one.
The Dutchman has had a fairy-tale short stint in the tournament, taking the Bulawayo giants to the final for the first time since the return of the competition in 2014 by beating Dynamos 1-0 in the first round at Rufaro Stadium, FC Platinum 3-0 in the quarter-final and ZPC Kariba 1-0 in the semi-final, with the last two matches having been played at BF although Highlanders were technically away.
Prince Dube , tipped to win the Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year at the awards night on December 6, but under challenge from Caps United’s Joel Ngodzo, has scored at each of the stages of the tournament with skipper and goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda also maintaining clean sheets in the competition so far.
De Jongh says Saturday will be a great moment for Zimbabwe football.
“Saturday is the cup final. It will be a great moment for football in Zimbabwe. It’s not the first time for me as a coach to be in a cup final. As a coach you can win or lose because at the end of the day there must be a winner after 90 minutes or penalty shoot-out. For me, it’s not that special; the only thing that matters is it is a cup final and there is too much attention from the media and the fans. I have told the boys two or three times during the week to enjoy. From the start, enjoy the preparations and enjoy on Saturday when the stadium is full,” De Jong said.
He, however, hopes to lift the spirits at the club by winning the Chibuku Super Cup.
“I know what it’s like (playing in a final). There is a lot of pressure; I love the fans and I love the club and I hope winning the cup can lift the club, the fans’ spirit and the players and, of course, if you are a coach you want to win and hopefully we do it. Highlanders have the biggest following in the country and there is no dispute about that. When we play away; in every match there are more Highlanders fans than the home team. Everywhere we play it is all black and white and I think on Saturday 95% of the stadium will be black and white. We have the best fans in the country. They must come and fill the stadium and support the boys for the entire 90 minutes,” the Dutchman said.
Ngezi Platinum Stars, then under coach Tonderai Ndiraya, won the Chibuku Super Cup in 2016.
This year’s winners pick a prize of $225 000 while the runners up pocket $150 000.