The 2011 financial year was not only a year to mark our 85 years of existence but marked the beginning of the revival of the club, against years where the club was on a free fall. Members might argue that one of our worst finishes in the league signaled the possible demise of the club, but what should be noted is that we have come out stronger financially and on our human resources front, which fundamentally are the basic cornerstones of a successful football club.
We would like to take this opportunity to remember those that passed on during the period under review and also honour those that persevered with the club in its greatest moments of need.
Premier League -
The club finished 7th on the log in the premiership, a position which we last attained in 2008, which by all standards does not befit the club of our status. Many factors contributed to this, but amongst others the major contributories being as follows:
a) Loss of key players at the end of the 2010 season.
b) Below par performance in the second half of the season
c) Enforcement of discipline in the team lacking.
Independence Trophy - The club won the independence trophy after accounting for its perennial rivals Dynamos FC in the finals. This is the first silverware to be won by the club since the 2006 season.
Banc Abc Super 8 - The club reached finals of this knockout tournament and lost to Motor Action at Barbourfields stadium to a solitary goal. Indeed the loss was heartbreaking and had huge financial implications on the club.
Mbada Diamonds Cup - After having been drawn against Zimbabwe Saints hopes were high that we were going to proceed to the later stages of this lucrative competition. Those hopes were quickly extinguished at the Colliery Stadium in the first round.
Invitational Tournaments The club was invited to participate in a winner take all tournaments in Johannesburg South Africa against Bloemfontein Celtics, which we lost on penalty shootouts.
The club continues to be the envy of all in Zimbabwe as a shining beacon of good administration; this on its own has seen a rise in interest from the corporate sector to partner our club. It is no accident that we have managed to clinch sponsorship deals with various corporate bodies, which has been the result of the high levels of professionalism that we have continued to show.
The Board and Executive working committees have improved the way we do things and have certainly ensured that high levels of integrity are observed. These committees now guarantee continuity to club programs as executives come and go. Some procedural manuals are now in place while others are being finalized.
This not only improves the effectiveness of the administrative systems but makes the work of administrators easy. Our target this year is to work towards certification in ISO 9000- 2008 quality management system.
The following matters were dealt with and concluded:
a) vs Mohamed Fathi – Payment was made in full courtesy of a donation from the Hon Dr O Mpofu.
b) vs Madinda Ndlovu – the matter was decided in the club’s favour, however the club feels that it has a moral obligation to pay. Preliminary approaches have been made to have the matter settled between the parties.
c) vs Philani Mabhena – the case is still pending in the court of arbitration.
d) Vs Caps United – the case is still to be heard before an arbitrator.
Club Code of Conduct
With the growth of the club and the change in football from being a mere pass time, it has become necessary that we come up with a comprehensive code of conduct which will ensure that members are bound by and understand the implications of their actions.
Behaviour of Fans
The club is concerned with the upsurge in unruly behavior by its fans and would like to appeal to the fans to behave in a sporting manner as the club has not only lost a lot of its hard-earned revenue to fines but has had to fork out money to repair its vehicles which were damaged by missiles at Barbourfields Stadium.
Football is a family sport and any violence at our matches drives away fans and sponsors. There is no sponsor that would want to associate their brand with violence.
The club would like to see the number of fans increasing by a further 50% in the coming season which will in turn improve its financial health.
We are pleased to advise that the club has 35 registered players in its books with 24 of them being aged between 17 and 22 years, with contracts ranging between 3 and 5 years. It has not been easy to achieve this feat as we had some amongst us who would deflect good players to other clubs.
The tracking of our promising youth players in their respective age groups has been the major focus of your executive. The club has managed to resolve the perennial problem of yesteryear of panic signings to complete the required quota to meet registration deadlines.
We are currently not under any pressure to sign any players but will only do so at the convenience and affordability of the club.
The club changed its registration status from Highlanders Juniors to Highlanders Academy in line with its objectives of establishing a fully fledged academy. We are pleased to advise that our relationship with First Mobile Sports Academy is beginning to bear fruit as we have already received playing kit and tracksuits for two of our age groups as part of the fulfillment of the agreement.
During the year we had been offered four slots for our academy players to go to Denmark and Sweden which we failed to utilize due logistical challenges and unfounded suspicions that were there at inception.
Our technical teams are currently in the process of identifying players that will go and represent the club at this year’s Gorthia and Dana Cup Youth tournaments to be held in Sweden and Denmark respectively in June and July.
In line with our efforts of establishing a fully fledged academy we have since approached Milton High School to be our partners where we will be sending our players that the club will be taking care of. The school has offered us two training grounds, to which the first team is already having access.
Plans are at an advanced stage to establish school of excellence in various secondary schools in surrounding regions.
Junior League - Our youth teams came first in their respective age groups save for the U16 side, which came second.
Ajax Hotspurs Festival - Our under 14 side won the Ajax Hotspurs Invitational tournament whilst the U16 and U18 lost in the finals.
Kombami Africa Cup - Our U19 team participated in the above tournament in Plumtree and was knocked out in the semi-finals. Whilst our teams have been winning, it is certainly not the key objective of our academy, ours is to identify and develop talent as well as market it.
It is in this regard that our target in the next three years will be to market at least three (3) players to Europe which we hope will have a positive effect on the club’s finances as well as its profile as a rich ground for talent.
We intend to introduce the U12 age group to our Academy. This will be done through the introduction of a house league, which will be spearheaded by our former players.
Trip to Canada
As chairman of the club, I had been invited to attend a youth tournament in Canada in the month of December. The trip did not materialize as I was denied a visa on flimsy reasons.
It was a pity that we missed this opportunity of interacting with the top brains in Youth Development and creating contacts that were going to be forever helpful to club.
The trip did create an outcry from some sections of our membership, but to mention “our former players” who even had the audacity to write and complain to our sponsor why he was funding the trip. There was joy and celebration when news eventually came out that I was not going to make with exclamations "Thank God it failed".
It is a tragedy when we celebrate our own failure, it shows our deficiencies to the whole world that we are not united and we do not share the same vision. The organizers were very disappointed that I could not make it as they had expected me to make an address talking about Zimbabwean football and in particular Highlanders FC.
This was indeed a great opportunity that we will rue that we missed in a long period to come.
The appointment of technical teams has been a major topic during the period under review. I would like to advise our members that the recruitment systems at the club ensure that the most suitable candidates for the job are employed. Technical team members are as follows:
Head Coach – Kelvin Kaindu; Assistant Coach - Bekithemba Ndlovu; Goal keepers Trainer - Tembo Chuma, Welfare Manager - Amin Soma Phiri; Team Doctor - Dr Xolani Ndlovu and Team Physiotherapist - Loyal Nyika.
Youth Academy - Under 14 Coach - Dan Ngwenya; Under 16 Coach - Gift Lunga; Under 18 Coach - Siphatho Ncube; Division 2 Coach - Mark Mathe and Welfare Manager - Smart Moyo.
The position of Director of Coaching will be filled once a suitable candidate has been identified. Funds permitting the club will also engage a full-time scout.
Main Club - The performance of the clubhouse is still way below expectations, with the catering section disappointing resulting in patrons shunning the facility. Catering is key to improved profitability therefore renewed efforts will be made to secure or provide better catering facilities.
Hlabangana Lounge - The lounge has been lying idle since 2008 and it had dilapidated to a sorry sight. Renovations have been undertaken courtesy of a donation from the Board Chairman. The lounge will serve as an executive lounge for members and will play host to important visitors of the club. Preparations for its opening are at an advanced stage and we have targeted its opening at the end of February.
Training Grounds - The training grounds remain in a deplorable state and efforts are being made to resuscitate them as the borehole has already been repaired and work is in progress to get the irrigation systems working. The youth teams are currently using the training grounds and efforts would be made to have one ground in a usable state by July.
Official Club Sponsors are Banc Abc, Savannah Tobacco and Bakers Inn. The Club managed to secure sponsorship with Banc Abc in June 2011, which sponsorship will run up to the end of December 2013.
The Banc Abc sponsorship covers the following:
a) Payment of player and technical team salaries.
b) Supply of training and playing kit.
c) Hosting of the end of year stars awards.
The Buscod sponsorship ended on 31 December 2011 and negotiations are still underway for its extension. The Bakers Inn deal runs up to the end of March 2012. Savannah Tobacco has come back after a two-year absence, and the club is happy that the value of its brand has once again been recognized.
The club has already received some funding towards the payment of sign on fees; however, the full package will be released at the official launch, which will be held at a date to be advised.
This revenue stream performed below expectation as the company that we had contracted failed to deliver as promised. This area still remains a priority area as it has a lot of potential and would provide some measure of financial security.
The club encourages the formation of member groups as a way of mobilizing membership and increasing cohesiveness at a local level. Few associations are currently in existence, and your executive would like to assure members that now that the dust has begun to settle this area will receive priority.
We have associations that have led by example and deserve to be emulated as they have come in handy to the club in times of need.
Our relations with the media have not been acrimonious, we have over the period been engaging with the press on various issues that needed to be communicated to our members. However we note with concern the shift of late where reports about the club have been made without any verification with the club.
Some of the reports have been so misleading that they have created an impression that we are not of sound mind. Players have been signed and offloaded by the press on our behalf without us knowing throwing our credibility out of the window.
We strongly believe that our members deserve nothing but the truth regardless of whatever event is on our calendar. In line with that your club has taken a decision to revive the monthly newsletter which will provide our members and other interested parties the correct status of the club.
Prospects for 2012
The club realizes the need to improve on the team performance so as to meet the expectations of our various stakeholders who include among others , our sponsors ,our members, our fans as well as the whole football fraternity, because with the team under-performing it does not make football exciting.
We realize our role as the pacesetters in Zimbabwean football and we have thus ensured that everybody who is involved in delivering our product to our customers is managed through a performance driven management system. In this light our technical teams have been given performance related contracts to ensure that the club gets value for the money that it spends in the employment of these members.
Our major goal this season is to win the championship as well as to land one major cup tournament.
Finishing in the top four will not be good enough. We know that our ambition might seem too high given the investments that other clubs have made, but we believe that money is not everything but just a means to an end, and hence ours will be to get the commitment of everybody in the Highlanders family to the club cause.
The commitment that we seek is not just from the members, but from the fans and from our sponsors, as everybody has a role to play. The slogan that says, “In Highlanders we are one”, must be rekindled. Gone are days when we will selfishly undo each other at the expense of the club, it is time that we reflect on who we are and what we believe and stand for.
No one has a right to ownership on the spirit “sikaMthwakazi”; we all share the same vision, with no one being better than the other is. As the leadership of the club, we stand guided by your expectations and those are also our expectations, it therefore means we must flow in the same tide and help each other along the way.
We will increase our marketing efforts in areas of merchandising and fan development. It is our target that we must have member representations in all major centres of Zimbabwe as we have since realized that this area can provide us with the fastest growth rates in revenue income as highlighted by our financial report.
The commitment that you have from members can never be exceeded by any as they are the owners of the club. With member charters as they are called it will be easy to sell and distribute our merchandise.
The club would like to thank the following members, individuals and institutions that helped fund its activities during the year. Dr O Mpofu, Bellevue Spar, First Mobile Sports Academy, Astra Supplies, Carol Sports, Michael Malani C C Sales, Inunu Tours, McNamara Lodge, Harare Supporters Association, Heart and Soul, Christel Dube, Zenzo Madonko, Ndoes Transport and G G Hardware.
We recognize that we might not be able to list everyone but would like to acknowledge everybody who made contributions towards the club and say “Lingadinwa Lakusasa”
The status of the club for the year reflects a very positive movement towards the right direction, where we our financial pulse can now be heard and our human resources have been strengthened. It certainly does not resemble an “Intensive Care Unit” as some have been putting it. It provides hope for better things to come and certainly sets the foundation for future success. With your support we will certainly go places.