Saturday, November 17, 2012

Highlanders registered for African Safari

CASTLE Lager Premier Soccer League championship chasing Highlanders have been provisionally registered for the lucrative 2013 Confederation of African Football Champions League tournament despite the club having been banned for three years.

Highlanders were handed a three-year ban by the continental football body for 'withdrawing' from the tournament at the last minute after the ever-bungling Zifa registered the club for the 2012 version of the tournament without the club's consent. This was after then chairman Themba Ndlela had told Zifa through the PSL that the club did not have the required funding to embark on an expensive African campaign.

According to online networks, Highlanders and log leaders Dynamos have been provisionally registered for the Champions League while two slots for the Confederation Cup are yet to be filled.

The Confederation Cup slot is reserved for the team that will win the biggest knockout tournament, in this case the Mbada Diamonds Cup, whose finals on 24 November will feature Harare sides Dynamos and Monomotapa.

With Dynamos already assured of a Champions League slot, the other berth for the Confederation Cup could be taken by the team that will finish third on the log standings, most certain to be Bulawayo's Chicken Inn.

Asked about the appearance of Highlanders' name on the provisional list, Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze said his office has been lobbying the continental body to lift
the three year ban and was confident Caf were going to respond positively.

"I don't think it's by mistake that Highlanders' name appears on the provisional list. As Zifa we have been engaging Caf with the hope that they could lift the ban and we are quite confident that the sanctions will be lifted," said Mashingaidze.

Highlanders chairman Peter Dube said while news of their provisional registration was welcome, the club could only participate in such a tournament when it gets adequate sponsorship.

"If all conditions are conducive we will definitely participate in such a tournament but like I said we wait for official communication from the authorities on our position because as far as we are concerned, we remain banned unless advised otherwise," said Dube.

Highlanders' last dance in the Champions League was in 2007 under Methembe Ndlovu when they lost 2-0 on aggregate to Egyptian giants Aly Ahly and before that they had bowed out in the second round to another African giant Esperance of Tunisia who hammered them 7-1 on aggregate in 2003.

Their first dance since the turn of the millennium ended in spectacular fashion in the second round at the hands of Sable de Batie. After taking a seemingly healthy 3-0 first leg win at Barbourfields Stadium Bosso fell like a deck of cards in the second and final leg, going down 3-0 before losing on the dreaded shootouts.

The following year in 2001, the black and white army were back in the African jungles once more, this time coming up against a virtually unknown Tanzanian side, Young Africans, whom they gallantly held to a 2-2 draw in their homeland. Highlanders were invincible in those days and everyone was convinced that the second leg was just but academic for the Tanzanians.

No one believed it when the visitors took a 2-0 lead and when the Malawian referee awarded Young Africans a penalty late in the game, Soweto erupted and said enough is enough, leading to the abandonment of the match. The result, however stood and Amahlolanyama bowed out once more.

It was the same in 2002 when they were bungled out 2-1 by Mozambican club Costa do Sol.