‘I’m not quitting’

HIGHLANDERS veteran defender Innocent Mapuranga says he wants to continue playing top-flight football as long as his legs can still carry him.

Innocent-Mapuranga

Innocent-Mapuranga


FORTUNE MBELE
SPORTS REPORTER

Mapuranga (37) yesterday dismissed media reports that he was quitting Highlanders saying he would only leave Bosso if management at the Bulawayo football giants told him to go.

The steely defender, stripped of the Bosso captaincy in September, said he had no hard feelings as he felt it was good to pass the baton of responsibility to younger players.

Goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda is the new Highlanders captain.

Goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda

Goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda

“I will only quit football when my legs fail me,” he said.

“At the moment I am not even thinking about retiring. I actually want to break Zimbabwe’s record of being the oldest player to have played in the Premier Soccer League.

“If I am going to retire, I am going to retire at Highlanders. I am not going anywhere until they say it’s time for me to go.”

He joined Bosso in 2009 after being recalled by then coach Madinda Ndlovu and was appointed captain in 2012 taking over from Gilbert Banda who had left Bosso to join FC Platinum.

Mapuranga said he had no hard feelings about the captaincy.

coach Madinda Ndlovu

coach Madinda Ndlovu

“Everything has got its time and the time had come and life goes on,” he said.

“I came to Highlanders to play football and was given that responsibility which I took from someone else. It is good that it has been passed on to someone else.”

He said he believed time would come for Highlanders to beat league champions Dynamos, to whom they lost all their five encounters this year.

Highlanders lost their last game of the season against Dynamos 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out in the Gushungo Victory Cup Celebrations match in an empty National Sports Stadium on Sunday.

Mapuranga, sidelined by former head coach Kelvin Kaindu after he was stripped of the captaincy, won back his jersey under caretaker coach Mark Mathe and played against Dynamos on Sunday.

“I am still fit and I have a running contract with Highlanders until June next year,” he said.

“Dynamos beat us five times this year. It was their time. But like I said, everything has got its time.

former head coach Kelvin Kaindu

former head coach Kelvin Kaindu

“Highlanders’ time will come, whether I will still be playing or I would have retired. Bosso will beat Dynamos one day.”

Bosso last beat Dynamos in a league match in 2006, winning 1-0 in Harare and 2-0 at Barbourfields when Methembe Ndlovu was the coach. That was the same year they won the league title.

In cup competitions, Highlanders’ last victory over the Harare giants was in the Independence Trophy final in 2011 under coach Mkhuphali Masuku when they won 3-2 on penalties.

A few weeks ago, Highlanders chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede was quoted in this publication saying: “We will have a new team that will revolve around Felix Chindungwe.

He will be the fulcrum of our team because he has shown a lot of commitment. He has done well.

“He has shown a lot of passion and zeal typical of what we want at Highlanders. We need to ask ourselves who we want at the back.

“We want younger players. We don’t want our team to be a retirement home. We must recruit young and exciting players.”

In Sunday’s final, Mathe used youngsters King Nadolo, who was named the man-of-the-match, Godfrey Makaruse and Gabriel Nyoni.

Highlanders chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede

Highlanders chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede

Some of the players likely to be retained include goalkeepers Sibanda and Munyaradzi Diya who is close to signing a new two-year deal, Tapiwa Dephistara, Webster Chingodza who impressed in right-back before suffering an injury and Erick Mudzingwa.

Welcome Ndiweni, Valentine Ndaba, Ozias Zibande, Mgcini Sibanda, Douglas Sibanda, and Charles Sibanda will all be part of the new-look black and white army next season under a new coach.

The Highlanders hierarchy has indicated it will appoint a foreign coach, preferably before the end of the year.

Power Dynamos of Zambia coach Tennant Chilumba and Craig Roslee of South Africa have been whispered in the corridors of power at 50 Robert Mugabe Way — headquarters of the Bulawayo giants.

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