HIGHLANDERS head coach Bongani Mafu has pleaded with unruly elements among the Bosso family to stop throwing objects onto the field of play saying it disturbs the team’s concentration.
Mafu said this while addressing journalists during his post-match interview after guiding his charges to a ZNA Charities semi-final victory over How Mine at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday.
A section of fans at the Soweto end responded to attempts by police details to arrest a Highlanders fan by pelting the lawmen with all sorts of objects and Mafu said this distracted him and the team.
“I hope the crowds will keep coming, but I also hope that very soon they will stop throwing stuff on the pitch because it took 10 minutes for me to refocus as I found myself thinking about what was happening at the stands,” he said.
“Yes, things happen, but everyone should exercise restraint because at that time when there was that skirmish, we briefly lost control of the game, so we really need our supporters to know that as much as we love them they should also love us back by letting us concentrate on the game.”
The Highlanders coach was full of praise for his charges after their showing against star-studded How Mine.
His decision to give his players the licence to thrill fans with fancy footwork seems to be working for the Bulawayo giants who are improving with each outing.
Mafu is on record encouraging his charges to freely express themselves on the field of play saying that would not only boost their confidence levels, but woo fans to come in their numbers to watch the team in action.
So far no Highlanders player has gone on to sit on the ball like Mafu told them to in a pre-season friendly against Bulawayo City, Sunday’s performance against How Mine must have left Mafu convinced that he is in the right direction.
“If you perform well the crowds will keep on coming, that’s a given.
“People come to watch good football, so if you play good football spiced up with a win it’s always good for fans,” Mafu said.
Highlanders were fluid in their movement especially in the first half with former Bantu Rovers’ Obadiah Tarumbwa and Nqobizitha Masuku responsible for most of the build-ups.
Tarumbwa excelled in his role as the missing striker and his exploitation of space saw Highlanders taking the game to their rivals from the onset.
The first half clearly belonged to Mafu’s charges and How Mine’s cause was not helped by having two out and out strikers in Mgcini Sibanda and Nefitary Nale who both remained up field when their team was not in possession.
This meant that there was too big a gap between strikers and attacking linkman Charles Sibanda who was supposed to play fetch and carry, but ended up playing too deep. Highlanders fell back into defensive positions and restricted their opponents to knocking the ball in their own half.
In the second half How Mine coach Luke Masomere and his technical team changed strategy and Nale dropped into midfield and this changed the complexion of the game.
The introduction of Kuda Musharu and Wonder Sithole some 20 minutes into the second half further swung the tide in How Mine’s favour with Musharu’s movement off the ball creating some anxious moments for the Bosso defence.
The Highlanders bench should be recommended for their ability to reshuffle their pack by introducing Teenage Hadebe to partner Douglas Sibanda in defence and push Felix Chindungwe to double anchor alongside Erick Mudzingwa to stop a How Mine’s surge.
The gold miners are yet to gel, but will definitely prove to be a handful for many teams because of the experience in their ranks.