Sikhumbuzo Moyo Bulawayo Bureau
UNHERALDED Dutchman Erol Akbay is set to be unveiled as the new Highlanders’ head coach anytime from next week after he secured a work permit to ply his trade in Zimbabwe.
Although the Bulawayo giants’ officials tried to keep the new head of their technical team under wraps, impeccable sources in the Immigration Department have now confirmed that they were in possession of Akbay’s application for a work permit as Highlanders’ head coach.
Rumours had been swirling in social media platforms that the Dutchman’s application had been turned down on allegations of conducting a training session for Highlanders’ Under-18 team in November last year when he flew into Bulawayo to meet the club’s hierarchy.
However, the immigration sources said Akbay was in the country on a business visa, which allowed him to conduct the business with Bosso, including coaching.
The issue would have been different had the Dutchman entered the country on a tourist or visitor’s visa.
“If it was a business visit, then there is certainly nothing wrong with what he did. The problem though could only arise if he came into the country as someone on holiday, but otherwise everything is moving fine so far,” said an immigration official.
“His papers are still with us, nothing has been turned down and I don’t think anything will be turned down. The only reason there have been some delays is that some of his papers were not in order, and nothing else. Normally this process takes about 10 days if everything is in order,” the official said.
The 49-year-old Akbay watched Highlanders beating Buffaloes 1-0 in a league encounter at Barbourfields Stadium in November before returning to the Netherlands to wait for his work permit. He told Chronicle Sport that he believed Bosso needed some shake up in the midfield department and that he was looking forward to his first ever coaching job in Africa.
“It will be my first job in Africa and it’s a challenge I am willing to take up. From my own research about the club, it’s clear that Highlanders is a movement, a very big institution with equally passionate fans who are hungry for success. It’s my hope that I will be able to give them that success,” Akbay said. A believer in passing football that gets the fans fully behind the team, Akbay is also aware of the important role played by supporters.
“Fans are very key in the success of the team but that can only happen if we give them good football.”
The Highlanders’ leadership and fans will be hoping that Akbay improves the team’s performance.
Akbay becomes the third European mentor to take charge of the Highlanders’ dressing room after Britons Bobby Clark and the late Eddy May.
The two left indelible marks on the club and hopes will be equally high that Akbay too leaves a lasting legacy at the oldest football club in Zimbabwe.
His assistant is yet to be confirmed, but Highlanders have already turned to their “all weather” sons Cosmos “Tsano” Zulu and Amini Soma-Phiri to take charge of the team through the early preseason training.
Bosso will start their preseason training on Tuesday next week.
Zulu and Soma-Phiri were the primary catalyst for Bosso’s resurgence towards the end of the 2015 season, which saw them winning the EasyCall Cup and finishing in a more respectable sixth in the league following a calamitous start that saw them threatened by relegation.