Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE departure of expatriate coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh from giants Highlanders could be a big blow to the Bulawayo giants’ three-year resurrection plan amid revelations that he is on his way to Premiership football champions FC Platinum.
Bosso — who started the grand project under Madinda Ndlovu last year — find themselves having to hunt for a new coach after the Dutch mentor indicated he will not be renewing his contract which expires at the end of this month.
De Jongh joined Highlanders in September this year on a short-term contract and made a huge impact after lifting the giants from the bottom rungs of the log table to a decent sixth place finish. Bosso also ended a four-year drought by lifting the Chibuku Super Cup under his care.
To many, he was the ideal successor to club legend Madinda Ndlovu who had laid a strong foundation for the club’s revival.
Bosso last year announced that they were going to retrace their soul by discarding old players and replacing them with the young talent from their development programme.
The club then parted ways with senior players such as Erick Mudzingwa, Simon Munawa, Ralph Matema, Rahman Kutsanzira and Tendai Ngulube who made way for juniors like Mbongeni Ndlovu, Vincent Moyo, Russel Chifura, Divine Mhindirira, Andrew Mbeba and Denzel Khumalo.
The project was expected to mature in three years. Ndlovu succeeded in bringing back the exciting brand of fast attacking football that lured supporters back to the stadium.
But results did not come consistently until he left for Botswana midway this year.
He left Highlanders two points above the relegation zone with 14 points from 12 games.
“It has been a season of mixed fortunes where we found ourselves in unfamiliar positions for the better part of the season,” said club chairman Kenneth Mhlophe in his end-of-year statement.
“But as George Custer would aptly put it: ‘It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get up.’
“I am proud of the team for managing to get up and we finished sixth on the log, the achievements leave us in line with our three-year plan pronounced at the beginning of the 2018 season.
“We had given ourselves 2018 as the year of re-strategising, putting together a side dominated by the products of our developmental side, something we achieved with then technical manager and club legend Madinda Ndlovu.
“We had projected that in the second year of the project, we will aim to at least reach a final of a major cup, an expectation we surpassed by winning the Independence Cup and the Chibuku Super Cup.
“As we are preparing for the final year of this great project . . . it is our hope that as per our planning, 2020 will be even bigger.
“Whilst the three-year plan is/was something worth pursuing, it remains a necessary short-term project, thus, the club’s future and vision should not be restricted to it,” said Mhlophe.
Highlanders ended the season on top of their game under the charge of de Jongh. There were sentiments the club could actually have even gone all the way and competed for the championship had the Dutchman arrived in Zimbabwe earlier.
The big question now is: Will his successor be able to take the project in the same direction that the Dutchman has been driving Bosso? Highlanders have gone on record declaring next year they will be challenging for the title, which they last won 13 years ago under Methembe Ndlovu.
De Jongh had given them hope after he inspired the team to a decent sixth place finish in the Castle Lager Premiership. The coach led a remarkable transformation after finding the club wallowing in the relegation matrix when he arrived three months ago.
He superintended Bosso for 16 official games, winning eight times, drawing six and losing once.
Out of the 16 matches, 12 were league games that saw Bosso getting five wins, six draws and a loss, while the other four games were in the Chibuku Super Cup which Bosso won to lift the trophy without conceding a goal. The Chibuku Super Cup victory ended Highlanders’ four-year trophy drought.
However, the 49-year-old coach announced on his Twitter page that he will not be returning after the festive holidays as he is set to take up “new challenges” elsewhere.
Reports have linked the coach with three-time league champions FC Platinum. There has been a vacancy at the platinum miners since the departure of Norman Mapeza in September.
FC Platinum remains the most likely destination for the Dutchman. However, the Zimbabwe league champions yesterday could not confirm the links with the Highlanders coach.
FC Platinum chairman Evans Mtombeni said the club was still to review the season and the fate of interim coach, Lizwe Sweswe.
“I have heard about de Jongh but we treat that as rumours because as FC Platinum we haven’t contacted him at any point. Unless you are telling me that someone else from FC Platinum did that.
‘‘But I am closer to where decisions are made and that important piece of information should not have missed me.
“Imagine how many times Mark Harrison was linked with FC Platinum during his stay at Harare City but he was never anywhere near FC Platinum until he left.
“We have to sit down as the leadership to discuss our performance during the 2019 season. There are a lot of things that we look at when we review the season.
“So I wouldn’t want to jump the gun and talk about things that have not been discussed by the club’s leadership yet.
‘‘The review will probably take place early next year. Right now we are focusing on the upcoming Champions League matches,” said Mtombeni.
FC Platinum are set to leave for Egypt tomorrow for the CAF Champions League match against giant Al Ahly scheduled for this Saturday in Cairo.