Ellina Mhlanga and Tadious Manyepo
FOLLOWING the appointment of Erol Akbay as the new head coach to take over at Ngezi Platinum Stars, club chairman Jeremiah Gasitene has said it’s no secret they are an ambitious side and would want to see the club better its performance next season.
The Mhondoro-based side finished runners-up in the just-ended Castle Lager Premiership soccer season although they had a promising start to their campaign.
Ngezi, under the guidance of Tonderai Ndiraya for the greater part of the season, appeared to be on track for their first Premiership title before they went off rails along the way.
The club, playing in the Premier League for the third year, went on to fire Ndiraya with five games to go before the end of season, as they seemed to have lost hope of winning their maiden title.
And Clifton Kadurira, who led the team to promotion into the Premier League from Division One, took charge of their remaining five games as an interim coach.
“It is no secret that we are an ambitious club and having come second we aim to better that. We want some silverware.
“We looked at the type of football we wanted to see our team play. We realised that the Dutch style of football was a major influence in the best leagues in the world.
“Erol Akbay fits into our ambitions and has a clear appreciation of the team we are trying to build,” said Gasitene.
The Ngezi Platinum chairman said they will unveil their new technical team setup when the new season kicks off with Akbay expected in the country early next year.
“We will unveil our technical setup as we get ready for the new season. He is (Akbay) is expected to start in the New Year,” said Akbay.
This would be Akbay’s second dance with the domestic football having coached Highlanders for two seasons before his departure at the end of the 2017 season.
Akbay’s local agent Denford Mutashu said after his experience in Zimbabwe when he was in charge of Highlanders, the Dutch coach had always remained open to the idea of coming back.
“The same reasons why he came to coach Highlanders remain the same reasons why he came back because when he came to coach Highlanders it was after I convinced him that Zimbabwean was growing. And it was going to be an opportunity for him out of that growth and also have a different experience coaching in Africa and Zimbabwe.
“So when he came here he also found out that the people were welcoming and even his stay, he was actually happy about the time that he spent with Highlanders. And also the exciting process of also extracting some gems in the young footballers in the country as was shown by his faith in bringing youngsters into the Highlanders team.
“So when the opportunity to coach Ngezi came knocking he couldn’t also think twice,” Mutashu said.
The former Highlanders coach takes up the Ngezi job knowing that his predecessor, Ndiraya had done well since joining the Mhondoro-based side on their promotion into the Premiership in 2016.
Ndiraya led the team to a top-eight finish in their first season and they went on to win the Chibuku Super Cup in that same year, earning a ticket to the CAF Confederation Cup. However, they crashed out in the second round.
Ngezi then finished third in the 2017 season and rose a rung up this year.
The 2018 league runners-up have also been boosted by the news that skipper Liberty Chakoroma has opted to extend his stay with the Mhondoro outfit after signing a new one-year contract.
Chakoroma is one of the players who were understood to be considering their future away from the Baobab. A number of Ngezi players’ contracts expire at the end of this year and Ngezi are running around to tie most of them down.
And they have already managed to convince their most prized asset, Chakoroma to put pen to paper.
Ngezi are hoping to build on the kind of flying start they enjoyed in the just ended season which got off to a fine unbeaten run in their opening 13 matches.
But somehow, the team lost their footing along the way, enduring an uncharacteristic low spell mid-way through the race, in the process allowing eventual champions FC Platinum to cover much ground and overtake them.
It however, emerged that Chakoroma, along with Tichaona Mabvura had been approached by their home town Premiership newsboys Manica Diamonds and were largely expected to move to Mutare.
But after some marathon meetings with the club’s management, Chakoroma chose to remain in Mhondoro and the player confirmed as much.
“I can confirm that Manica Diamonds and two other Premiership clubs had made inquiries and had shown interest in me.
“I had to take my time to consider a number of factors and I am happy to reveal that I have decided to remain with Ngezi Platinum Stars,” said Chakoroma. “Some of the contracts I had been offered were too tempting but I needed time to consider.
“After some serious deliberations, I saw it fit to remain with Ngezi. I have signed a one-year extension with the team. I love Ngezi Platinum for they are the ones who gave me the name I have now. “We are already looking forward to work hard and possibly attain our goals next season.
“I am excited by the development and I hope all my teammates will be here next season and we will pick from where we left as we aim to better our position we attained in the just ended season.”
Chakoroma was arguably the best player at Ngezi last season, forming a formidable central defensive partnership with the ever improving Frank Makarati.
Besides Chakoroma and Mabvura, other players who were reported to be on their way out of Ngezi include Clive Agusto, Xolisani Moyo and Walter Mukanga.