BULAWAYO – Zambian Kelvin Kaindu enjoyed a magnificent debut season as the Highlanders head coach by leading the Bulawayo giants to a second place finish in the league race last season.
This was unexpected as Kaindu had inherited a team made up mainly of players who had been off-loaded by their former teams after being deemed excess baggage.
To his credit, the former Highlanders striker moulded these players into an exciting outfit that went on to lose out on the league title on the final day of the season because of an inferior goal aggregate.
On their way to their second place finish, Highlanders managed to chalk up a 23-match unbeaten run that for a long time positioned the Bulawayo giants as the clear favourites for the league championship.
That run was ended by former champions Monomotapa at Rufaro Stadium in the second half of the season.
Bosso were eventually overtaken by defending champions Dynamos, who went on to successfully defend their title but the seeds of optimism had already been sown in the minds of the Bosso faithful.
For that trailblazing run had been achieved at a time when Kaindu had stated publicly that his goal was to build a team that would be serious championship contenders in the 2013 season.
Things have not gone according to the script though in the current season as Highlanders have already lost four times within the first half of the league programme.
This has created a lot of tension within Internet social networking sites with a lot of conspiracy theories being thrown around as to the reasons behind Bosso’s inconsistent performance this year.
The reluctance by the Highlanders leadership to embrace technology and set up official platforms where they can inform their followers of developments at the club has played into the hands of radical elements, who have taken to spewing vitriol on the Internet.
And as a result, a lot of abuse has been directed at Highlanders legend Willard Mashinkila Khumalo, who is being accused by some of being behind the team’s non-performance.
Mashinkila Khumalo is a former Bosso captain, who served the club with distinction in the 80s and 90s before returning as a coach at the turn of the millennium.
His coaching tenure did not realise much success for the club and he parted ways with the team and he went on to coach other teams both locally and outside the country.
A fans’ favourite during his playing days, Mawii bounced back at Highlanders at the beginning of the season when he replaced his former teammate Amin Soma-Phiri as the Highlanders welfare manager.
This post requires Mashinkila Khumalo to look after the players’ welfare and besides the Hwange incident when Highlanders travelled to the Colliery without a second strip of uniform there have been no reports that the burly former Warriors player is failing in his duties.
It is mind boggling then why Mashinkila Khumalo has become the target of hate from a section of fans on social networks.
What influence if any does the Highlanders welfare manager have over any of the players since very few worked under him when he was in charge many years ago?
And lest we forget, former manager Soma-Phiri was the victim of similar accusations last season when Highlanders were playing badly.
The question therefore is; if there is any grain of truth in that there has been interference from Mashinkila Khumalo as the head coach Kaindu mentioned this in his reports to the executive?
And if he has and no action has been taken then why not go public because at the end of the day the buck stops with him when it comes to the team’s performance?
Some have accused Highlanders chairperson Peter Dube of having a vendetta against Kaindu that goes back to the days when the Zambian experienced clearance issues when he left the club in the 90s.
They claim Mashinkila Khumalo was brought in so that he can take over from Kaindu, who the Bosso boss has not forgiven for taking the club to task in the past.
But the issue of bringing in a former Highlanders son to be team manager was started by the former executive that was led by Themba Ndlela and the idea was to rotate the manager every year as a way of honouring former greats.
The Zambian coach may have proffered the best explanation for the uproar that has followed his team’s slump in form in a recent media interview when he said Highlanders were now suffering the backlash of last season’s good run.
“It is just that people are judging us in comparison to where we were this time last season,” Kaindu said.
“It is always difficult for any team to be consistent throughout the year.”
The Highlanders executive is reported to have expressed their dissatisfaction with the team’s performance and measures are said to be underway to reinforce the team during the transfer window.
Unheralded striker Gabriel Nyoni, who has been on loan at Southern Region Division One log leaders Bulawayo Chiefs is said to be on his way back to Bosso to beef up a strike force that has failed to hit the target in recent matches.
But the Highlanders leadership has to bear in mind that players need motivation to perform and should therefore honour their financial commitments and pay out outstanding winning bonuses and signing-on fees.
A lot can still happen in the remaining half of the season and in an interview before their recent match against CAPS United Kaindu told the Daily News that, “pressure will always be part of the game but what matters is how one handles the pressure.”