ZVISHAVANE – The image of Highlanders coach Kelvin Kaindu on his knees and praying profusely during Saturday’s 5 – 3 penalty shoot-out win over Harare City will surely rank as one of the iconic memories of this year’s edition of the Mbada Diamonds Cup competition.
Even the harshest critics of the devout Christian coach must have been touched when Kaindu’s prayers were answered and Highlanders stormed through to the final of the country’s richest cup competition following some heroics by Bosso keeper Munyaradzi Diya.
DEVINE INTERVENTION: Highlanders coach Kelvn Kaindu, kneels to pray during Saturday's Mbada Diamonds Cup semifinal victory over Harare City at Mandava Stadium. Picture: Auntony Zinyange
The Zambian coach’s religious beliefs have been ridiculed in the past by some non – believers amongst the multitude of his team’s followers, who reckon he puts too much emphasis on faith rather than actual coaching.
And true to form, Kaindu did not hesitate to give credit to the Almighty after Bosso’s nervy victory over the Sunshine Boys on Sunday.
“We thank God for the win and I think the team showed character by coming from behind on two occasions.
“You can see that we have been moving towards destiny and we pray and hope that we get the best even in the final,” said Kaindu in his post-match interview.
Highlanders’ goalkeeper Diya was the hero for the Bulawayo giants after denying Harare City’s veteran defender David Kutyauripo during the penalty lottery before securing his team’s victory by converting the final spot kick of the day.
But it was the kneeling figure of a prayerful Kaindu that had photo journalists jostling to get a rare picture of the Zambian gaffer in an unguarded moment.
It turned out to be a field day for the camera men as Kaindu, in another uncharacteristic act, took off at full speed to congratulate his keeper Diya after the finals whistle had gone.
“I think we took very good penalties and I also think the goalkeeper was the hero after saving a penalty. It is good for us that we are through to the next stage because it has been a long time that the team has been in a final,” an elated Kaindu told reporters.
But while Kaindu’s belief in God is well documented Diya’s action of taking off his gloves as he prepared to deal with Kutyauripo’s penalty kick set tongues wagging amongst football writers and spectators alike.
The arguments that arose centred mainly on what the laws of the game say about the wearing of goalkeepers’ gloves and whether this was a psychological ploy by the goalkeeper to unsettle his adversary or was it an attempt to invoke the supernatural.
There is no Fifa law that says a keeper should wear his gloves at all times and Portugal’s Ricardo did the same thing during the Euro 2004 tournament when his country’s match against England ended in a penalty shoot-out.
It remains to be seen if Saturday’s victory will give Highlanders a slight advantage against the same opponents when the two teams meet again in Week 29 of the Castle Premiership programme.
Highlanders are chasing a double as they are also still very much in the running to lift the league title despite sitting in third spot behind City and Dynamos with three games left in the season.
DeMbare and the Sunshine Boys are tied on 49 points with the earlier sitting on the summit courtesy of a better goal difference while Highlanders are a point behind on 48.
But City coach Bigboy Mawiwi believes that the setting will be totally different in the league clash.
“You know there are certain games that we cannot have any control over like this cup game which was designed for these big teams to be in the final.
“The second goal that Highlanders scored came from a dubious penalty and the match officiating left a lot to be desired,” Mawiwi said.
Highlanders will also play Triangle and Shabanie Mine in their remaining league clashes while City will play against Black Rhinos and already relegated Motor Action.