Can Highlanders’ struggles be blamed on Brito’s Warriors appointment?

At some point, Highlanders were cruising in the 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.

The Bulawayo giants were on a 19-game unbeaten run, which made their success starved faithful dare to dream.

Bosso last won the championship 17 years ago and when they edged Ngezi Platinum 1-0 at Baobab Stadium on July 30, the breaking of the jinx appeared written in the stars.

After the crucial victory over Madamburo, Baltemar Brito’s charges were held to a goalless draw by Luke Masomere’s ZPC Kariba at Nyamhunga,  before edging Black Rhinos 1-0 at Babourfields, as goalkeeper and captain Ariel Sibanda kept his 14th clean sheet of the season.

Things were going so well for Bosso,  but there would be a twist to the tale.

Renowned Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho recorded a video wishing Britowho was his assistant at FC Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, the best of luck for the rest of the season.

Mourinho even encouraged Brito to apply for the then vacant Warriors head coach post.

A day after Brito reportedly applied for the national team post, Bosso suffered their first defeat of the season —a 2-0 loss to defending champions FC Platinum at Mandava on August 26.

Their next fixture was against city rivals Chicken Inn at Babourfields on September 3, which the Gamecocks won 2-0.

Many Highlanders fans didn’t press the panic button after the defeat to Chicken Inn, as evidenced by their messages on social media, as Bosso would battle old foes Dynamos at Babourfields thereafter.

The Dynamos game was the perfect opportunity for Bosso to return to winning ways, against a team which had not beaten them in the league since 2015.

A victory over Dynamos would have made their two previous defeats to FC Platinum and Chicken Inn to be easily forgotten.

But it was not to be.

Dynamos raced to a 2-0 lead in the first through goals from Keith Madera and captain Frank Makarati.

Highlanders fans, who were waiting for the perfect opportunity to show their displeasure in any possible, found one when referee Allen Basvi waved away appeals for a penalty, after McKinnon Mushore was adjudged to have been fouled by Madera in the box.

They went berserk and invaded the pitch, leading to the abandonment of the clash in the 37th minute.

After that fiasco at Babourfields, Bosso picked themselves up and beat Yadah 2-0 at Babourfields on September 17.

Three days after that victory over the Miracle Boys, it emerged that the Lincoln Mutasa-led ZIFA Normalisation Committee had written to Highlanders seeking the Bulawayo giants’ permission to engage Brito over the Warriors coach post.

Bosso gave the green light and the Portuguese mentor was appointed Warriors coach on September 21.

Highlanders have not won a single match in all competitions since Brito’s Warriors appointment.

They lost 1-0 to Hwange at the Colliery on September 24, before coming from behind to force a 1-all draw with relegation-threatened Sheasham at Babourfields on the 4th October.

Bosso were them hammered by Premiership debutants Simba Bhora 3-0 at Baobab on October 7, before playing a goalless draw with basement side Cranborne Bullets at Emagumeni on the 15th October.

Before that, Brito’s charges had been knocked out of the Chibuku Super Cup by CAPS United at Babourfields.

They (Bosso) then drew their last two games —a 1-1 stalemate with GreenFuel in Chisumbanje on October 18 and a goalless draw with city rivals Bulawayo Chiefs at Emagumeni last Sunday.

It was after the share of the spoils with Amakhosi, that Brito finally shared his thoughts on Bosso’s problems and even mentioned how they may have been worsened by him doubling as Warriors coach.

“We should have won this match. Being here and on national duty, almost doing one session was difficult. Giving my assistants (Madinda Ndlovu and Joel Lupahla) all the freedom and they decided another system which is however, still the same whether we are playing an A, B, C team. This was not so fair,” Brito said.

“There has not been a question of plan at Highlanders in the last seven to eight games. We can change the team but the symptoms are there in the team.

“I was off with the national team, with me going there for about 15 days I don’t think I am to blame. I conducted one session after that, it was not so fair but I did it because no one wanted to take the responsibility. I took that responsibility because no one wanted to take it,” added Brito.


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