Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS are done with their squad reinforcement after signing two more strikers, Manuel Esono Obiang Buale and Tambwe Kalunga.
Equatorial Guinea’s Buale (23) and 28-year-old Kalunga from the Democratic Republic of Congo concluded their deals on Thursday. Kalunga turned out for relegated Beitbridge-based Premiership side Border Strikers last season
The capture of Buale and Kalunga means that Highlanders are ready to roll for the 2017 season, with their coach Erol Akbay on record saying their potency in front of goal would be key to the title chase.
The duo officially became part of Highlanders, a week after the Bulawayo giants who last won the championship in 2006, signed eccentric striker Rodrick Mutuma (28).
Mutuma crossed the great divide to join Bosso from archrivals Dynamos on a one-year deal as part of Akbay’s plans to strengthen his attack.
“Baule signed a season-long deal with Kalunga joining us on a two-year deal. We’re done with squad recruitment and from an administrative point we’ve given the technical team the players that they recommended. We’re done and we will not even fill up all the 30 registration slots because our budget doesn’t allow us to do so,” said Highlanders’ secretary-general Emmett Ndlovu.
Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Akbay said the arrival of the strikers gave his side the depth that they lacked last season.
“Every position now has two players which is good for the team. This means more pressure for everybody as all the players will give their best so that they are given an opportunity to play. This season we have more depth. Obviously as a coach I have my first choice, but if they don’t do well they will know that someone is waiting for that opportunity to come and play,” said Akbay.
He now has a bigger pool to select his preferred forwards.
Other strikers in Highlanders’ books are the 2016 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League’s Rookie of the Year Prince Dube, veteran Ralph Matema, Gabriel Nyoni, Nhlanhla Ndlovu and Ray Lunga who was promoted from the club’s development side Bosso 90 that competes in the Southern Region Division One League.
The Dutchman who commended Highlanders’ executive for getting him his desired players, will be expected to deliver this season.
Akbay is on his last year of his two-year contract and last season he led Bosso to a position three finish behind champions Caps United and FC Platinum.
What Akbay and his technical team need to do now is give extra attention to their defence, which finished joint fifth best in the league.
League runners-up for 2016 FC Platinum had the best defence, conceding 15 goals, followed by 2015 champions Chicken Inn, who let in 20 goals, while Caps United and ZPC Kariba’s backlines were breached 21 times. Highlanders and Dynamos each conceded 24 goals.
Meanwhile, Highlanders’ fans will get an opportunity to see their new acquisitions tomorrow when Bosso take on Zambian side Power Dynamos at Luveve Stadium.
“I’ve seen Mutuma in a game situation (when Bosso drew 1-1 with Bulawayo City) and of course I want to see him partnering the other strikers. The new players will play because we want to see how our style is coming up,” said Akbay.