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THE ACE UP THE YOUNG WARRIORS’ SLEEVE

WHEN Ndumiso Gumede opens his mouth to talk about football, you are bound to listen because the burly administrator has been in the business for over four decades. By Langton Nyakwenda – Sunday Mail

He served Zifa in various capacities from 1980 until his retirement from the national football mother body two years ago, and through his long soccer administration career, the 69-year-old has not lost his love for Highlanders FC.

On September 12 last year at Rufaro, Gumede sounded very optimistic about his club, even when everything pointed towards a mess-up at the country’s oldest football team.

Highlanders had succumbed to a fourth straight league defeat against Harare City and their new coaches, Amini Soma-Phiri and Cosmas Zulu, seemed clueless on how to save the sinking black and white ship.

“Do not judge us now young man, come to Bulawayo and see what we are doing in terms of junior development. We have a number of upcoming players at the Highlanders Academy, remind me about this conversation next year and I will say ‘I told you so’,” bragged Gumede, the Highlanders chief executive officer.
One of those “gems” Gumede predicted would shine in 2016 was Prince Dube. That was prescient.

The 19-year-old ginger-haired striker has taken the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League by storm thanks to his sharp eye for goal.

It is not easy for a rookie to lead the frontline of a club of Highlanders’ stature; a club whose supporters are rated as the most passionate lot on the local scene and are as demanding as Dynamos’ mythical seven million fans.

But Dube has defied the odds. He has been putting on performances that belie his age and he looks comfortable in the company of last season’s top goal scorer Knox Mutizwa having already banged three goals in six rounds of league action.
Last Saturday Dube struck a brace at the Baobab when Bosso thumped Ngezi Platinum 4-1 and seized top spot on the log standings, albeit just for 24 hours.

The Highlanders Academy product can add another sentence to his growing profile with a good show in national colours this afternoon.

The Zimbabwe men’s national Under-20 soccer team host Cameroon in the first leg of the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations second round qualifier at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

Being the only player in Jairos Tapera’s squad commanding a first team jersey at a Premiership club, Dube could be the Young Warriors’ trump card.

“A striker has to score goals no matter how tight the game is, so I guess I will have to score two on Sunday (today),” said Dube with a shy smile as the Young Warriors went through their paces at Gateway School last Thursday.
“Playing for a big club like Highlanders is no joke, you have got to have a big heart but I have settled. The goals I have scored have calmed my nerves and now I want to replicate my league form in national colours.
“We need a comfortable lead because we are playing at home, the fans should come and watch us because we represent the future.
“Cameroon have the pedigree, the odds favour them going into this fixture but each one of us knows the importance of qualifying for the youth championships.”
He came through the Highlanders junior system and last year he featured for Bosso’s U-19 team in the Southern Region Division One League.
Dube is a former Somvuku High School student and played in the Copa Coca-Cola U-16 tourney three years ago.
“It is a journey that is starting, I am hopeful football will take me to places and one of those should be a continental youth tournament,” said Dube.
The Young Warriors travel to Cameroon for the return leg during the weekend of June 10-12 this year; and Zambia will host the 2017 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations finals between February 26 and March 12, 2017.
Should they prevail, Zimbabwe will play the winner between Libya and Benin in the third and final round of qualifiers.
Zimbabwe last qualified for the Afcon U-20 finals in 1987, but Young Warriors coach Tapera is brimming with confidence despite a limited camp for his charges.
The gaffer is banking on players who have Premiership experience.
Peace Makaha (Dynamos), Jerry Chipangura (Harare City), Blessing “Gode” Nyamuzihwa (Caps United), Thomas Kadyaridzire (Chicken Inn) and Bhukosi Ncube (Highlanders) are rubbing shoulders with the big guys at their respective clubs.
“It is important to have these guys in the squad, especially Dube who is starting for Highlanders. We hope his experience will come in handy on Sunday (today),” said Tapera. “We were given three days to train but that is no longer an issue because we just have to beat Cameroon.
“The nation should rally behind these youngsters, they are the future, and they are the foundation on which the Warriors are built.”

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