Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
ONE of the longest-serving and influential Highlanders players, goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda is in his last year at the Bulawayo giants after an illustrious 10-year career that saw him being called into the national team and also making it into the country’s best 11 players.
His loyalty to the Bulawayo giants is undoubted. His talent is equally undoubted as well as his discipline.
However, when such a player, 31 next week, requests that he be released as he has received an offer that no one can deny especially at his age, I believe some painful but necessary decisions have to be taken by the club.
Sibanda’s contract with Bosso runs out on December 31 and in terms of football statutes, any team can negotiate with him without bothering to talk to the club anytime from July and Sibanda will walk out of Bosso as a free agent without any financial gain being received by Highlanders, despite all these years of developing the player.
Now, what needs to be done by the Kenneth Mhlophe-led executive committee so as to avoid this ‘loss of business opportunity’ so to say? The answer is simple, negotiate for a contract extension now or sell the player, again now.
It might sound ridiculous but it won’t make business sense really for Ariel to join the long list of Highlanders players that have left this institution as free agents. Had Highlanders been diligent in their handling of these issues, the club might not be swimming in such a huge debt as they would have made some income from the sale of these players. So, painful as it might be or look to some supporters, it’s only prudent that the club lets Ariel go to Mozambique, where it is understood Ferroviario have offered him a very lucrative monthly salary of US$3 000.
If the Mozambican side can offer the star such an amount, it shows that their bank account is healthy and therefore a ‘small’ token to Highlanders now might not be an issue to them.
However, that token might just vanish into thin air in the next couple of months.
Refusing to release Ariel might seem inhuman especially looking at what he intends to get in Mozambique compared with what he is probably getting now at Highlanders vis-a-vis his age but also it won’t be fair for the Mozambicans to just get the player for free, not after so many years at Highlanders. Certainly not after all this investment which the club has put on the boy.
What I also know is that Highlanders has the player’s interest and welfare at heart and the US$3 000 salary offer must be in black and white not by word of mouth from Ariel’s agent. If the club is also sincere, let them write an official letter to the club and then maybe, just maybe, Highlanders might wear a human face and release their goalkeeper even before the expiry of his contract in December but the first option must be to sell him.
It’s always never easy to let great players leave but if right conditions are laid, the effect is that you tend to get more than one great player. Selling Ariel now might open avenues for more than three or four equally great goalkeepers and besides, who said his departure will mark the end of his relationship with Bosso?
So I reiterate, painfully as it might be, extend Ariel’s contract now or simply sell him, again now!