AT THE intersection of faith and football, the fervor that surrounds both Highlanders FCa��s new coach Amini Soma Phiri and the current struggle to stir the team away from an embarrassing finish poses a potentially fully blown national debate over religion and its place in sports as he wont take part in Christian rituals of the team.
Soma-Phiri who was appointed Head Coach following the sacking of Bongani Mafu two weeks ago refused to compromise his Muslim beliefs by joining the team in prayer before the start of their matches.
Highlanders FC as far back as the Ernest a�?Maphephaa�? Sibandaa��s chairmanship adopted a pre-match ritual whereby the technical team and all the players including substitutes would form a circle in front of their bench with an individual praying.
For their Christian tendencies, they even attracted the attention of Prophet Chiza from the Eagle Life Assembly in Bulawayo.
But Soma-Phiri, a former Bosso player and welfare manager, wona��t be part of that culture.
a�?To say the truth I wona��t participate in the teama��s traditional ritual but I wona��t stop it. Everyone has his own religious beliefs and I was born a Muslim and I will not participate in any Christianity activities . . . Ia��m not for God, Ia��m for Allah,a�? he said.
This wona��t be new to the Bosso dressing room, while Soma-Phiri was welfare manager at a time when Kelvin Kaindu was Head Coach of the Bulawayo giants Soma Phiri did the same.
a�?I dona��t have anything against Christians, in actual fact my wife is a Christian but when she goes to church, she goes alone as my kids go to the Minaret,a�? he said.
Therefore, Soma-Phiria��s touchline regalia would be a jalabiyyah. His spirituality does not mean he would be soft on players. Everyone has to earn their keep.
a�?Ia��m really puzzled about the attitude of todaya��s players. You find someone with a minor knock saying he cana��t continue playing. During our days such utterance wasna��t heard because we used to fight for jerseys. To say the truth I want really men in my team,a�? Soma-Phiri said.