TWENTY TWO thousand tickets will be sold at Barbourfields today as a bumper crowd is expected when Highlanders take on How Mine in the Mbada Diamonds Cup final. This is the first time in the three-year history of the tournament that the final is being hosted outside Harare.Fans making their way into the rest of the ground, for which the PSL has set aside 18 000 tickets, will pay US$1 with the remainder of the tickets sold at the wings for US$5 each.
Kennedy Ndebele, the PSL chief executive, urged fans to come early saying there were no extra tickets for the game.
"We do not want to over crowd the stadium and as such we have 24 000 tickets with a sixth of that set for the wings.
"The centre VIP is strictly by invitation and as soon as tickets are sold out, we will shut the gates and those that fail to make their way in will have to watch the game on television," said Ndebele.
With a sellout crowd expected, the police have also issued a stern warning on rowdy supporters.
"We encourage fans to behave well regardless of whatever result. We will not tolerate uncouth behaviour and we will deal with rogue elements accordingly," said police spokesperson for Bulawayo Province Mandlenkosi Moyo.
Having guaranteed security, it is highly likely that it will be a family fun day at Emagumeni with football lovers out to watch the first major Cup final featuring Bulawayo teams since the 1988 Rothmans Shield final between Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints.
Bosso went on to lift that tournament silverware.
However, the Rothmans Shield final wasn't the flagship knockout football tournament in the country then, with that gong going to the Castle Cup, and this is the first all-Bulawayo showdown in the flagship knockout football final.
Going into today's game, only one player Rodreck Mutuma has scored in the last two editions of the Mbada Diamonds Cup final.
Highlanders' Gabriel Nyoni is in the running for the competition's top goal scorer award for which now he is tied on two goals with Harare City's Silas Songani.
It remains to be seen whether Nyoni will be able to aid Bosso, who have never scored against the miners, to victory.
An interesting fact about the Mbada Diamonds Cup final is that it has previously been a derby with the 2011 edition featuring Dynamos and Motor Action with last season's final featuring Dynamos and Monomotapa.
Interestingly, the two teams that have lost to Dynamos in the final have gone on to be relegated from the Premiership.
Monomotapa and Motor Action were axed at the end of the Castle Lager Premiership season which ended last Sunday.
Highlanders and How Mine want to lift the Mbada Diamonds Cup and the US$130 000 winners' cheque that comes with it.
The runners-up get US$90 000.
This afternoon, the battle is likely to be won and lost in the midfield where Highlanders' hopes are certain to be pinned around playmaker Peter 'Rio' Moyo, Simon Munawa, Mthulisi Maphosa, Bhekimpilo Ncube and Milton Ncube.
How Mine's midfield will be built around Soccer Star of the Year finalist Mernard Mupera who could partner Ocean Mpofu, Thembani Masuku and Warren Dube.
Judging by their quarter-final and semi-final performances, How Mine prefer to play with five defenders Herbert Dick, Gilbert Banda, Nyasha Mukumbi, Brighton Dube and Khumbulani Banda.
Highlanders' coach Kelvin Kaindu must derive a way of breaking How Mine's defence and the Zambian expatriate, who has seen his charges scoring at least two goals per match on their way to the final, is confident that they will sail past How Mine.
Bosso beat Triangle 3-2 in the first round, went on to hand Buffaloes a 0-3 defeat in the quarter-finals and forced the match into a penalty shootout in the semi-final against Harare City after the game had ended 2-2.
Highlanders went on to progress to the final after beating Harare City 5-3 after penalty shootout.
"Our Cup performance has been very positive, different from our approach to league matches. It is our history in this competition that we are riding on and with the amount of work that we have put in training, I have confidence in the team and, God willing, we are going to win the game," Kaindu said.
How Mine are not reading much into the game with their coach Philani "Beefy" Ncube saying they are ready to roll.
"Like I said before, we are not in the final to make numbers but to compete for the ultimate prize. It is wrong for people to think that we have surpassed our ambitions by being in the final because what we want is to win this Cup.
"It is going to be an interesting game and everyone is looking forward to it. The best team at the end of the day will walk away with the trophy," said Ncube.