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Bosso legends speak out on 1976 player defection

by Lovemore Dube
27 Mar 2021 at 09:08hrs | Views
THE strength of Highlanders FC has always been its members and sympathisers in the last 95 years. True to what today's fans say: "Ubuhle lamandla eBosso kukubalandeli bayo" the club weathered a fierce storm in 1976.

The bulk of the team left to form Olympics.

Left were five stalwarts Lawrence Phiri, Josiah Nxumalo, Majuta Mpofu, Zenzo Dabengwa, Tymon Mabaleka and Tennyson Mloyi. The senior players mostly those from outside Bulawayo were not happy over finances.

They felt the club had enjoyed a fine run since the 1973 Chibuku Trophy triumph which preceded three regional league titles had given it some sound financial base.

A hidden political finger was also in the mix according to the Highlanders faithful.

Phiri who had started off with the juniors in the 1960s and went on to play almost every position on the field, becoming caretaker player/coach in 1977 and later successful club manager, said the members and supporters were key in Bosso rising from the ashes.

"I have to salute the supporters, they showed conviction and saw the club through in trying times when collapse looked certain.

"With their support, we were able to pick up the crumbs from what was left. What was stunning was that they appeared even to come in greater numbers resolute that in their lifetime Bosso would not collapse," said Phiri.

Highlanders were among the best three teams in the land that year with Dynamos and Zimbabwe Saints. The rivalry was intense and the quality of the three teams very high.

In an interview some years ago the legendary Barry Daka said the formation of Olympics was as a result of money issues. He said he had joined his friends and teammates in solidarity as he felt for out of Bulawayo players life was hard with poor remuneration. He said locals could be cushioned by their families.

The top players that left included Stanley Nyika, Isaac Mafaro, Itai Chieza, Chutika Tembo and Ananias Dube. To add salt to injury a promising crop of Under-16s had left for Zambia to join the struggle as did a whole reserve team in the same year 1976. So going into 1977 Highlanders were in a fix.

In an interview last week Kainot Luphahla, also another Bosso stalwart revealed that several players had been approached and promised money with the aim being to destroy Highlanders leading to the song: "Ayisoze yabulawa" being penned by the faithful.

"It was a hard time for the club and its fans and members. Even young players like my brother Willie Matholwana and Douglas Mloyi were approached and given money but because our fathers were Bosso at heart they would have none of that and the guys stayed at the rebuilding Bosso."

Another player who was in the mix is former Bosso, Zimbabwe Saints, Zisco and Zimbabwe centre-half Ephraim Moloi Moyo.

Initially he had stayed at the club but after three matches playing even at schools for the club, he felt a challenge he deserved was staying up in the Rhodesia National Football League with Olympics instead of the new South Zone League.

"I must have stayed with the club for about three matches. But after finding ourselves playing at schools in places like Gwanda and Plumtree, I left to join my former teammates at Olympics but I did not stay long there as there were too many unfulfilled promises," said Moyo.

But Phiri sings the praises of the fans and members.

"Where ever we went or played the numbers kept swelling. People appeared to support our decision of quitting the RFNL. A hand from the league also was to blame for the break away as there appeared to be some acting in common purpose with some politicians in Bulawayo," said Phiri.

Highlanders had ditched the national league not satisfied with the way the 1976 league championship race had been run. They accused RFNL of giving Dynamos the title on a silver platter.

Stakes were very high for the Bulawayo team that had played second fiddle in national play-offs after winning the 1973, 1974 and 1975 regional league titles. With the 1976 race a national competition Bosso had done well to reach the Chibuku Trophy Cup final and the walked over match by Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium was the talking point.

Bosso still swear that Dynamos and RFNL had been communicated with to the effect that the pitch was unplayable. Highlanders did not turn up while the referees and Dynamos went to the stadium leading to the walkover decision and Bosso pulling out to form the South Zone Soccer League.

Phiri said the club went to places like Gwanda and Plumtree to woo teams to come on board. He said the effort paid off as clubs from as far as Kwekwe came on board with Amahlolanyama winning the first league title before surrendering it to Old Miltonians in 1978 with strong competition from clubs such as Black Horrors of Plumtree the 1979 Chibuku Trophy semi-finalists.

Bulawayo Rockets, Black Horrors, Black Chiefs, Ngwalongwalo, Go Beer Rovers, Gwanda Ramblers, Callies and Old Miltonians were among some of the clubs in the league. In 1979 a solidarity match was played against Dynamos paving way for the launch of the National Professional Soccer League with a national character.

"The match was played at Barbourfields Stadium and the stadium was packed to the rafters," Phiri said.

The 1977 split to form Olympics is considered the worst disaster to strike the club. Those that left for Olympics were grudgingly forgiven.

It is among the reasons why Daka only returned after almost eight years away in 1984 returning to win the Chibuku Trophy a piece of silverware he had previously missed. He could not win it in 1973 away with Wankie FC whom he was part of when they beat Dynamos in a penalty shoot-out of the Castle Cup final.

He was back in 1976 but could not do anything as a Gibson Homela-inspired Zimbabwe Saints whacked Tshilas 4-0 in the final of the same competition.

Daka was at Olympics when Bosso landed their second Chibuku Trophy beating Rio Tinto 4-0 at Rufaro Stadium in an emotional cup final the first in independent Zimbabwe.

Phiri says the members and supporters have always been key to the survival of the club in many ways. Tomorrow the members will close a dirty chapter of the dirtiest and worst campaigning in the history of the club when they choose a chairman, secretary-general and committee members.

Trading of insults and character assassinations have marked these elections and hopefully after the exercise members and sympathisers will find each other and move forward. Who wins should be a victory for the club not the kingmakers.

Incumbent Kenneth Mhlophe under whom and aided by the Covid-19 break, Bosso have cleared all their debts and been granted a mine, faces Johnfat Sibanda a fellow businessman for the chairman's post.

Israel Moyo who made a surprise appearance on the top table with the board and executive at last week's annual general meeting despite resigning, will be up against Morgan "Gazza" Dube a former Zifa board member and an air tourism industry player in Victoria Falls.

Moyo has held the post over the past three years and was at one stage suspended with vice chairman Modern Ngwenya for allegedly acting in a way deemed not in the best interests of the club.

Bheka Sibanda and Mgcini Mafu will battle it out to replace Wisdom Mabhena whose time is up after serving two terms. But the members and fans who pay to watch the club week-in, week-out stay the backbone of the club unlike some mercenaries whose business is just Bosso elections.

Source - chronicle