By Innocent Madonko
HIGHLANDERS Football Club’s swashbuckling performance during their 3-1 win over Yadah FC at Barbourfields Stadium on Thursday must have left their multitudes of supports purring with excitement at the prospect of a return to the glory days of the past.
The victory was achieved with grit, tenacity, flair and style – attributes associated with great Highlanders teams of yesteryear. There was fluidity, guile and intent from the beginning with the Bosso juggernaut overrunning a hapless Yadah who looked pedestrian for much of the first half.
The passing was slick, support for man on the ball evident, pressing very high while the entire team attacked as a unit with midfielders and forwards full of running.
The energy levels were off the roof culminating in a blitzkrieg which yielded three beautiful goals inside 30 minutes. Going into the Battle of Zimbabwe against fierce rivals Dynamos in Harare tomorrow, this is the kind of performance Bosso needed to lift their spirits and prepare for the humdinger which lies ahead.
However, it could all have been different were it not for the intervention of a Dutchman called Hendrik Pieter de Jongh. Since his arrival, the team’s fortunes have changed for the better and Bosso are playing with a swagger last seen during the glory days between 1999-2002 when they won four consecutive championships on the trot.
In a nutshell, Highlanders are unrecognisable from the side which was toying with relegation just a few weeks ago. What has changed some may ask? After all, these are the same rough gems moulded by the legendary Madinda Ndlovu in his rebuilding project which he entrusted to his trusted lieutenants Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu and Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu to polish and fine tune.
Well, from the terraces, it is apparent from the body language and attitude of the players that they are putting 110 percent into their craft and are playing for their coach.
De Jongh has instilled DISCIPLINE – a prerequisite for success; unity and lifted moral in camp. While his tactics are obviously a notch higher, it is the motivational factor that has transformed some average players and lifted their confidence levels.
All of a sudden, Prince Dube and his strike partner Tinashe Makanda are scoring for fun; midfielders Brian Banda, Adrian Silla, Nqobizitha Masuku and Denzel Khumalo are playing with so much poise and finesse they remind the Bossolana faithful of the mighty Barcelona midfield; the defence is also rock solid with Peter Muduhwa improving with every game while the likes of Andrew Mbeba and Mbongeni Ndlovu are putting in a shift. On the right flank, McClive “Skippy” Phiri is a bundle of energy, always bearing down the channel to whip in devilish crosses into the box.
The players’ fitness levels have also improved with the likes of ‘bad boy’ Denzel Khumalo reported to have lost 3kgs following a rigorous fitness regime. He is a natural talent that needs nurturing and guidance and we are glad de Jongh is providing that.
Forgotten winger Godfrey Makaruse has also been resurrected and scored a belter of a shot on Thursday after hardly putting a foot wrong the entire game. There is teamwork and a camaraderie that has been lacking for so long.
Even the supporters have noted the massive improvement in the team and have begun flocking to Emagumeni.
On Thursday, we even witnessed some shimmies and shibobos last seen ages ago. The beauty and ferocity of Makaruse’s strike and the composure and clinical nature with which Makanda struck the final and third goal left the entire Barbourfields Stadium awestruck and in delirium.
That is the kind of football that brings supporters to stadia. “Team Away” supporters must also be salivating at the prospect of inflicting defeat on old nemesis Dynamos in their own backyard of Rufaro Stadium tomorrow.
It is also worth mentioning that Highlanders’ performance against FC Platinum in the Chibuku Cup quarter finals during which they thrashed the reigning league champions 3-0 at Barbourfields Stadium last Sunday, was no fluke. There is something about their swagger which borders on arrogance. That is the hallmark of a great team.
While they are clearly out of the championship matrix, they surely might gatecrash their way into the top four given the inconsistency of the teams above them on the log. Their momentum and confidence might carry them through.
Certainly, a solid foundation has been laid for an assault on the PSL title next season were conditions to remain the same. For starters, Bosso need to retain their coach at all costs and have a good pre-season under their belt.
They also need to tie down a solid sponsorship package during the off-season so that they can re-negotiate contracts with the core of the team. It is time to restore the glory days of years gone by.
Highlanders is the lifeblood of the City of Bulawayo and its performances mirror the mood of the city. We certainly want to see it rise and take its rightful place as one of the giants of football in Zimbabwe. The Chronicle