By Langton Nyakwenda
It’s a flirtation that dates back to the early 1980s but Ndumiso Gumede likes to call it a mere coincidence.
It’s a romance that started in 1983 when Scottish coach Bobby Clark arrived in the City of Kings to take charge of the country’s oldest club — Highlanders.
Such was the connection between Clark and Highlanders that one of his sons, Tommy, can speak Ndebele and still visits Bulawayo frequently, 35 years after his father left Bosso.
While Clark is credited for promoting a then 16-year-old Willard Khumalo into the first team, Edwin Charles May or simply Eddie May, is remembered for winning the league title with Bosso in 2001.
The 73-year-old Clark, who still talks about Highlanders up to this day and the late May, are some of the numerous foreign coaches who have had stints at Bosso, albeit with varying fortunes.
The late Dick Chama, Mohamed Fathi, Kelvin “KK” Kaindu, Elroy Akbay and Pieter de Jongh have all been at Bosso.
Mark Harrison arrived in Bulawayo last Friday to become the third foreign coach to be hired by Highlanders in the last three seasons.
The highly regarded Harrison, a holder of a UEFA A Licence, replaces De Jongh, who is now at champions FC Platinum.
Veteran football administrator and Highlanders president, Gumede, called this flirtation a coincidence but acknowledges the impact these expatriates have left at Bosso.
“It’s just a coincidence, there is no written policy that dictates that a foreign coach is preferred. We also have to remember how these coaches have in the past contributed to the club’s success,” Gumede told The Sunday Mail Sport.
Harrison comes in at a time when morale is high at Bosso, the reigning Chibuku Super Cup champions whose attractive football under Dutch coach De Jongh won them praise from neutrals.
Staunch Highlanders supporter Mdu Maphenduka of Gwabalanda in Bulawayo, gave this publication the general feeling amongst Bosso fans, following the appointment of another foreign gaffer.
“As supporters we like this idea of appointing a foreign coach. They bring professionalism to the club and besides, if you look back in history we have had success with foreign coaches.
“Eddie May won us the league title, Dick Chama and Kaindu had decent stints at Bosso. Bosso players are naturally motivated whenever a foreign coach is at the helm.
“Foreign coaches bring the best out of our players. Last season we all thought Denzel Khumalo was done and that Prince Dube was down but that all changed when De Jongh arrived,” Maphenduka said.
“We welcome Mark Harrison, we will not put him under pressure to win the title but we are demanding at least a top four finish.”
Highlanders chairman Kenneth Mhlope told the media last week that his club was charmed by Harrison’s style of football.
“Considering our philosophy as a club, and his style of football, he emerged as the best institutional fit candidate to take up the huge responsibility,” Mhlope said.
Harrison signed a two-year-contract which will run up to December 31, 2021.
The Briton comes in at a time Bosso fans are craving for league success.
Highlanders last won the title 13 years ago and have failed to make a top four finish in the last three seasons.
In fact, Bosso have managed a top four finish once (in 2016) for the past six seasons.
Yet during the late Chama’s reign, a top four finish was guaranteed for the Bulawayo giants.
The former Zambian national team defender guided Highlanders to two runners-up medals in 2003 and 2004, but sadly never lived to see Bosso clinch their seventh league title, as he died in March 2006.
Bosso have not won the championship since then.
Egyptian gaffer Fathi came on board on September 6, 2009, replacing Madinda Ndlovu who had been sacked for poor results.
However, Fathi failed to live up to expectations and when Highlanders finished seventh in 2011, he was sacked and replaced by former Bosso striker Kaindu.
Highlanders also endured an ugly pay dispute with Fathi, which spilled into the courts.
Kaindu guided Bosso to second place in 2013 and only lost the title to Dynamos on goal difference.
He resigned in October 2104 after a contractual dispute.
Dutch coach Akbay led Bosso to sixth place in 2017, while De Jongh won the Chibuku Super Cup at the expense of Ngezi Platinum Stars last season. The Sunday Mail