Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THIRTY years ago, this month, the country’s oldest football club embarked on a pilgrimage in pursuit of greatness and, at the end of the adventure, finally toasted the glory which comes with being champions.
For years, Highlanders had won trophies in knockout tournaments, notably the Chibuku Cup at Rufaro in 1973, their first major piece of silverware, when they beat odds-on favourites Mhangura 3-0.
Former defence stalwart, Douglas “British” Mloyi, believes that sensational triumph, before thousands of delirious Bosso fans who had invaded the capital in packed trains, heralded the club’s arrival on the big stage.
“There is so much history about Chibuku in Bulawayo and Zimbabwe as a whole,’’ legendary Bosso defender Douglas “British’’ Mloyi, told our sister newspaper, Chronicle in 2014 when the tournament was revived.
“It is a cup with a difference, when I talk about it, I talk about the emergence of Highlanders as a powerful force in local football.
“The rivalries of that time made stars and excited many soccer fans. We are talking about history here, a legacy that has lived on.’’
Mloyi watched that landmark game after travelling to the capital as part of the team’s reserves but would, during his career, win the trophy three times.
That Bosso team featured the likes of Tymon Mabaleka, Ananias Dube, Billy Sibanda, Cavin Duberly, Boet van Ays, Edward Dzowa, Andrew Jele, Tommy Masuku, Lawrence Phiri, Josiah Nxumalo, Geoffrey Mpofu, and Barry Daka.
“I travelled to watch that historic match. I was a reserve team player then. It was a great victory for Highlanders and I still remember the match,’’ said Mloyi.
“From that day we became a powerful force to reckon with.’’
But, Bosso — for all their grand history — had never been domestic league champions since the national championship was created in 1962 and was won by a club from their home town, Bulawayo Sables.
All that changed in 1990.
Highlanders were 64 years old when it finally happened.
Domestic football was on the cusp of seismic changes, which would culminate in the major clubs’ ugly divorce, from the direct control of ZIFA.
Everything also appeared to be changing, everywhere around the world, as it marched into the final decade of a millennium in which two World Wars had been fought, at a huge cost to the scarred globe.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison that year, Tim Berners-Lee created the first web server and the foundation for the World Wide Web, Germany was reunified, Namibia was separated from South Africa and the Baltic states declared independence from the Soviet Union.
That same year, Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, Mario Baloteli and Georgina Wijnaldum, were also born.
There appeared to be a wave of excitement everywhere and, amid all that, Bosso finally came of age and, after an eight month campaign, finally arrived at the golden gates of the Promised Land.
There was a significance to that success story.
The previous decade, the ‘80s, had ruthlessly been dominated by their biggest rivals, Dynamos, who won seven of the 10 league championships.
Only Black Rhinos, having devised a way of poaching the finest talent from both Dynamos and CAPS United to build their house, had provided a challenge by winning twice.
Zimbabwe Saints, another of the clubs the Bosso family rated as one of the bitter rivals, had also joined the party with a triumph in 1988.
For Highlanders, the waiting game finally ended in 1990, at the ripe age of 64, as if fate had penned their script.
Because a chessboard, usually in black and white, has the colours that Bosso use as their identity and 64 squares.
The most prominent sporting club in the world, known as Highlanders, is a rugby side from New Zealand, a country whose international dialing code is 64.
The 2015 Super Rugby Champions are based in Dunedin, where you find the House of Pain, a fortress where, for generations, represented the aura of the All Blacks’ invincibility.
Formed in 1996, when Bosso were celebrating their 70th anniversary, the Highlanders rugby franchise — just like their local football namesake — have an insignia that features a shield, an arrow and a warrior.
“The Highlanders insignia represents a strong and proud Warrior battling on the craggy highlands of Scotland, he stands with his arms raised in defiance, in a rampant stance, proud and strong, ready for any challenge that should come his way,” the Kiwi rugby giants say on their website.
“In one hand he brandishes a claymore, in the other a shield — attack and defence in perfect balance.”
The rugby powerhouse say their name and image conjures “visions of pride in their roots, loyalty, strength, kinship, honesty and hard work”.
“Highlanders are traditionally conservative and shaped by enduring values, balanced by action, flare and imagination, there is a unity borne from adversity, (they) work hard and play hard, a tight-knit bunch not to be challenged lightly.”
They could also have been talking about the local Highlanders.
Scottish immigrants, who settled on the southern tip of New Zealand, were behind the formation of the Highlanders rugby franchise, with the name coming from the highlands from their original homeland.
As if by some sheer coincidence, there has been a huge Scottish influence in the life of the local Highlanders whose first immigrant coach was a Scotsman, Bobby Clark, in 1983.
There has also been a huge British influence in Bosso, over the years, and the late Eddie May guided them to a league title in 2001 while current coach, Mark Harrison, is also an Englishman.
Since that breakthrough success story in 1990, Highlanders have been champions a further six times, including four on the bounce at the turn of the millennium.
They also have the honour of being the winners of the inaugural Premiership title, in 1993, after the domestic top-flight football clubs won their boardroom battle to manage their affairs and dumped the old Super League.
Thirty years ago, this month, a battalion of Bosso warriors — celebrating a gem called Peter Ndlovu who would go on to be considered the finest player to feature for this club — started that journey to try and end their institution’s failure to transform itself into champions of domestic football.
It ended in triumph and while the Highlanders leaders, unlike their FC Platinum counterparts, are unlikely to honour the men who scripted that landmark success story, history will never forget what those royal troops did.
King Peter was crowned Soccer Star of the Year, at the tender age of 17, and — the rest — as they usually say, is history.
It’s also important that The Herald, the country’s newspaper of record which was itself established 35 years before Bosso’s arrival on the scene, should capture and celebrate those historic achievements.