The sentimental value of football matches between Highlanders and Dynamos has endured the test of time, with the fixture passing serious character test in the period between 2007 and 2015 when Dynamos had literally turned it to a one-sided affair with a historical dominance over their perennial rivals.
On Sunday the two sides meet at Barbourfields stadium in a Castle Larger Premier Soccer League (PSL) match to rekindle the rivalry that has characterised Zimbabwean football since time immemorial.
Recently, beIN SPORTS a global network of sports channels owned and operated by beIN Media Group classified the Highlanders/Dynamos rivalry as one of the top 10 football rivalries in Africa.
Other nine biggest African rivalries include the Al Ahly vs Zamalek (Egypt), Raja Casablanca vs Wydad Club (Morocco), Club Africain vs Espérance (Tunisia), USM Alger vs MC Alger (Algeria), Asec Mimosas vs Africa Sport(Ivory Coast), Orlando Pirates vs Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa),TP Mazembe vs FC Lupopo (DR Congo),Hearts of Oak vs Asante Kotoko(Ghana) and Enyimba vs Shooting Stars(Nigeria) fixtures.
When Dynamos dominated this fixture between 2007 and 2015 headlines such as ‘Highlanders out to break jinx’ and ‘Can Highlanders break the jinx?’ became very synonymous with build-ups to Zimbabwean El Clasico, but Dembare dominance never took away the anticipation, hype, flair, tension and controversy (in and outside the pitch) that characterize these matches.
Interestingly, despite being one sided, matches between Dynamos and Highlanders still managed to draw big crowds into the stadium, perhaps an indication that these two football institutions are the reason why Zimbabwe can be classified as a football-cultured nation.
In 2016 Prince Dube and Bruce Kangwa scored a goal each at Rufaro Stadium to bring to an end a decade long Dynamos dominance which had even shaped the way how the media ran their build-ups to the country’s flagship fixture.
Highlanders had last won a league match against Dynamos in 2006, the same year they last won the championship.
Veteran striker Ralph Matema and Tendai Ndlovu would then score a goal each at Barbourfields stadium in the reverse fixture to help Bosso complete a double over Dembare.
Since then, Dynamos is yet to register a league win over Highlanders on the pitch, with the only full set of league points they managed to collect against Bosso coming from a board room decision in 2017 following the abandonment of the match at Barboufields stadium.
Highlanders goes to the Sunday match smarting from a 0-1 defeat from Yadah FC, but the club technical manager Madinda Ndlovu believes the loss will not have a negative impact in the team’s preparation for the big one.
“We will go on with our game plan. It’s a different ball game altogether ‘El Clasico’ is not like this game we played today (Saturday). Every player will probably lift up (their game) and the fact that we are playing at home will probably motivate the players to want to play this game. So I think it’s one of the easiest game to prepare for because every player is geared for such kind of a game,” said Ndlovu.
Last season Highlanders completed a league double over dynamos with Ozias Zibande scoring for Bosso in the team’s 1-0 victory at Rufaro stadium before Tafadwa Sibanda, Gabriel Nyoni and Newman Sianchali fired the Bulawayo giants to a convincing and well deserved 3-0 win over their rivals.
This season the fixture comes at a time when both Highlanders Dynamos are occupying unfamiliar positions of the log table, but when the two sides meet form counts for nothing.
Addressing journalists at the club’s weekly press conference on Thursday, Ndlovu, a former player and Highlanders legend who knows the sentimental value of the fixture from a player and a coach perspective said the Sunday match must live up to its billing to keep the kind of traditional war that is there between Bosso and Dembare.
“The traditional kind of war that is there between the two teams has to be kept and therefore we will try and save our key players for the Dynamos game, should need be,” said Ndlovu.
Highlanders beat Dynamos 2-0 in the final of this year’s edition of the Independence Cup, and they will be hoping to build on that reputation to outdo their fierce rivals on Sunday.