Highlanders Bosso are a special club. A royal club formed by Ndebele Princes in 1926. Numerous league & cup titles make up this rich tapestry. And Barbourfields, their fortress, is something that transcends the everyday. With the Soweto End in full voice, they become a little more than a club.
They are a community and part of the magical fabric of both Bulawayo, the city they live in, and Zimbabwean football itself.
We spoke with several Bosso greats, past & present, about what it means to be a Highlander.
Could you tell our readers a little about your father – Gift Lunga Snr. – who also played for Bosso?
My father (Gift Lunga Snr) played for Highlanders from the Junior level up until the Senior team. He was a striker and he won the Top Goal Scorer Award and he was also named to the Zimbabwean Best 11 Soccer Stars of the Year. I am not sure which Year was it though.
No, not all ! l think, he did pretty well during his time at Highlanders and he achieved a lot here but that doesn’t pressure me at all. However, I just have to work extra hard, stay disciplined and focus, for me to achieve greater things here.
What does Bosso mean to you? What are the emotions pulling on that storied black and white shirt?
It’s a great honour to be wearing that black and white shirt, because most of the players wish and dream of that but, not all of them are fortunate enough to be wearing it. So yeah! I can say l wear that shirt with PRIDE.
Did you grow up a fan of the club?
Yes, l grew up supporting it. Obviously, cause my Dad played there. So l grew fond of the team. Even after my Dad was done playing, l remained a fan and l would cry whenever they lose.
What would you like your legacy to be at Bosso?
I would love to be remembered as the “little great man” (ndorindori) who helped the club win championships and other silver wares. Also as a player that won individual awards.
What are your favourite memories of playing for Bosso?
My favourite memories at Bosso,the welcome i got from everyone,the players n the fans too. The Executive was superb. My best goals should be one against Chrome Stars at BF,curling free kick my last game for Bosso against Masvingo a left foot volley.
What was the reaction, at the time, to you crossing the great divide from Dynamos to Highlanders? Do Dynamos fans still hold it against you?
The Dynamos fans were really angry with me n some are still kkkkkkk the worst part was that the first game of the season pitted Dynamos vs Highlanders at Rufaro.
What makes the Bosso fans and Barbourfields so special?
The Bosso fans will always be one of the best I have played for.
What was the greatest goal you scored for Highlanders?
My combination with the late Adam Ndlovu was another highlight at Bosso.
What would be your dream for Bosso?
Would love to see Bosso get back to being the team we know. Competing for honours.
What is it like to play at Barbourfields?
Playing at Barbourfields has been one of my greatest experience in my career looking at the ground itself so many great players have been produced there e.g. Peter Ndlovu, Bruce Grobbelaar etc.
What has been your greatest personal moment as a Bosso player so far?
Greatest personal moment? I think it has been when I won player of the season in the club and goalkeeper of the season in the country both at the same time.
What does it mean to you to pull on that famous black & white shirt?
Putting on that jersey means u only not representing yourself only but the whole nation.
What is your dream as a Highlanders player? How would you measure success?
My dream as Bosso player is to win the league with the team and go and play abroad.
Do you think it’s still possible to catch the teams at the top this year?
Yes it’s still possible we jus’ have to work hard focus and believe we can do it.
What message do you have for the fans?
Message for the fans is plead with them to keep on supporting us – it shall be well.
Would you say that your greatest memories of Bosso were as a coach or as a player?
My whole life at Highlanders was a phenomenal whirlwind of great moments.
a) The time I joined Highlanders as a 13/14 year old Junior;
b) The 12 year spell I spent in the senior team as a utility player – Goalkeeper, striker and defender;
c) The time I was forced by circumstances to retire and become a Player/Coach;
d) And equally the 10 year spell appointment as the Manager/Coach.
What makes all these opportunities incomparable is that all of them were strings of “first time” development with and for the club.
Is there anything better, in football, than hearing the Soweto end in full voice on a matchday?
Wow! Nothing can describe that effect, the drive, the adrenalin, and the butterflies.
Nothing will ever compare to that encouragement, support and the cry that “we are here for you, just give us a win!”
You’ve had two famous nicknames. Lofty, as a player, due to your height. But how did you come to be known as ‘Major Dyke?’
“Lofty” as you point out came as a reference to my height.
“Major Dyke” was given to me by the most difficult group of players that I ever managed. These are a class of players most of whom graduated from the juniors. The majority had been my juniors at the Bulawayo Township Youth Centres where I was a (Youth Worker) Youth Club Leader. The only way with these boys was to instil a very strong disciplinary code. I am not sure whether it was as harsh as the legendary “Major Dyke” but it was necessary. Regardless, I am sure that I used to mix that very well with concerned involvement in very enjoyable aftermaths of the game; their welfare, careers and families.
If you could give one piece of advice to the current crop of players, what would it be?
There can never be any moment greater than donning a highlanders Jersey. It’s a privilege incomparable. Besides the obvious change of the training, game philosophy and approach, the hype that comes with being given an opportunity to play for Highlanders is enough to raise your game, making the player marketable. Difficult to say it, BUT, forget the money! Just enjoy and wallow yourself in playing the game the Bosso way; respect that jersey and the ‘Soweto’ stand and “everything will be added unto you.”
What was your single proudest moment at Highlanders?
a) Winning the Chibuku Cup in 1975.
Coming from the then 2nd division we qualified for the finals of the Chibuku Cup against the much fancied Mangula F. C. that had the like of the Chieza brothers, Philemon Phiri, Masanjala and Raphael Phiri to name a few. I was playing at the right back position marking Raphael Phiri.
The “black and white road show” to Harare was phenomenal including 19 busses, hundreds of private cars, a special train of supporters to Harare. It was like the whole Bulawayo had taken the weekend off to Harare 400 kms away.
30 minutes or so before the end of the game we were awarded a penalty. It was obvious that the penalty was going to be the decider. The honour was given to ‘yours truly’ – the ‘penalty specialist’. I don’t think there is anyone who can describe what went on. I missed the penalty. Raphael Phiri touched the ball with his finger tip; it hit the upright and went back into play! And the most bizarre stroke of luck happened. Whilst I was sobbing after the miss, Raphael placed a counter attach by playing the ball to the man who was left unmarked on the left, Philemon Phiri who went on to score. Everything happened within a minute!
VAR was not on those days but the thumb rule was that if you are alone and unmarked! you are offside! The goal was disallowed and judged as offside. The next 15 minutes were the most extraordinary. We came back to life and played the most exciting and entertaining football that lifted the stadium to frenzy never experienced before. We won the game 3-0.
I was saved from embarrassment! I paid back that moment by scoring all penalties that came our way for another 8 odd years totalling 10 years without missing a penalty.
b) Highlanders gave me the opportunity to play football and travel to almost every country in Africa; West Germany, the Netherlands; Scotland and South Wales.
Here’s a tough one to finish up: Name your all-time Highlanders Bosso XI
That is an almost impossible fit! I can’t help it. It has to be 2 groups:
As a player:
Billy “the kid” Sibanda
Boet Vas As
Tymon “white horse” Mabaleka
Edward “Sales House” Dzowa
As a Manager