Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
MORE than 10 000 fans paid to watch the Bulawayo derby between 2015 champions Chicken Inn and resurgent giants Highlanders in Sunday’s Castle Lager Premiership at Barbourfields Stadium.
According to officials, 10 477 people paid to watch Sunday’s entertaining encounter, making it this season’s highest attended game so far.
Chicken Inn were the home team and the weekend’s figure beat the club’s previous record of 9 773 recorded when they beat South African side Mamelodi Sundowns in a Caf Champions League game in 2016.
“As Chicken Inn, we want to express our gratitude to the people of Bulawayo for coming in their numbers for the derby. We had 10 477 officially paying their way to watch some quality football exhibited by both teams. What further impressed us about the crowd is that not even a single peel of a groundnut was thrown onto the field, showing maturity by fans,” said Chicken Inn spokesperson Tawengwa Hara.
“Of course, we play such high profile matches once, but let me put it on record that this is the best attendance we have recorded for any Chicken Inn game. I know that the last big figure was that of Mamelodi Sundowns in 2016 when we were in the Champions League,” he said.
Numbers involving Highlanders matches continue to rise, with Bosso’s newfound flair under coach Madinda Ndlovu contributing to the return of fans to the stadium.
Attendance levels in Highlanders’ three home games against Black Rhinos, Triangle United and Nichrut have been improving.
Against Black Rhinos, 7 595 paid to watch the season’s opener, followed by 6 596 for the Triangle United encounter. Last week Highlanders had 8 850 paying to watch their win over Nichrut at Barbourfields.
Football lovers got real value for money at the derby, as both teams exhibited 90 minutes of entertaining football. They also got to watch three beautifully executed goals in the 2-2 draw.
Highlanders drew first blood with a beauty from midfielder Brian Banda in the 43rd minute. He got a pass from the left, controlled the ball with a tap-up before volleying into the top right, giving goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze no chance.
Chicken Inn equalised a minute into the second half with a brilliant goal by Innocent Mucheneka that left Highlanders’ supporters stunned.
Gabriel Nyoni briefly restored Bosso’s lead with another gem of a goal after springing to beat a poor offside trap to beat the advancing Chipezeze while in full flight in the 62nd minute.
The fourth goal and Chicken Inn equaliser was a gift from central defender Peter Muduhwa who struck his attempted clearance against advancing Chicken Inn forward Simon Munawa and the ball ricocheted into the net.