EDITORIAL COMMENT: Highlanders must rise again or die


HIGHLANDERS Football Club — the country’s oldest team — celebrates its 90th anniversary this year and has lined up various activities to commemorate this momentous occasion. The club is a huge institution with a massive following and its status in local football — along that of Dynamos — can be equated to the likes of Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa; Zamalek and Al Ahly in Egypt; Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain and Manchester United and Liverpool in England.

For the past 10 years, Bosso have not tasted Premiership glory and by their lofty standards, this is unacceptable to their multitudes of loyal supporters.

It has been argued but not proven, that Highlanders are so influential in Bulawayo and the southern part of the country that their fortunes directly determine the moral and mood of this region. For instance, most businesses, particularly in the entertainment and leisure industry, enjoy massive sales in the aftermath of a Bosso win and the general vibe in the city of Bulawayo receives a huge boost.

Like their counterparts and fierce rivals in the capital — Dynamos — Bosso enjoy cult status and have maintained their support base despite poor results and plummeting standards over the years. Highlanders’ long suffering fans have watched — in agony — as their bitter foes DeMbare lift championship after championship while their beloved Mantengwane plays catch up.

They have also had the ignominy of going for 10 years without tasting a Premiership win over their adversary and to them; this has been the most painful part. The banter, pre-match jibes and excitement that characterised Highlanders-Dynamos matches of yesteryear have dissipated and in their place been replaced by ridicule and pity from DeMbare fans relishing the dominance of their side over their rivals.

Neutral football followers all over the country have also lamented Bosso’s fall from grace as they reminisce about the good old days when the nation would virtually come to a standstill when the two teams met. It did not matter where the game was played — it always attracted a full house because it would be the biggest game of the season.

Everyone wants Highlanders to rise and reclaim their rightful place at the top of Zimbabwean football because the club has a rich history and like Dynamos, is the embodiment of the game in the country. The mandarins running Bosso need to be reminded that they have a huge responsibility on their hands to turn the fortunes of the club around.

There has been too much pussyfooting around the club with accusations been thrown back and forth from the board, the trustees to the executive as to who exactly is responsible for the morass Bosso finds itself in. At its annual general meeting last month, club chairman Peter Dube said they have no money to buy new players this season but expressed optimism that they would do well.

He maintained that the club is in the right direction despite finishing sixth and winning one piece of silverware — the Easycall Cup — last year. At the same indaba, Bosso members took a giant leap towards modernising the club after overwhelmingly endorsing a motion to amend the constitution, paving way for Bosso to be run as a fully-fledged commercial entity.

A constitutional review committee was set up and given just over five months to gather views from club members and supporters before reporting back at the mid-year general meeting where it will be adopted as a legal document. It will then be registered with Zifa and the Sports and Recreation Commission.

“We must reform, move forward or die,” said chairman of the constitutional reform committee Elkanah Dube, who is also a member of the club’s board of directors. We agree with him and call on the club to follow through this resolution and implement it within the agreed framework and timeline.

Bosso needs to be run along commercial lines so that it taps into its massive brand and accrues the benefits that comer with it. The club has no money to buy players simply because it relies heavily on its sole sponsor — BancABC and gate-takings when it could enjoy multiple partnerships under a commercialised system.

In the interim, we are glad that the club has secured a coach on time and we hope he knuckles down to the job of fine-tuning the team ahead of the start of the 2016 season in April.

Dutchman Erol Akbay should appreciate the magnitude of the task at hand and work towards getting the team back to the top again at the shortest possible time. While his two-year contract states that he should achieve at least a top four finish within his first year and the championship in the second, he should aim to surpass that and endear himself to the supporters permanently by winning the

Premiership this year. That way, he would have written his name into Bosso folklore and ensured that he is a legend.

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