Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
IN years gone by, this fixture would have been postponed because the two clubs would have provided the bulk of players to the national team on duty at the Total Africa Cup of Nations.
The encounter in previous years would also have been a battle for the championship as the two sides bossed local football. However, a combination of varying factors has seen this week’s clash between Highlanders and Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday being reduced to a “relegation” dogfight.
The two crestfallen giants have had a false take off in the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season, with hosts Bosso occupying the last relegation slot with a mere 11 points from as many games, while DeMbare are just four points above.
That the game is going ahead while the national team is out and the two “giants” did not provide a single player for that tour is testament to the shocking reality of the league’s former flagship sides’ corrosion.
There was a time Highlanders boasted of the likes of Mercedes “Rambo” Sibanda, Willard Mashinkila Khumalo, Benjamin Nkonjera, Adam Ndlovu (all late), Madinda Ndlovu and Rahman Gumbo as national team regulars, while Dynamos had Memory Mucherahowa, Vitalis Takawira, Moses Chunga, Ernest Chirambadare and the late Francis Shonayi.
Fast forward to 2019, not even a single of their players made it into the Afcon squad.
There is, however, no doubt that just like their fall from grace, the two teams still command the largest following in domestic football and hence their collision on Sunday cannot be taken just like any Premiership game.
Outgoing Bosso head coach Madinda Ndlovu believes the sentimental value associated with the clash self-motivates players and insists that it’s the El Clasico of Zimbabwean football.
“We will go on with our game plan. It’s a different ball game altogether. ‘El Clasico’ is not like this game we played (Saturday against Yadah). Every player will probably lift (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 games to prepare for because every player is geared for such a kind of game,” Ndlovu told the club’s official website.
Dynamos last beat Highlanders in open play in 2015 when they posted a 3-2 win in Harare with the other “win” for the Glamour Boys coming through a boardroom decision after their clash at Barbourfields Stadium in 2017 was abandoned and Dynamos were eventually awarded the match on a 3-0 score line.
Last year Bosso pummelled Dynamos home and away, and they also dismissed DeMbare in this year’s Independence Cup final at the National Sports Stadium.