Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
IT was once every southern region boy’s dream to play for Highlanders.
Because of its rich history, Highlanders, the country’s oldest football club is a symbol of identity for people of the south, hence its stature then as a club of choice for footballers.
Talented footballers from Bulawayo that failed to break into Highlanders after graduating from the juniors left to join other clubs outside the city hoping to return to the club some day.
This week, 27-year-old striker Lynoth Chikuhwa retraced his footsteps to the club that nurtured his growth as a junior, before packing his bags in search of greener pastures in Botswana.
Chikuhwa is among many players that have returned to Bosso after gaining experience elsewhere.
Some notable footballers that left Bosso and returned include Ernest “Maphepha” Sibanda, Jerry Sibanda, Zenzo “Zemura” Moyo, Thamsanqa Vundla and Wellington Agrippa Sibanda.
Moyo is fondly remembered by many for being a vital member of the Highlanders’ squad that claimed back-to-back titles at the turn of the millennium when he rejoined Bosso from a Botswana venture. Upon his return from Botswana, Zimbabwe Saints almost beat Bosso to Moyo’s signature, but some “smooth-talking” from Maphepha convinced the striker to join Highlanders.
Vundla rejoined Bosso from Hwange, while Wellington retraced his roots to Bosso from Lancashire Steel and was part of the squad that won the last championship for Highlanders in 2006.
Jerry, the current Bulawayo City chairman, who served as Highlanders treasurer in 2012, went to Bosso via Gwanda Ramblers.
“I started playing football as a kid in Queens Park, Bulawayo. My father was a policeman and back then, they’d play in the Commissioner’s Shield where they used to allow officers’ children to also participate. I used to be my father’s substitute and after playing in the Commissioner’s games, I then went to play for Italian Club in Queens Park,” Jerry said.
“Netsai Moyo and his brother Hagai, who I learnt with at Lotshe Primary, used to invite me to tag along to the Bosso juniors, but my parents were not keen. I went to Buchwa Secondary in Mberengwa and after I left school I joined Gwanda Ramblers at the age of 20 in 1985.”
He stayed in Gwanda for four years and it was at Ramblers where he grew into a “complete” footballer.
How then did he find his way to Highlanders?
“I moved to Highlanders after being spotted by (the late) Barry Daka in 1988 when they had come for a friendly match in Gwanda. It was a big break though for me and just donning that Highlanders jersey was a blessing and a dream realised. You know it’s an honour to play for Highlanders and just to be part of a club with so much history is a privilege.
“I played for Highlanders until the end of 1990 when we were replaced by good young players, who included Peter Ndlovu and (late) Benjamin Nkonjera, who were promoted to the first team.
“When I arrived at Highlanders, the club was being coached by Barry (Daka) and Cosmas Zulu. Some of the great players I was privileged to share the dressing room with were the late Rambo (Mercedes Sibanda), Willard Khumalo (late), Tanny Banda, Fanuel Ncube (late), Titus Majola (late), Simon Templar, Richard Ndlovu, Dumisani Nyoni, Tobias Mudyambanje, Abraham Madondo, Rahman Gumbo, before he left for Europe, and Nhamo Shambira,” he said.
Jerry also played with the Soma-Phiri brothers, Amini and Makwinji, goalkeeper Peter “Oxo” Nkomo and reserve keeper Sydney Zimunya before he was shipped out to Eagles.
“When juniors, who include Adam Ndlovu (late), Peter and Nkonjera, were promoted to the first team, we were then loaned out to Eagles with Tanny Banda and Nkululeko Dlodlo, while Boy Ndlovu moved to Bosso. At Eagles, I played with ex-Kaizer Chiefs’ favourite Rabson Muchichwa and Vivian Nkomo. Eagles had a good team, but we failed to win promotion,” said Jerry.
But how really did Jerry find himself at Ramblers, a club once home to players like former Hwange coach Nation Dube, David Chidumo, who went on to play for Harare giants Dynamos, Patrick Malunga and 1978 South Zone Soccer Star of the Year finalist Mactavish Dube, as well as former AmaZulu and Highlanders utility player Mkhuphali Masuku?
“I had gone to visit my cousin who used to work at Phumulani Hotel in Gwanda and on the night I arrived, Ramblers had a game at Phelandaba Stadium. When I got to the stadium, Khawulisa Tshili then lent me his boots and I scored three goals. After that game, Gwanda council immediately gave me a job because of my performance and the rest is history,” Jerry says.
After moving to Bulawayo, Jerry says his wife challenged him to start planning for the future, while his father blessed him with cattle at his wedding in 1993, and that’s when his love for farming grew.
“My wife was my motivation. She is a teacher. She challenged me to go back to school after football and I enrolled for an accounting diploma and later upgraded it to an accounting degree at the Midlands States University.
“My father gave me the best advice when he said ‘to be a man, you must have cattle’. I then started buying cattle. The first cattle I got were those given to me as a wedding present in 1993. If you have cows, they multiply, if you start with 10 cows, the following year they multiply,” he says.
He now spends most of his time at his family farm in Inkenyane, about 36km out of Bulawayo along Inyathi road.
He has transformed the farm where he now breeds pure Brahmans.
“As I grew wiser in farming, I began cross-breeding and selling cattle to buy Brahmans and now I have pure Brahman. I have a herd of 120 and 20 calves. I’ll be selling weaners soon to maintain the farm carrying capacity. I’m trying to follow serious farmers and whenever you go for a sale, you get value.
“Besides cattle, I’ve planted maize on 15 hectares and I’m expecting about 100 tonnes. I’ll take some to GMB and use the money to buy more cattle. What I’m doing is to prepare for my life after retirement,” he said. — @ZililoR