The Sunday News
OF the 18 Castle Lager Premiership sides in existence no team has made more appearances in the Delta Beverages opaque beer division — Chibuku sponsored tournaments than Highlanders.
Highlanders FC today clashes with ZPC Kariba in the semi-finals of the tournament now branded the Chibuku Super Cup.
They go into the match as firm favourites following a good run under new coach Pieter de Jongh whose ingenuity on the bench has given the club a new lease of life. The team’s multitude of followers all of a sudden have reason to believe.
However, cup games or any match against Highlanders is not easy. Small teams have been known and seen to slay the Goliath that Bosso are.
Today Sunday News Leisure speaks to Highlanders legend Lawrence Phiri who believes that the form book favours Bosso but is quick to refer to previous years when the club lost. He says they will have to be at their best and to guard against complacency.
1973 Mangula 0-3 Highlanders FC
Phiri was part of the 1973 side that tore the form book and left bookmakers and punters clutching thin air. The club that agreed to leave the Bulawayo Amateur Football Association to play under the Rhodesia Football National League structures, was promoted to the elite league in 1970 with Phiri in a youthful side that had Billy Sibanda and Barry Daka among the bright spots.
Highlanders beat a star-studded Mangula 3-0 in that year’s Chibuku final. The Mashonaland West miners had the Chieza brothers George, Itai, Tendai, Winston and Harry, Lovemore Nyabeze, Philemon Phiri and Alex Masanjala as key members while Amahlolanyama were just a bunch of boys promoted from the lower division.
In 1971 they were relegated after garnering just seven points, a majority coming when Silas Ndlovu took over as player/manager.
But a good run and switch to two leagues in the top division saw Bosso promoted in 1973 after a good run in the Second Division in 1972.
No one would have thought that the one year sabbatical was a great learning curve with great additions made to the team.
“We stunned the nation beating one of the traditional big sides to reach the Chibuku Trophy final. We were the underdogs and the euphoria of us reaching the final was overwhelming with a train load of supporters, 19 buses and hundreds of cars making their way to Harare.
“Seeing so many people behind us was just the tonic we needed to up the game. I had just been moved to rightback to replace an injured regular Nehemiah Dube and looked forward to cementing my place in a star-studded side. We played the game of our lives to win 3-0 with Tymon Mabaleka and Josiah Nxumalo at the heart of our attack with Cavin Duberly and Tommy Masuku tormentors in chief on the wings while Billy Sibanda and it must have been Jeffrey Mpofu in midfield,” said Phiri, a man who occupied almost every position in his 16 years as a player.
He says the underdog tag was good going into the final for them.
1976 Zimbabwe Saints 4-0 Highlanders FC
Phiri does not want to talk about this one. It was a Bulawayo derby played in Harare when both national league sides — unified after three years of regional divisions Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints qualified for the ultimate match.
Highlanders had dominated the regional league winning honours in 1973, 1974 and 1975 and with great showings in other cups and the 1973 Chibuku.
They owned the bragging rights over their neighbours. But for reasons better known to the John Madzima FA administration the two were ordered to play in Harare.
“That decision baffled us. It was a known factor in Harare that in the absence of Dynamos, the multitudes’ other side was always Zimbabwe Saints. So the decision favoured them but we were top of the log and out stock had risen so we were the favourites to win,” said Phiri.
But the football gods had other ideas.
Saints flew in Gibson Homela from the United Kingdom and they camped the whole week in Harare.
Phiri who was now regular at rightback said Saints beat them for complacency.
The scoreline read 4-0 at the end with Homela scoring a double and pint-sized Max Tshuma weighing in with the other.
“I try to erase that game from my memory, it was a disaster not to be kept in one’s mind,” said Phiri.
By then Bosso had Stanley Nyika, Barry Daka, Chutika Tembo, Itai Chieza and Ananias Dube who had reclaimed the Number One jersey following Bruce Grobbelaar’s exit.
1980 Rio Tinto 0-4 Highlanders FC
Mark Watson was the hero of the 4-0 win at Rufaro Stadium. An acquisition from Old Miltonians scored a hat-trick with Majuta Mpofu, Doughty Sithole and Tymon Mabaleka mesmerising the Cam and Motor goldminers’ defence at will.
Their stars, Joseph Zulu, Robert Godoka, Wonder Phiri, David Chisambi, Raphael Phiri and Ephert Lungu would at the end of the match not know what had hit them. They had stayed in the Rhodesia National Football League while Bosso opted for the South Zone in 1977 in protest of manipulative tendencies by the administration of the day.
“We were under a new dispensation politically. There was all the excitement about the new league and to win the first major tournament in a free Zimbabwe was a great achievement and honour.
“Our brand of football just like in 1973 was breathtaking, wing play with two midfielders at the centre, two centre strikers one who would drop with wingers. We wore our opponents down on the wings and created great scoring chances with lethal finishing,” said the man called Lofty by his fans and teammates for his height.
He stands at almost 1,95m.
Two years later Phiri would call it a day to venture into coaching. He was suspended from the club after a fight with an executive member and his return 18 months later would coincide with yet another great Chibuku run.
1984 Dynamos 1-2 Highlanders FC
An epic battle it was against two sides with similarities. The 1960s and early 1970s residue of talent was gone leaving the likes of Misheck Marimo, Kembo Chunga, Kuda Muchemeyi, Douglas Mloyi, Fanuel Ncube, Titus Majola, Peter Nkomo, Richard Ndlovu and Oliver Kateya as the most experienced stars on the field.
There were young legends in the making in Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Khumalo, Moses Chunga and Kenneth Jere ready to take the baton. Dynamos had won the league title since 1980 and went into that cup final as favourites. The spritely Khumalo and the tireless Madinda Ndlovu carried the day for Highlanders with brilliant showings and goals for a third Chibuku Trophy for Highlanders.
“It was great on my return to the club for me and Barry Daka to win the tournament. We had a great side in the making and as you know most of those youngsters went on to make a mark in the game,” he said.
1985 Arcadia Karls 1-0 Highlanders FC
Highlanders reached the final of the following year’s tournament. Phiri believes over confidence may have taken its toll on his players as they now considered the trophy Bosso’s following victories in the 1980 and 1984 attempts.
“I do not want to talk much about the ones we lost. They are a sore spot in my memory book.”
1986 Highlanders FC 1-2 Caps United
Another of the games and perhaps sweet revenge for the high scoring losses to the Harare green-machine in the Rothmans and Zifa Cup finals in 1980 and 1981.
Shaky Tauro’s goal scoring threat, a nightmare goalkeepers and defenders had lived with since 1977 was the talking point going into the final. Highlanders produced yet another top drawer performance to down the favourites towards their rise to being the undisputed Cup Kings as they would win the Rothmans Shield, Natbrew Cup and Independence in the same year.
Then Bosso were just a giant killing machine with play revolving around a midfield of geniuses Tito Paketh, David Phiri, Willard Khumalo, Titus Majola, youthful Mpumelelo Dzowa and Ronnie Jowa with chief engineers Madinda Ndlovu and Tanny Banda leaving defenders baffled with their dribbling wizardry, pace and creativity for Tobias Mudyambanje and Dumisani Ngulube to score plenty goals.
Defenders Alexander Maseko, Mloyi, Richard Ndlovu, Fanuel Ncube, Mercedes Sibanda, Sam Sibanda and Dumisani Nyoni made life for Smart Moyo and Peter Nkomo easier as they were almost watertight and had a better incentive scheme been in place for the league race, Bosso would have claimed a title before 1990.
“Working with the technical team and that great squad, winning the Chibuku Trophy twice as a manager to equal my double as a player was sweet. It felt good and by the way it was my sixth Chibuku final,” Phiri said with a great smile musing over his successes.
1988 Zimbabwe Saints 1-0 Highlanders
In his seventh appearance in the Chibuku competition final, Bosso were presented with a perfect opportunity to prove their worth. Chikwata had started their grasp of the league race, a marathon they eventually won with a 3-5-2 propelled run. Highlanders were now a permanent feature in national cup finals and a dominant participant in all national teams and its players making it to the glamorous Soccer Star of the Year 11.
Any sane person would put his money on a Highlanders win. Jimmy Phiri played a blinder for Chikwata, Ephraim Chawanda and Misheck Sibanda underlined their growing status as some of the country’s best centrebacks with George Ayibu, Shayne Khamal, Boyce Malunga and Joseph Machingura’s influence telling upfront.
Phiri scored the only goal of the match for Chikwata’s first big tournament win in 12 years to end Phiri’s bid for a fifth Chibuku Trophy.
He will be among the fans at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon and is confident that the club that he spent his best 30 years at will rise to the call and proceed to the final.
For him the 1973 Chibuku Cup remains the most memorable. He has challenged the Highlanders players to create their own legacy.
A sore point remains his penalty miss in the 1973 cup final.
“We were awarded a penalty with about 15 minutes or so to go. The goalkeeper saved it and the counter attack found Philemon Phiri whoscored but the goal could not stand as he was adjudged offside. We went on to play some football that was out of this world with Duberley and Masuku playing some enterprising football to carve open the Mangula defence.”