The Sunday Mail
AT the end of July, all was well at Highlanders, whose camp was pregnant with joy, as they looked invincible.
Their coach Brito was named coach of the month after leading Bosso to five consecutive wins and four straight clean sheets.
The Bulawayo giants were celebrating a telling win over Ngezi Platinum Stars at Baobab Stadium and the noise even reached Europe, where Brito’s friend and legendary Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho was also sucked into the euphoria.
Mourinho, who worked with Brito at different clubs in Europe, even posted a video, which went viral, wishing Highlanders good luck ahead of their clash against ZPC Kariba at Nyamhunga Stadium on Match Day 18.
By the way, Bosso had opened a seven-point gap at the top of the log after the conclusion of Week 17.
Ngezi were second with 30 points and Manica Diamonds were third on 29.
Dynamos were a distant fourth with 28 points.
But the following five weeks would dramatically change the face of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League table.
Whereas Bosso only gained four points from Week 17 to date, Ngezi raked in 12 and are now on top of the table.
Manica Diamonds added 10 more points in the last five rounds, while DeMbare gained eight, and the number could rise to 11 if they are awarded three points for their abandoned match against Highlanders.
While Bosso were in the limelight for their unbeaten run and Brito being lauded for his tactics, things just seemed to have taken a turn for the worse.
Highlanders and their vice captain Peter Muduhwa have been summoned to appear before a Premier Soccer League disciplinary committee in the aftermath of the violent scenes at Barbourfields.
Dynamos — who were leading 2-0 after 38 minutes, when referee Allan Bhasvi called off the match due to crowd trouble — will also appear before that committee, as some of their fans invaded the pitch as well.
Violence at Barbourfields has been an age-old scourge.
Memory Mucherahowa, who captained Dynamos to the 1998 CAF Champions League final after joining DeMbare in the 1980s, dedicated one chapter — “Highlanders and the culture of violence” — in his famous book, “Soul of Seven Million Dreams”, to the stubborn problem.
“Baton-wielding police and water cannons became a familiar sight every time we played Highlanders in Bulawayo, which was absolutely sad and unfortunate,” wrote Mucherahowa.
“It would be beyond football and we would celebrate a victory in Bulawayo with mixed feelings knowing that our fans were being attacked in the streets just for merely supporting us, thanks to Highlanders hooligans, ruffians and hoodlums.”
About 20 years ago, popular Dynamos supporter Stanford “Taribo West” Nhau was not so fortunate, as he died after a group of Highlanders fans attacked him at Barbourfields.
A Highlanders supporter, Thembelenkosi Hlosi, died close to Renkini in Bulawayo in a fracas linked to the mayhem that started after Dynamos had beaten Highlanders 1-0 in a league match in August 2014.
A year earlier, a 12-year-old boy was admitted to Mpilo Central Hospital after sustaining a deep cut on the forehead. He had been struck by a missile moments after Bosso had lost 2-1 to DeMbare in a Bob @89 Super Cup match at BF.
Former PSL chairperson Twine Phiri feared the fixture between Highlanders and Dynamos would degenerate into a source of mayhem in 2014.
“The Premier Soccer League have slammed the violence, which erupted in Bulawayo on Saturday, and are concerned that their flagship fixture has now degenerated into a source of mayhem every time it is hosted in the City of Kings,” wrote The Herald on August 14, 2014.
Almost a decade later, the fixture is still characterised by violence.
However, Highlanders coach Brito believes his players will recover from the negative vibe surrounding the club ahead of today’s match against Yadah.
“They (players) will rise and fight,” Brito told the media,
“We are confident they will show a different face on Sunday.
“We are still proud of what these boys are doing. We still believe in what they can do and we are hopeful they will show their potential and talent they have,” said Brito.
Bosso are on 42 points and trailed log leaders Ngezi by just a point going into Match Day 23.
Their opponents today, Yadah, have 24 points and are just above the drop zone.
Yadah unsuccessfully tried to lobby the PSL to move their game against Bosso away from Barbourfields, claiming they feared for their security.
Highlanders claimed a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture between the two sides at the National Sports Stadium on April 22.
Triangle United v FC Platinum (Gibbo), CAPS United v Chicken Inn (Bata), Simba Bhora v Sheasham (Baobab), Highlanders v Yadah (Barbourfields)