Football And The City

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The Bosso Journals Series 1 - Kingdom Of The Fans

Highlanders Bosso

In a Kingdom far away, fans of Royal descent make up the colourful lifeblood of a team that play in black & white.

Highlanders FC, BOSSO, is a way of life, it’s an institution that has been more than a football club, a preservation of the Matebele culture that has embraced all football lovers, a heritage that has seen many generations of supporters.
— Zwelibanzi Mguni

The history of Highlanders Bosso, of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, is inspiring & beautiful - as we discovered in Episode 1 last weekend. The supporters of this historic club are fully aware of the magic in their team and fully aware of the richness of their heritage.

I wanted our readers to hear some of their voices and so I spoke with several Highlanders fans about what the club means to them, what part Bosso plays in their community, the rivalry with Dynamos and how they fell in love with them to begin with.

Here is what they had to say.

Velie Mdlongwa

What does Bosso mean to the local community in Bulawayo?

To the local community in Highlanders means everything, it is more than a football club, there's a usual saying in our Ndebele language which says - iHighlander yiyo yodwa esesisele layo - meaning Highlanders is the only thing that we are left with (as a community). Highlanders is the pride and joy of Bulawayo.

What is your favourite memory of being a Bosso fan?

My favorite memory as a Bosso fan is each time we beat our greatest rivals Dynamos from the capital, greatest of them all should be in the year 1999 when we beat them 2-0 at our homeground on our way to clinching our first championship after a long time, we then went on to win it for a record 4 consecutive times.

How long have you supported them - and why did you start?

I've supported Bosso since I was young, I fell in love with Highlanders through learning about their history from our parents.

How important is the Royal Ndebele heritage to the soul of Bosso?

Royal Ndebele Heritage is of utmost importance to the soul of Highlanders we're brought together, as Highlanders family, by the Royal Ndebele Heritage. Siyinqaba loosely translated as 'we're a fortress' originates from one of the army regiments of King Lobhengula, in essence I can say you can't separate Royal Ndebele Heritage from Highlanders they go hand in hand.

What does the Dynamos rivalry mean to you?

The Dynamos rivalry to me means a lot, it is more than football, even though a lot of people don't say this in the open but the truth of the matter is that Highlanders represents Matebeleland and each time we take on Dynamos and lose or win we feel that we have won or lost something as Matebeland not only as Highlanders football club but as region as a whole. That's why we have a common saying in Ndebele 'Highlander yiyo yodwa esesisele layo' Highlanders is the only hope and pride of Bulawayo and Matebeleland as a whole. Highlanders lithemba lethu lokugcina ko Mthwakazi (Highlanders is our last hope in Matebeland / Mthwakazi)

John Ngazimbi

What does Bosso mean to the community in Bulawayo?

Highlanders is part of the people here in Bulawayo - it’s part of our culture and it is the pride of the City.

Is the club welcoming of both Shona & Ndebele - do they mix through supporting Highlanders?

The club does have both Shona and Ndebele players since the Rhodesian time till now, it has support all over Zimbabwe even in MaShonaland, though I may say in the general sense people are still struggling to grow above tribalism.

How positive are you about the future of the club?

The club has a great future especially if it gets a good sponsorship,the club has a very good leadership and junior policy and over the years have produced great players who others managed to play in the Premier League.

nkosi lathi

Why do you love Bosso?

Bosso is more than just a team it is a way of life, I love bosso because of its rich history its cultural diversity and its style of play which is second to none.

How important is the rivalry with Dynamos?

When ever Dynamos and Bosso lock horns the city of Bulawayo comes to life. The rivalry is more than just a game there is a lot to play for ie bragging rights. The match is always explosive regardless of both teams form. The players give it their best the supporters sing to the top of their voices. A win for bosso is celebrated by everyone in Bulawayo. The rivalry goes back to pre colonial zimbabwe the battles between the Shona and the Ndebele.

What is it like standing in the Soweto end on match day?

One word - electric. There is no place like soweto during matchday the soweto choir sing none stop from the 1st to the final whistle. Don’t get me started on a goal celebrations. You can feel the vibrations basically soweto is like a drug - once you sit there you never leave.

Do most fans know about the connections to Ndebele Royalty? How important is that heritage to the fans?

Well i would say true highlanders fans know abit about the club history and its heritage. The club made an effort to celebrate 90 years of existence. Recently the Ndebele King paid tribute to the team during our home match the players had a chance to interact with him. Basically highlanders defines the ndebele. The ndebele believe bosso is their birthright. Through all hardships in life the ndebele find solace in watching their team play at Barbourfields.

John Ngazimbi & his wife.

John Ngazimbi & his wife.

Velie Mdlongwa.

Velie Mdlongwa.

Meths Khabo.

Meths Khabo.

Zwelibanzi Mguni.

Zwelibanzi Mguni.

Meths Khabo

What makes Bosso different from other Zimbabwean clubs?

It is community driven team not owned by an individual or any company its support is driven by its owners the fans.

How important are Highlanders to the Ndebele culture in Bulawayo?

It was formed as a Ndebele cultured club by the King Lobengula Khumalo sons that's why b4 it was called Matebeland Highlanders b4 independence.

What is your favourite memory from Barbourfields?

The team was coached by Methembe Ndlovu i think it was 2006 when we beat Dynamos our bitter rivals the team was a marvel to watch it was too good for other teams I tell u!

Do you find that a love of Bosso puts aside the differences of the Shona & the Ndebele?

I would beg to differ - yes - now we trying but when it comes to that it will never end Shonas and Ndebeles will never ever mix especially at Barbourfields Stadium - it’s water and oil actually that's where we see our forefathers culturally and by mere listening to the songs i tell u e.g. (lingamashona tee aah lalibulala obaba) translated ‘u a Shonas u killed our fathers.’

What is the fan community like in general?

In Bulawayo it is very immaculate though pple a financially underprivileged but it’s so impressive we love our team as a community mcwaa.

What do you love most about Bosso?

Bosso is a part of me inseparable it’s mine we can claim it as fans wes we choose who to lead us as the fans it belongs to us i love Bosso I can die for Bosso #@iBosso yiBosso ngabalandeli bayo.

Kudakwashe Zulu

What is the community of Bosso fans like?

Crazy about the team, ready to die fit for the team.

How would you describe the rivalry with Dynamos?

It’s a bitter rival to us supporters, it's better to lose the league than to lose to dynamos.

What was the first Bosso match you ever went to - and what are your memories of it?

I do attend all games and all of them makes me happy 2019 game against mushowani at the national sports stadium.

Zwelibanzi Mguni

What does Bosso mean to you?

Highlanders FC, BOSSO, is a way of life, it's an institution that has been more than a football club, a preservation of the Matebele culture that has embraced all football lovers, a heritage that has seen many generations of supporters.

How did you fall in love with the team to begin with?

I was born into Highlanders, the first Kick of a ball was a shout "Highlandeeer goooal", family and community were all Highlanders and yes it was more genetic than anything else.

What are your earliest memories of the club?

The 1986 squad that was winning trophies like never to stop, would listen to the football commentaries on radio, watch, delayed matches on black and white tv as a family, they were just awesome, you'd here the whole city of Bulawayo roar whenever they scored and the celebrations all over the city after a trophy win were just so passionate and have always been so with Highlanders, you need not ask whenever Highlanders have one, the Bulawayo vibe will tell you that. When Highlanders (Amahlolanyama, Bosso,Tshilamoya) are on song the whole city is at another level, the buzz is on the air very early on matchday, even a day before for high profile matches, all roads and public transport leads to Barbourfields Stadium, A winning Highlanders always make Bulawayo tick.

Can you describe the first matchday you went to?

My first matchday i went to was awesome for a young lad, went with my dad, It was a game Highlanders played against Eagles FC, good football on display, Highlanders had the upper hand and yes ice cream was flowing! as always the singing and dancing was quite an experience.

What is it like standing in the Soweto end?

Soweto, the heartbeat of Highlanders. Soweto dictates the rhythm at Barbourfields on field and on the stands, that's where the singing and song selection is initiated, it's verocious singing all day long until way past the last whistle, the atmosphere at Soweto is one of passion with so much energy that can engulf the whole stadium, it is out of this world, i have seen it weigh down heavily on the players if stakes are down but can supply that revitalising energy and momentum once they break into song, it'll be song after song till all clicks and the team gets going, Soweto is the heartbeat of the Highlanders community, you sit there for a match be assured of leaving your voice there cause of the singing and yes the humor is simply out of this world.

Words by J.S. Leatherbarrow. Original photographs used with kind permission of John Ngazimbi, Zwelibanzi Mguni, Meths Khabo & Velie Mdlongwa. Artwork by FATC staff. All rights reserved.

J.S. Leatherbarrow