IT’S never an ordinary match whenever Highlanders and Dynamos clash, even for something as small as a needle. In recent years, matches pitting two of the countrys’ biggest football clubs have always been about either preserving or breaking jinxes.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
When Bosso finally ended a 10-year wait to beat archrivals DeMbare in the league on May 28 this year at Rufaro Stadium, it was as if they had won the league title, and who could blame them when they had broken a jinx that had haunted them for 10 years.
Yet another 10-year jinx casts its ugly shadow into the Highlanders camp as they entertain the Harare giants in arguably Zimbabwe’s biggest football encounter at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
Highlanders have not beaten Dynamos at Barbourfields in a league match since July 30 2006, a season in which they completed a double in a title-winning campaign — the last they won.
It has been nine matches in which today’s hosts have only managed four draws and an agonising five defeats, finding the target four times and conceding 11 times.
But going into today’s match, Highlanders find themselves in position three on the log standings with 38 points, three more than their visitors who are in fifth place.
Dutchman Elroy Akbay — the Bosso coach who engineered DeMbare’s downfall in the reverse fixture in Harare — is in no mood to worry about such petty statistics, with his promising debut campaign seemingly going off the rail at a crucial time of the season.
“All of these things are nice, but it’s all not important in this game. What is important are two things: one is we need to beat Dynamos and secondly, we desperately need the points. Every game is now a cup final for us so we cannot make a mistake because the gap between us and the top teams will get bigger,” Akbay said during a Press conference in Bulawayo on Friday.
Well, he can be forgiven for not understanding what finally winning at Barbourfields would mean for the Highlanders fraternity since he has been in the country for only seven months.
But his assistant coach Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu understands better and he has blamed the supporters for an appalling home record in recent years.
“Opponents used to be afraid of us because of our supporters in the past and the other time we went for 10 years without losing a game at home. Nowadays when we are under pressure, they keep quiet, it’s like there is nobody in the stadium.
“They must cheer for our boys even during warm-up time as that’s the only way we can overcome. They must support us the way the Dynamos supporters support their team; they sing from the first whistle and that’s what we want from Highlanders supporters,” Zulu lamented.
Generally, Dynamos supporters have made a permanent home at Barbourfields Stadium and even outvoice their counterparts on some occasions.
Dynamos assistant coach Murape Murape said the team owed it to their fans to have a massive
record at “Emagumeni”.
“We owe it [a win] to our fans. When we go to Barbourfields, our supporters are in one grandstand and are able to create an electric atmosphere for us. You will then find that we are more comfortable at BF [Barbourfields]than at Rufaro because back home the supporters are scattered right round the stadium,” Murape said.
He added: “Obviously, it also took hardwork, passion and dedication on the part of players as well as taking responsibility, knowing what it means to represent Dynamos. It has not been easy getting results against Bosso in Bulawayo for 10 years, but I am challenging our players to rise to the occasion today.”
Murape was not around when Dynamos lost to Highlanders in the reverse fixture and he spoke of the pain of letting slip the protracted dominance over Highlanders this season.
“We know the pain our fans are going through this season after we lost to Highlanders for the first time in 10 years and also to CAPS United. It hurts us also as players and staff, it’s time we atoned for what happened. We are promising victory and joy today,” he said.
Dynamos take a clean bill of health to Bulawayo and will be banking on a number of former Highlanders player such as Masimba Mambare, Valentine Ndaba and Marshall Machazane.
Other potential match-winners include Denver Mukamba, Wisdom Mutasa, Roderick Mutuma and Stephen Alimenda, among others.
Starlet Prince Dube gave Highlanders a massive boost when he recovered in time for the big match, while Allan Gahadzikwa is also fit to play.
However, Benson Phiri is out injured.