HIGHLANDERS coach Bongani Mafu has a huge mountain to climb on Sunday as he attempts to break the long-standing hoodoo against old enemy Dynamos in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) tie at Rufaro Stadium.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
Roped in to steer the Bosso ship after the Bulawayo football giants parted ways with Mark Mathe, who had taken over from Kelvin Kaindu in an acting capacity, the Highlanders gaffer will be looking to end Dynamos’ dominance in a decade.
Highlanders last defeated Dynamos in a league match in 2006 — in a memorable campaign in which they won the unbranded league title.
The 2006 journey for Bosso had started with a 3-1 drubbing of the Harare giants in the Bakers’ Inn Cup at Barbourfields Stadium on March 19.
Bosso scored through Ralph Matema in the first four minutes of the game with DeMbare equalising through Evans Gwekwerere in the 10th minute.
Lincoln Siwela and Honour Gombami then added a goal each for Bosso in the 27th and 81st minutes respectively to send the Highlanders faithful into celebrations.
During that season, Highlanders went on to beat Dynamos 1-0 at Rufaro Stadium on July 2, before running away 2-0 victors at Barbourfields Stadium on the 29th of the same month.
It was in 2011 that Bosso last beat DeMbare in a cup match – the Independence Trophy at the giant National Sports Stadium under the guidance of Mkhuphali Masuku via a penalty shootout.
Since then, several coaches have come and gone, but none of them has managed to beat Dynamos whether at home or away.
Last season it was the same old story. Dynamos, then under the guidance of history-making Kalisto Pasuwa, handed them a 1-0 defeat at Rufaro in June before following that up with an identical 1-0 win at Barbourfields Stadium.
Kaindu — one of the best coaches in the country at the moment — was in charge then.
And now Mafu is the next coach in line in a bid to end the poor run against their rivals.
The Bosso gaffer was not picking up his calls yesterday as he was said to be attending the burial of Mephias Webb — a former Highlanders player — who collapsed and died at a social soccer match on Sunday.
But then again, Highlanders stuck in unfamiliar eighth position on the league table with 19 points after 13 rounds of matches, have won only five matches, drawn four and lost four.
They won only one match 2-0 against minnors WhaWha in their last three games with the tie against FC Platinum ending in a 2-2 draw, while they were also held to a 1-1 draw by How Mine in the last match before the PSL programme took a two-week break.
However, football — by its very nature — is a funny, odd game.
A few minutes can be a very long time in football and Highlanders might be struggling, but can turn the game on its head and effectively claim their first victory over their old nemesis in a decade.
They also take comfort from the fact that they are not the odd one out as their rivals are also struggling for fluency under David Mandigora.
Placed third on the league table with 23 points — six behind leaders Chicken Inn and one behind second-placed Triangle — the defending champions have not been convincing this year.
The Harare giants drew their last three matches against Tsholotsho (0-0), Triangle (1-1), and ZPC Kariba (1-1) before the break.
Saturday: FC Platinum v Buffaloes (Mandava), Chicken Inn v Dongo Sawmill (Luveve), Harare City v Caps United (Rufaro, SS).
Sunday: Dynamos v Highlanders (Rufaro, SS), Whawha v Chapungu (Ascot), How Mine v Hwange (Luveve), Triangle United v ZPC Kariba (Gibbo), Tsholotsho v Flame Lily (White City).