Ahead of a clash, dubbed as “The Battle of Zimbabwe”, in another of our series of traveling the continent, talking to the ordinary fan, This Is Football.Africa spoke to a supporter of Highlanders FC of Bulawayo, one of the biggest club football teams in Zimbabwe, ahead of their match against fellow giants Dynamos FC of Harare, in a game that is dubbed “the battle for Zimbabwe”.
Umar Mathir (UM): Hi Hloniphani, let’s talk “Bosso” (Highlanders FC)…
Hloniphani Ncube (HN): Greetings to you, the TIFA team and readers out there, man, I just want to say supporting Highlanders these days, is almost like watching a television series, which doesn’t have an end, I’m saying this, as the team have last won the league title in 2006.
UM: That’s a long time for a big team. What about cup competitions?
HN: They’ve been winning cups quite recently too, however, the main concern is the league title, as well as the teams development side.
UM: We’re following….
HN: In the structure of a club like Highlanders FC, there is a team within the ranks which is known as “BOSSO 90. This is a team comprised of players who are all under 20 years old. Earlier this year, from this very team (Bosso 90), a very talented player called Prince Ndlovu has emerged, he is just 16 years old.
UM: 16 years old? Reminds me of Doctor Khumalo’s story in South Africa, even now, in 2022, we rarely get players who are 15 or 16 years old making it to the top flight.
HN: Yes, Prince Ndlovu was promoted to the Highlanders first team. As you said, it’s a very rare thing, and this is not just a Highlanders, Pirates or Chiefs problem. This is an African problem, we are not getting enough players like Prince Ndlovu making the senior teams, the more it happens, the better. I believe that even though that type of a player may only be 16 years old, if you’re good enough, age doesn’t count, nor does the size of your body. If you deserve the game time, as a player, you should get it.
UM: The South African version of Highlanders, Orlando Pirates FC and their countrymen Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs, are not getting capacity or near to capacity crowds for most other games they play, and especially when compared to the past, what is the situation with the ‘Orlando Pirates’ of Zimbabwe Highlanders FC?
HN: Highlanders fans are very passionate people, they have still been filling the stadiums, for every match we play.
UM: Is it true that “DeMbare”, Dynamos FC of Harare, your biggest rivals, have 16 Million supporters, and are by far the most supported team in Zimbabwe?
HN: They say so, but we, I suspect yourself included Umar, all know the truth (laughing).
UM: Any message to your fellow supporters and favourite club team, ahead of the upcoming “Battle of Zimbabwe?”
HN: Yep, let’s continue our dominance over our bitter arch rivals at the National Stadium in Harare.
UM: Let us talk money. How much does a Highlanders replica jersey cost, and are you happy with the price?
HN: Jersey prices are around $25(USD), an amount anywhere between R400- R500. I’d like to also add that the club has a branch in South Africa called “The South African Chapter”, and someone from that branch is also retailing those jerseys for around that amount in your currency.
UM: I actually have the person’s contact details, yes, I’ve also been told that is the price in rands, which in my opinion is reasonable. Is there anything you’d like to see, in terms of improvements in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League in Zimbabwe?
HN: My first concern is the drainage system at Barbourfield Stadium. What happens is that once the rainy season comes, matches are being postponed due to water logged pitches, it becomes a huge inconvenience to all fans attending matches. While the tickets can be re-used, or re-issued for postponed matches, our other expenses, travelling, buying food, and so on, are definitely non-refundable.
Matches are usually moved to Luveve Stadium, which is currently the home stadium to Chicken Inn FC. When such occurrences take place, Luveve Stadium may only be around a 15-20 minutes drive away from Barbourfields Stadium (the home to Highlanders), for pedestrian fans living close by this is an extra two hour walk, or an extra traveling expense,in attending a so called home game.
UM: How safe are fans at the games?
HN: Security is good. In the past there used to be a slight issue with certain sections of the supporters in Soweto Stand. A special grandstand dedicated to the most die-hard of our own home team supporters, who used to force people into joining them to smoke ‘weed’ (cannabis). However, that is a thing of the past, as many of us hardcore Highlanders FC supporters also volunteer and double as extra security, especially in the “Soweto End.”
UM: Tell us about the food situation at the stadiums?
HN: Mostly, you will find fruit, water and cold drinks available, you’re not allowed to bring your own food.
HN: Access to the various stadiums isn’t bad at all, taxis are available, direct ones.
UM: Take us through ticket prices?
HN: US$3 [R50-R60] rest of the grounds, US$5 [R90-R100] VIP, US$10 [R180-R200] VVIP
UM: This was just confirmed right now to me, by Highlanders FC CEO Mr Roland Moyo via a WhatsApp text to me, the exact amounts you gave me in US Dollars. Let’s talk about vehicle parking?
HN: In order to watch a match at Barbourfields Stadium, most of us usually park at a ground nearby, other’s park their vehicles inside properties houses nearby, some of the owners charge a certain amount for that….
UM: It’s a very similar situation to what happens in the vicinity surrounding the Orlando Stadium in South Africa….
HN: Wow, this happens at Orlando too? I guess the similarities between Highlanders and Orlando Pirates actually run far deeper than most people know.
UM: Yes, my sentiments exactly Hloniphani. What about Supporter Branches?
HN: Yes, we have those too, they exist. I’d like to add that the beauty part of Highlanders FC, it’s also very much a community team too. Talking about Orlando Pirates in South Africa, 97-98 percent of Highlanders supporters also support Orlando Pirates. Did you see what happened on the 8th of March 2019, when Pirates came to play FC Platinum in the CAF Champions League? Contrary to what most people think, those were Highlanders FC supporters, mainly from in and around Bulawayo.
UM: I saw man, and it was a packed stadium. My man, Hloniphani, thanks a million for your time, and best of luck for this weekend’s match.
HN: Thank you for giving supporters of club teams a platform to be heard, I really appreciate this, God bless, and take care man.