TALKING of soccer rivalries in Zimbabwe, the Highlanders – Dynamos rivalry quickly comes to mind.
There are numerous soccer rivalries in the country that have made football a highly entertaining game.
Soccer has been the mainstay of sport in the country commanding the largest following.
Cricket and rugby follow from a distance.
The CAPS United – Dynamos rivalry, the Highlanders – CAPS United, the Dynamos – Hwange rivalry have sent fans into a delirium.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe, like many other countries, has not witnessed any football action in the past eight months.
There has been talk of the league resuming in September.
However, that is not withstanding the fact that soccer rivalries go way back in time.
The history of Zimbabwean soccer has teams like Salisbury Callies and Salisbury United clashing in thrilling derbies.
After independence, the CAPS United – Dynamos or Highlanders – Dynamos rivalry took centre-stage.
Leaving out the Bulawayo soccer rivalry of Highlanders – Zimbabwe Saints will be doing an injustice to the topic.
The biggest rivalry in Zimbabwe’s soccer landscape, would be that between Highlanders and Dynamos, no doubt.
The rivalry extends beyond the field of play.
The meetings of the two biggest and most successful clubs in the country often leave a trail of violence off and on the pitch.
Highlanders have their roots in Bulawayo, where they command a huge following, while their ‘foe’ Dynamos are from Harare and their home ground is Rufaro Stadium, the ceremonial home of football.
Highlanders are one of the oldest football clubs in Zimbabwe.
They were formed in 1926.
Barbourfields Stadium, in the heart of Mzilikazi Suburb, is the home ground of ‘Bosso’ as they are affectionately known.
The clashes between the two clubs have been referred to as the ‘Battle of Zimbabwe’.
The meetings are high stake matches that treat soccer-loving fans to highly entertaining football.
Over the years Dynamos have bragged about their dominance over Highlanders.
Since Highlanders’ 2006 title, Bosso have struggled to beat Dynamos in the league or cup games.
The decade-long jinx was only broken in 2016 in a league meeting at Rufaro Stadium.
Head-to-head statistics since 2007 show that Dynamos have won more matches than Highlanders.
On the silverware, Dynamos have more than 20 league titles. Their last title was in 2014 under Calisto Pasuwa.
Separated by 440km, the divide between the two clubs is also immense, to the extent that any soccer player who crosses the divide is bound to be labelled a ‘traitor’.
The beautiful thing about the rivalry is that it is not tribal.
Highlanders have many diehard supporters from the Mashonaland provinces as well as Shona players, who have given their all to the club.
A number of great players have had the privilege of featuring in the dressing rooms of both traditional giants.
Midfielders Ronald ‘Gidiza’ Sibanda and Mthulisi Maphosa, the late Lenny Gwata, Masimba Mambare and Roderick Mutuma, to mention but a few, have donned both the black and white jersey and the blue and white strip for DeMbare.
Bays such as the Soweto or Vietnam at Rufaro are a window into the emotions that are invested by soccer lovers into the game.
Matches between rivals attract thousands of fans.
The intensity and passion displayed by players and coaches are always an octave higher in derbies.
Missiles from ‘disgruntled’ fans sometimes fly while rough tackles during play can be experienced.
In these rivalries, police details are always on high alert and have to be on top of their game too, to ensure chaos does not reign supreme.
Transport operators, both long-distance and local, including vendors of various wares from food to sellers of cellular phone credit benefit from these rivalries.
The ‘boys’ at parking bays, who provide ‘security’ to vehicles, smile the widest.
The blockbuster matches also leave football administrators and the municipality – stadium owners – with a good percentage of the gate takings.
Fans eagerly await resumption of the league.
In the next edition we look at the Bulawayo derby between Highlanders and Zimbabwe Saints.