Bosso Vs DeMbare: The day football lost its glitter

Soccer is just a game. Or is it? In Zimbabwe, it usually is not, especially when Highlanders lose to Dynamos in Bulawayo and when Dynamos lose to Caps United.

The slain Thembelenkosini Hloli (centre).
The slain Thembelenkosini Hloli (centre).

Dubbed the “Battle of Zimbabwe” (Highlanders and Dynamos) and “Battle of the Cities” (Dynamos and Caps United) For Caps and Dynamos, each of those two contests is more than just a game.

In the bitter rivalry between Highlanders and Dynamos, emotions are usually aroused weeks before the actual game and last for days after.

Far from being an on-the-field contestation, the “Battle of Zimbabwe” usually assumes the status of a violent political contestation usually experienced in Zimbabwe when Zanu (PF) is under pressure.

Tribal emotions are usually waked-up between the two sides’ supporters on social networks and verbal talk. Sadly, unhealed past political activities like the Gukurahundi massacre, which tore the country apart through tribal lines, come to play from both camps.

While Highlanders fans – who view Dynamos as a club belonging to the “Shonas”, take every defeat at the hands of their bitterest rivals as an invitation to war. “They can’t beat us on and off the field,” many usually declare, as they launch their attacks on the opposing camp.

The fact that Bosso has become so inferior to DeMbare that they have been cannon fodder to their Harare counterparts for the past eight years has just worsened the anger of these fans, who have cocooned their club to represent only the “Ndebeles”.


It would however, be unfair to Bosso fans and to football in general to claim that only Highlanders supporters bring in tribalism whenever the two clubs meet. Those who have followed the two clubs’ informal Facebook pages – Highlanders FC-Bosso Supporters and would agree that there is more reference to tribal dominance and Gukurahundi on the latter than the former.

In nutshell, most Zimbabweans are as immature in supporting soccer as they are in running politics and showing tribal pride. It has therefore, sadly followed that instead of being followed as just a game between two of the country’s biggest clubs, the contest between Highlanders and Dynamos has at least in their supporters’ minds, been reduced to a show of tribal strength that can seldom be settled on the football pitch. Just like the political fights between Zanu (PF) and the MDC-T cannot be settled by the ballot.

So, the recent death of Highlanders fan, Thembelenkosini Hloli, allegedly at the hands of Dynamos supporters after his side had lost 1-0 to the Harare giants at Barbourfields Stadium, should be a wake-up call to fans, the two clubs, football administrators, sponsors and government.

Not only do such scenes bring the game of local football into disrepute; they also bring a bad name to the companies that sponsor these clubs – worse that the two usually have the same sponsor.


Zimbabweans are also portrayed as immature people who do not understand the meaning of sport, the PSL appears so weak it cannot provide enough stadium security and hold public awareness seminars, while national police come across as incapable of controlling public disorder and Bulawayo loses its status as an investment opportunity.

No business would want to operate in an environment where 90 minutes of a game can result in loss of millions in destroyed infrastructure.

It is imperative that the blame game on who usually starts and ends the violence should, for the good of the country, cease and efforts be worked out to prevent such scenes from recurring. The business-as-usual approach being employed year-in year-out will not take us anywhere and the press in Zimbabwe is not doing the future of Zimbabwean football any good by portraying either camp of the fans as worse than the other.

Exemplary role

For his part, Highlanders coach, Kelvin Kaindu, condemned the fights and said the two clubs needed to play an exemplary role.

“It is not acceptable to lose lives in games where people must be celebrating. Everyone should show tolerance and preach peace,” said the Zambian-born former Bosso striker.

“Such incidents must be avoided at all costs. This generation and the next should know that football is a game, not politics. Killing one another will not take us anywhere.”

Former ZBC Radio 2 football commentator, Ezra “Tshisa” Sibanda, also weighed in. “The young man’s life was cut short by animals masquerading as football fans! Those killers who butchered him are cowards and certainly deserve to be jailed for life,” he said.

“They might think they love Dynamos, but to tell the truth, DeMbare’s founding ideals are not to murder opponents but play football in a fair and competitive manner. The hooliganism also displayed by some unruly people masquerading as Highlanders supporters should also be condemned because it is unsportsmanlike.”

Post published in: Football

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