The Highlanders central defenders are known to have been eccentric and imposing. They were always ahead even of the popular Marimo brothers. Douglas British Mloyi was a vocal and agile figure that imposed his presence without any silliness. British was a take-no-prisoners tackler who knew he shared no brotherly love with the striker. The best part was his aggression was always so clean. The aerial superiority was one of the best you will ever see. His weakness was one versus one situations. He was never comfortable when speedy wingers and dribblers cut through coming towards him. People give him less credit than the great defending he did deserve.
Alex Maseko was indeed the ‘Cool Ruler’ of class. He was a tight marker and sweeper of high pedigree. Zanda is said to have been an old style Number 10 before he was a defender. He imposed himself and his strength, confidence and sure-footedness was very intimidating. That was evident with his clean winning of ball and passing when he went forward to help attack. He formed a great partnership in one of Zimbabwe’s greatest national teams of all time with John Phiri of Rio Tinto.
Cleopas Nkatha Dlodlo has his serivces tatooted in the Bosso faithfuls of the early and mid 1990s. Dilodilo was the most agile player you will ever see. He had speed, spring to jump and determination to chase and track players down until tomorrow. He always declared a no-fly zone for high balls. His big heart and courage made him risk, causing a few heart attacks to coaches and fans. He would recover and clean up his mess all the time. As a vocal defender, he managed to motivate players and instil confidence to youngsters around him. Like Zanda, Cleopas went to finish his career in South Africa.
Captain Fantastic, Thulani Biya Ncube was the most incredible character. He was very combative and calculative central defender. Biya had no heading strength, but that did not hamper him at all. He marked and timed his tackles to perfection. Thulani initiated attacks and surged forward after winning ball and scored some amazing goals. His passing was excellent, his tactical awareness a cut above the rest. The most important characteristic quality that he possessed was his leadership. He was an influence of enviable grade. As a young defender, he is the only man ever, that I know in the whole world, who captained 3 different teams as once. Biya was Highlanders FC Captain, National Under-23 squad and the senior national Zimbabwe Warriors captain during his prime. So cool was he in life but when he went into the pitch, he was a lion. It was so unfortunate that injuries killed his decorated career. He remains the best ever for Highlanders in that position.
Nkalakatha Melody Wafawanaka came in as a reminder of all the great defenders that played for Bosso before him. Nkalakatha was heavily built and stocky. He took no prisoners. He was agile and headed the ball well. He formed a solid partnership with Biya. This always gave Biya the freedom to venture forward to boost the attack. It was unfortunate he did not stay long enough at Bosso, but what a fella.
Bekithemba SamaNdloo Ndlovu was a fighting war-horse, versatile to play as a right back as well. Mabatha as they called him, was a very passionate player who started very nervously and sometimes clumsy in challenges. He matured slowly to be a defensive rock of note. He often played alongside Biya and/or Dazy Kapenya. As for Dazy, ‘Walker’ as he was known, he was a cool and mean defender. He also loved going forward to attack. While he did not score so many goals, his excellent passing skills were of use when he went to join the offence. Dazy was so sure of his abilities that he dribbled strikers in the dangerous areas. It was such a marvel to watch him. Like a lot of Highlanders defenders, he did not feature in a lot of national teams somehow.
Gilbert Banda was another telling defender, young and solid. Gilbert still plays now and is a part of the team that people will be watching in South Africa within days. Phephisani and Sikhumbuzo Ndebele were another noticeable central defenders that Bosso is proud to have seen. Sikhumbuzo came in during the days of Roy Barretto, who trusted him so much despite the people’s lack of confidence in him.
Fanuel Launcher Ncane Ncube (mazita kufekerana) was a determined right back of his time. Malume, as he was also known, was jittery when faced by Eagles’ Boy Ndlovu. The best thing about him was that he never dived into tackles. He stayed on his feet and called for cover from British and possible Captain Oxo in goals. His quick feet helped him come out tops as soon as the striker snoozed for a millisecond.
Fanuel was a joy on the offensive. He flew on the right wing to deliver beautiful crosses for the likes of Nhamo Shambira and Dumisani Ngulube to score. He served the club with a lot of honour and respect, like all mentioned before. His role was befittingly taken by a true servant of the game, Abraham Nejane Mbambo. Nejane was so quick and fast and loved overlapping just as much. He could do everything right and fail to deliver a pin-point cross. People always wanted him to be 100%, but after the hard running and the steam is low, it was not always possible. Galloping down the other wing would be Dumisani Savimbi Nyoni. He was the best left footed defender for a long time in the country. There was an argument that he was probably the best in Africa in his time. His crosses were pin-point to the prime target areas. Like Ncane, he was quick on his feet and his take off was great. He never waited for a move to mature before he was on his bike calling for a through ball.
Other defenders who played different roles in the middle or at wings were Noel Kaseke, who had an educated foot and appetite to do well. Noel still plays in Cyprus and his team won the Championship last season. He will be playing Champions’ League football. Noel always wanted to learn, coming after every session asking for his assessment. He would be hard pressed to say ‘ coach tell me even if it’s bad. I want to know the truth so I can improve’. Simon Makwee Sibanda is one of the shortest defenders you will ever find anywhere. He was so versatile and was so talented. His technique and timing always won the day for him.
My greatest wing defender Bosso ever had though, was Netsai Super Moyo; a complete and rounded player with great vision and heart. He was such a wonderful and gifted team player with unbelievable understanding of the game. USuper was always super and he had a big engine, running and dribbling on the right flank. Highlanders were very blessed indeed.
Come with your list and let’s compare notes, who was your defender of note?