The leader of the pack for so many, and with good reason, will be Willard ‘Nduna’ Mashinkila Khumalo. The former Northlea High School heavily built but swift Witso was a galloping general. A very true legend of the game even for those who did not follow Highlanders FC.
A name like Lazarus Mwambopo does not make much sense to a lot of young Highlanders FC supporters. Lulu, as he was popularly known, started running as he came out of the tunnel for warm-up and never stopped. Mwambopo ran in a particular fashion, his hands kind of hanging loose from the wrists. He tirelessly toiled all day. His great vision and weighted passing was a joy to behold. Eish, glory days.
The greatest Manager of Highlanders who later became Chairman, Enerst Maphepha Sibanda is a legend. Ernest was slim as a paper, hence his nick-name. This speedy winger came flying, making the ‘Chu’ noise with his mouth as he charged. Maphepha dribbled and passed with great precision scoring goals. He was just as famous at Caps United where he played alongside Joel Jubilee Shambo, Stix Mtizwa, Hamid Dhana and Stanley Sinyo Ndunduma.
Nqobizitha Humptey Maenzanise is another of the great midfielders of his generation and beyond. As stubborn as a donkey on the road, he marshalled the midfield at will. He had valuable technique, killing any ball in an instant and passing with amazing accuracy. His vision left you wondering if he really saw the development prior. He tended to have lazy runs with his bow legs and his arrogance got him a few red-cards during his career. Humptey never really celebrated a goal as he just took it as a pass to the net. He went on to become the Warriors Captain.
In the same mould of build and technique was Makheyi Ninja Nyathi. I have never seen a better ball passer. His control of the ball was magnificent. Ninja, who played first team football at a very tender age, was very good at anticipating. His intelligence made him intercept the balls timely without a hassle. He was a hard tackler who enjoyed his game. Makheyi scored some amazing long-range goals regularly. He combined well with Adam and Peter Ndlovu, reading their runs very well.
Another tireless worker and exquisite passer was Aram Tshuma. He had played a lot of first division football with Red Seal Rovers before joining Bosso. What a revelation he was. Aram passed the ball early and made himself available on time.
When Richard Choruma joined Amahlolanyama, he looked lazy and unable to fit in the system. His small frame fooled many. Choruma worked hard in midfield winning balls. He combined well with Alexander Phiri, himself a midfielder of note and a scorer of thunderous goals. This group included Blessing Gumiso, Siza Nkinko Khoza and Gift Thebe Lunga Jnr. Siza was untouchable as soon as he was on the run with the ball at his feet. He often over did things but when he got his way, it was ever so sweet. Thebe operated as a left winger. His tremendous dribbling ability took many by surprise, including himself I think. Thebe had wits to do anything.
If you rewind from that moment, you fall into an era of an unfulfilled potential of one midfielder who was destined to be the greatest ever. Thuthani Moyo. Thuthani used both feet to dribble with amazing ability. He knew he was gifted and he pushed the limits. Due to the call of duty, he found himself in Harare.
Who can forget the true generals, Mpumelelo ‘Era Munna’ Dzowa and Ronnie ‘Jeans’ Jowa. I mention these guys in the same line because even then people confused the two. It took those who knew their different style to separate them. Mpume took control of the game with great vision and passing that mesmerised opponents. These guys were a team that meant business, having matured earlier from a reserve team of the mid 1980s named ‘Liverpool’. Many believe that this team could have played in the then Super League and finished 2nd to the bigger Bosso. Dzowa left to play in Harare for Caps United in a distinguished career while Jowa was to go to South Africa.
Yellowman Titus Zii Majola was simply class, very intelligent. Zii had unbelievable technique and knew where to be everytime. He played alongside Tito Paketh, a talented dribbling midfielder of note himself and Willard Nduna Khumalo, an iconic great ball winner and distributor with excellent vision and influence. Willard rates as one of the midfielder ever in the country, competing with Stix Mt’izwa, Joel Shambo and Moses Chunga.
Highlanders FC had Americans once in a while. Andrew Shue, a well-known Hollywood actor of Melrose Place was a genius. He was not fancy at all but did the necessary. I remember an unfortunate game in Harare were he gave away a silly goal. I think it was a cup final or something. Then there was Kelly ‘Sharp Mafana’ Jacobson. He played further in front and his passing always took the supporters’ breath away.
Amin Soma-Phiri was a character. Khazeni had a spirit to move mountains. He was not nimble-footed to say the least, but he pushed and shoved and always came clean. This guy knew where the goals were. Like his brother, his greatest asset was the head. If you talk money, it was his language. Amin must have scored more Cup goals than any Bosso player. He was solid and intimidating. He played alongside Rahman Gumpo, himself a goal poacher. Rahman started his career at Eagles as a proven goalscoring striker. Injuries were unjust to him and he played a laid back role in midfield. He will always be remembered for his goal at BF against Goh Mahia and the one against Bafana Bafana at the National Sports Stadium.
Benjamin Mackanaky Nkonjera was a destroyer in midfield who always meant business. His telepathic relationship with Peter and Adam Ndlovu was so dangerous that at the national team, they fitted like hand and glove in the system, influencing proceedings as they wished. When SC Kriens of Switzerland asked them for trials, they just wanted one player. They ended up signing both of them.
Lovemore Magents Ncube was a temperamental character who fought too hard and hated to lose. He went on to play for Dynamos before heading to the States. Methembe Mayor Ndlovu played comfortably in defence as he did in midfield. Mayor, as a holding player was a darling of the BF crowd, intercepting the ball at alarming rates. It is like he read the minds of his opponents. His ball distribution was one of his strengths, more so because it was always early and well-timed.
Honour Gombami who is currently playing in Belgium is one living craftsman with immense talent. He graduated just after Johannes ‘Tshisampama’ Ngodzo, whom I tried to keep at Railstars during my days there, in vain. Tshisa’s dribbling wizardry was second to none. The passing, yo yo yo. Ah, first they called him Yogo, then Yoyo. Charles Chief Chilufya was hard shooting and workaholic of a Zambian. Chief scored a number of memorable goals.
Master Masiku to me was the most under-rated player ever, with a very big engine and love for the game. He was an easy to coach type of player with total commitment. He was a good ball winner and scored some amazing but few goals. His finishing did not compliment his efforts. Mubariki Mamba Chisoni, what can one say. Mamba was a true version of ‘dynamite comes in small packages’ player. He seemed just too slippery for the opposition.
There is not enough space to contain Bosso, never. Take your pick. Without any bias but with obvious difficulty, Titus Majola comes tops for me. A true legend indeed.