Highlanders Football Club : Siyinqaba

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The formative years (Lions Football Club), the new urbanites years' 1926 - 1936
Nsele Hlabangana
Nsele Hlabangana
(18/09/1909 - 26/11/1997)
One of the founders of
Highlanders FC (Lions FC)
in a '90s picture with one
of his grand children
- photo courtesy of Hlabangana family

One of Zimbabwe’s most popular and highly decorated soccer clubs HIGHLANDERS Football Club, based in the country’s second largest city of Bulawayo, was founded sometime around 1926 by Albert and Rhodes two grandsons of the Ndebele King Lobengula. They were the sons’ one of King Lobengula’s offspring Njube after whom a prominent suburb in the city of Bulawayo is now named. In a pre-emptive move aimed at preventing the revival of the Ndebele kingdom, the White minority settler community decided that these two potential monarchs obtain an education that would turn them away from the African way of life which depended heavily on cattle and the conquering of surrounding tribes. This was a culture which the Ndebeles had carried over from the time King Mzilikazi Khumalo and his regiment left Zululand over a century earlier around 1823. King Mzilikazi kaMatshobana (son of Matshobana) the founder of the Ndebele nation was Lobengula’s father. ] Getting an education away in South Africa would see these two descendants of Mzilikazi shun efforts to revive the Ndebele Kingdom and in that way Whites would not be threatened by an uprising by the defeated Matabeles, Their most recent bid to resist had collapsed dramatically at Shangani in 1893 but clearly the white minority settlers still felt that the potential for such an uprising always lingered with subsequent generations. In a 30 September 1997 interview by Lovemore Dube, Chronicle Sports Editor with the late Nsele Hlabangana also a founding player of the club, Nsele said it was out of boredom that the club was formed.
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Researched and compiled by Lovemore Dube, Sports Editor, The Chronicle and edited by Lovemore Fuyane one of the club's many supporters based in South Africa, February 2008.


1937 – 1962 Transformation to Matabeleland Highlanders Football Club and the new colours, origins of the community culture, the World War years
In 1937 Lions Football Club became Matabeleland Highlanders Football Club. This change of name also brought along with it a change of the club’s colours to the now famous black and white strip. Although many theories abound, details around this complete transformation are somewhat sketchy. One of the most compelling theories is around the potential link between Matabeleland Highlanders and Mbabane Highlanders from Swaziland which was formed at around the same time of this Lions-Matabeleland Highlanders FC transformation. When Mbabane Highlanders FC was formed it also adopted the same colours. They too have an emblem with a shield and to add to the mystery is that the Swazi Coat of Arms has the words "Siyinqaba" ("we are steadfast, united and strong" or literally "we are a Castle" in the various Nguni languages) on it. This same word appears on Zimbabwe's Highlanders FC logo to this day. Perhaps in a bid to unearth the mystery behind this transformation, one would need to travel to Swaziland and research among the Mbabane Highlanders elderly community. It is however believed that the two Khumalos also travelled to Swaziland during some of their holidays. Other sources said some Scottish immigrants based in Swaziland with business interests and close links to Newcastle could have had a hand in the two teams’ being named Highlanders and the choice of colours similar to England's Newcastle United Football Club. South Africa's Orlando Pirates were also formed in 1937 and they too wear black and white. Although the word "Siyinqaba" is not on their logo it is one of the words their fans use with reference to their team to this day. In fact quite a number of Highlanders’ supporters migrating to South Africa seem to find an easy fit with Orlando Pirates FC due to these factors.
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Researched and compiled by Lovemore Dube, Sports Editor, The Chronicle and edited by Lovemore Fuyane one of the club’s many supporters based in South Africa, February 2008.


1963-1974 Topsy-turvy years, assertion of Tshilamoya, iBosso slogans, the youth policy, entry onto the national stage and the famous Chibuku Trophy triumph
However it has not all been plain sailing for the club. The then Matabeleland Highlanders Football Club had its own fair share of controversies that have at times splintered the club along the way. Looked at philosophically these have all served to strengthen the team’s resolve to forge ahead and hence slogans like: "Kayisoze yabulawa, ongafuniyo kayekele" and "iBosso yiBosso", and "Highlander ngenkani". Each of these slogans stated in the vernacular Ndebele signified the club’s supporters resolve that the team would prevail against any odds. See the club's profile for a full translation of most of the team's nicknames. In 1963 a break away of some of the city’s big teams called the 'Big Three' occurred in order to join the then Rhodesian national league set up. Some Matabeleland Highlanders officials and players bought into the idea and deserted the club. A splinter team called Cobras was formed leaving a severely depleted Matabeleland Highlanders Football Club in the amateur ranks. It was the hard work of people like Edward Dlamini who managed to stay behind and recruit young players who stood firm. Without a uniform and balls Hwange (then Wankie FC) agreed to play friendly matches with Matabeleland Highlanders so that the Bulawayo team could fundraise. Indeed the games went ahead and Highlanders were able to buy a uniform and balls and help players in need. (Interview Chronicle with Edward Dlamini June 2003). Hwange also released their winger Andrew 'Scrupata' Jele to Highlanders whose pace and dribbling enticed fans to the club's matches and in no time Highlanders were back on their feet once again attracting big crowds. And so for various reasons Highlanders remained outside of the National League in 1964 and continued to play in the Bulawayo African Football Association until 1968.
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Researched and compiled by Lovemore Dube, Sports Editor, The Chronicle and edited by Lovemore Fuyane one of the club’s many supporters based in South Africa, February 2008.


1975 - 1980 Single national league, transformation to Highlanders FC, brief exile and the height of the Zimbabwean independence war years
Tymon Mabaleka highlanders Tymon Mabaleka in control
In 1973-74 regional league titles had been done away with and all top flight teams contested the national title.
In 1975 following the release from prison a year earlier of Joshua Nkomo a hero and founding father of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle Matabeleland Highlanders FC dropped the “Matabeleland” part from its name and became simply Highlanders Football Club, the name it uses to this day. Joshua Nkomo had always spoken out very strongly about the use of divisive tribal names for sporting teams and in response Matabeleland Highlanders FC underwent this transformation. Similarly Mashonaland United became Zimbabwe Saints FC. Confrontations between the supporters of Matabeleland Highlanders and Mashonaland United had typically led to violent clashes prior, during and after matches. It is said some of these running battles would even begin in the industrial areas of Bulawayo hours before commencement of virtually every match, spread into the then African townships in the Western areas of the city and continue well into the day. This is the one of the earliest recorded instances of Zimbabwe’s own Barras Bravas (as they are known in Argentina) or Ultras in Europe. Highlanders felt that this change of name signified a new beginning and apart from a few isolated incidents over the years to a great extent this is now the case.
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Researched and compiled by Lovemore Dube, Sports Editor, The Chronicle and edited by Lovemore Fuyane one of the club’s many supporters based in South Africa, February 2008.


1980 – 1990 Post independence years, contribution to the Zimbabwean Dream Team, dawn of the professional era
highlanders dream team Our contribution to the "Dream Team"
The coming of independence in Zimbabwe in 1980 saw what was in reality a Highlanders’ South Zone league dissolved and the launching of the Super League with the top six teams from each of the major southern and northern regions coming together into a national league. In 1980 Bosso won the first post independence Chibuku Trophy and the Heroes Cup.
Highlanders FC were the first Zimbabwean club to visit a foreign country when they undertook an emotional tour of Zambia where they met some Zimbabweans who had stayed behind in that country. Zambia had hosted multitude of Zimbabweans who had either fought in the war of independence or lived there as refugees and some of these had stayed behind during the transitional period.
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Researched and compiled by Lovemore Dube, Sports Editor, The Chronicle and edited by Lovemore Fuyane one of the club’s many supporters based in South Africa, February 2008.

highlanders


1990 Onwards, dawn of a new golden age, league titles aplenty
These most recent years are by far the club's most successful ones. The year 1990 saw Highlanders win its first league title after Independence and to make it an even a more memorable year, they also won the FA Cup completing what in many countries would be considered the double and in the process also winning a berth to play in the Champion of Champions tournament now the CAF Champions League. Bosso, Tshilamoya, iThimu yezwe lonke
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Researched and compiled by Lovemore Dube, Sports Editor, The Chronicle and edited by Lovemore Fuyane one of the club’s many supporters based in South Africa, February 2008.