TODAY one is 95 years old and the other is, though barely in existence nowadays, 90 years old.
And both were founded in the dusty streets of Makokoba which at the time was the only township for black migrant urban workers in colonial Rhodesia.
By the late 1950s to mid-1960s Matabeleland Highlanders FC and Mashonaland FC had already established boundaries among themselves as ‘frenemies’. This was way before the name changes to Highlanders FC and Mashonaland United then later Zimbabwe Saints FC.
Highlanders was originally named Lions Football Club by its founders, brothers Albert and Rhodes, both grandsons of King Lobengula while Saints was originally named Charter Brothers Football Club after the town of origin of its founders, Fort Charter which is today called Chivhu.
At formation, these two historic clubs were initially founded on tribal lines with Highlanders representative of the Ndebele population in Bulawayo while Mashonaland FC represented the Shona part of this populace.
Although comprising supporters of two distinctly different social backgrounds, these two giants of the day never lost their oneness, their respect for each other and their mutual distaste for Dynamos.
The two ‘frenemies’ did not mind each other so much that when the township of Mzilikazi was built in the 1940s it later went on to become home to both clubs’ ‘dressing homes’ in the very same ‘O’ Square: Bosso at ‘O’ 72, a house belonging to the late benefactor Tafi Moyo and Chikwata at ‘O’ 57 belonging to one of the club’s then senior executive members Lovemore Chirara.
Lawrence Phiri, who is rated among the most high-profile players ever to play for Bosso and who also cemented his place as a legend at Barbourfields Stadium with a successful stint as manager, confirmed using house number ‘O’72 Mzilikazi as a dressing home or as a meeting place before embarking on different football related journeys.
“There were no dressing rooms then in most of our venues. At times we did not trust the dressing rooms hence the use of house number ‘O’ 72 Mzilikazi as our dressing home before we moved to a house in Mpopoma’s D Square area,” said Phiri.
In 1996, the late Moyo sold his Mzilikazi prized possession to Fanuel Kamanga and Dade Kamanga, a couple that greatly knows about the history associated with the house.
“We have heard a lot of stories about this house being greatly associated with Highlanders. We have stayed here since 1996 after buying the house from the late Tafi Moyo who had then moved to stay in one of Bulawayo’s affluent suburbs,” said Dade.
A Zimbabwe Saints legend, who declined to be named citing that he was too young when this development took place, confirmed that Bosso and Chauya Chikwata had their dressing homes.
“Yes, players from these two relics of football history would often change into their playing kits at these two homes before walking to Barbourfields Stadium which at the time had no dressing rooms. O’ 57 is a house that belonged to Lovemore Chirara. In fact, at the time the entire wing at Barbourfields Stadium that now includes the VIP section and dressing rooms had not been built,” he said.
One of the current occupants at Chauya Chikwata’s former “dressing house” is one Israel Chirara.
On derby days, seeing the two sides walking alongside each other to Barbourfields Stadium was not shocking.
At the time black and white side of this iconic football history had the likes of Edward Dzowa, Edward Dlamini and McKenzie Sibanda while the white and blue side had the likes Titos Mugodi, Mandishona Abisha and Joseph ‘Mbokodo’ Nyika, brothers Simon and Denford Supiya just to mention but a few.
Eventually several talented footballers including stocky Njabulo “Tshiki” Ncube, Vivian Mushekwa and current resident Johannes “Tshisa” Ngodzo would go on to call ‘O’ Square home. Though they did not play in top flight leagues, other footballers who also called it home are the late Alec ‘Soweto’ Manda and Mgcini Silongo.
As did jazz legend Paul Lunga! He called O Square home as well.