Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Highlanders FC (Zimbabwe)

Highlanders, based in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo, may not be the country's most successful club, but they're certainly the best supported, with divisions of their fan club reaching right across the globe. They're also the owners of one of the best nicknames in world sport - Siyinqaba - which means quite simply, 'We Will Win'.

They were formed in 1926 by the English educated son of the last Ndebele King, Lobengula, who created a team called Lions FC from boys born in Makokoba - Bulawayo's oldest township. Ten years later they changed the name to Matebeleland Highlanders Football Club - a title that has since been shortened to its current snappy state. They didn't join the Rhodesia National Football league until 1968, and won the second division at their first attempt. Since then they have won the national title seven times, and a slew of regional cups.

A number of their players have gone on to grace the international stage - not least the deadly strike force that was the one-time Coventry, Birmingham City and Sheffield United star Peter Ndlovu, also Zimbabwe's top international scorer, as well as New England Revolution forward Mkhokheli Dube and the legendary wobbly-legged Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who started his long and often unruly career at the club.

Their history hasn't been without turmoil, though. In 1976 they got the hump with the way the RNFL was being run and broke away with a number of other clubs (including the fably named Black Horrors, Portuguese, Ramblers and, best of all, Go Beer Rovers) and started the South Zone Soccer League. This caused much hoo-ha in the nation's footballing community, and a number of their senior players left to form the own club, Olympics, who stayed true to both the RNFL and the black and white stripes. After a couple of seasons, many other teams lent their support to Highlanders' stand against what they saw as unfair accounting and blatant nepotism by the national association, and pretty soon the National Professional Soccer League was created, and the Zimbabwean FA reformed - all because of Highlanders' brave stand.

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