The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Highlanders a Happy Family

WHEN the end of their campaign came, and reality dawned on them that their challenge had failed, Highlanders were a happy family at Gwanzura on Sunday.

They might have not won the championship this season, but Highlanders deserve a round of applause for the way they turned the season into an exciting battle pitting the country's two biggest teams. The Bulawayo giants ended as runners-up in a tense finish.

They were equal on 69 points with rivals Dynamos who were crowned champions on account of a better goal difference.

No one could have taken the risk to tip them to run for the title at the beginning of the season but, in the end, if there was a team that left many a football fans spellbound this year it was Highlanders.

They had an exceptional campaign that included a new record 23 matches unbeaten.

They began the season strongly and also finished in a big way and the Bosso family could be understood for the way they celebrated their 2-0 win over Blue Rangers at Gwanzura on Sunday when rivals Dynamos were being held 1-1 at Hardbody to ensure a photo-finish.

They broke into song and dance as soon as referee Robert Mugorosa blew the final whistle and it was hard to believe they had just lost the title to their bitter rivals Dynamos.

Midfielder Masimba Mambare belives being silver medalists was not bad at all

Coach, Kevin Kaindu, says they made a huge stride going forward.

"This has been a good season for us looking at where we came from," said Kaindu.

"Despite not winning the championship, if you look at the statistics you will realise that we made a great step forward. I think we achieved a lot in terms of building a strong team that can compete for the championship. If only we can keep these guys together Highlanders will be a better team next year."

Bosso, who lost only once to Monomotapa in the league campaign this year, won 20 games and drew nine. Bosso's campaign in the Mbada Diamonds Cup also ended prematurely at the hands of Monomotapa.

But considering that they won the title with 66 points in 2006, Bosso should be vindicated for claiming that this has been their best run in a decade. Bosso's campaign was undone by the many draws recorded compared to their opponents Dynamos who won 21, drew six and lost three. Kaindu, however, is looking forward to better returns next year.

"Of course, the expectations will be high and it won't be easy but we want to win something next season. I belong at number one.

"There are two things to play for, that is the league and the Mbada Diamonds Cup and we aim to do improve," said Kaindu. The Zambian mentor was, however, concerned by the behaviour of the supporters in some of the matches.

"This has been a very good season for us but it was disturbed by the behaviour of the fans. More often we witnessed violence on the terraces, something that should not be found at football matches. We need to educate our supporters because you are all brothers and sisters, and above all Zimbabweans.

Highlanders midfielder Mambare was happy with the way they challenged for honours. "I don't mind finishing number two on the log standings. We played very well and I think it's very unfortunate we could not win the championship at the last minute.

"I think we deserved (to win) it.

"Anyone can see that it was a great season for Bosso. It has been long, I think about six years, since the Highlanders family had been this happy.

"I think the fans don't mind that we finished at number two. All they are concerned with is that we played very well and competed for the championship strongly.

"It's very unfortunate we could not win the championship, I think we deserved it because we worked very hard.

"When we started this year we invited God into our camp and I am glad we could see the power of the Almighty," said Mambare.

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