Robson Sharuko ,Senior Sports Editor
LIVERPOOL flying high, Manchester United struggling, the Red Devils coach facing an FA Cup battle that could cost him his job, a team conceding nine goals in an English Premiership match and the transfer record for a British footballer being smashed.
It all looks like a throwback to 1990.
And, if you are a Highlanders fan, weary of the club’s lengthy wait for the league title, there’s a reason to believe this could be the year it all ends in glory for the country’s oldest football club.
Of course, all you need to have is a bit of hope, and a certain degree of belief, in both fantasy and the power of the supernatural.
After all, this really feels like 1990 — the year the Bulawayo giants finally came of age and became champions for the first time in their history.
Admittedly, they don’t have anyone like the King in their team’s line-up this year, as was the case back then.
The year a fresh-faced Peter Ndlovu, then only 17 — just a few months after having led Mzilikazi High School to the Copa Coca-Cola title — burst onto the domestic football scene to start what was ultimately a dance into knighthood in the game.
Local football had never seen anything like that – the searing pace, the trickery, the wisdom, which made a mockery of his tender age, the brilliance, all packaged in that tender frame of this dashing teenager in what looked like oversized shorts.
Others can argue there had been some better footballers before him on the local scene, fair point, in a game where the level of genius is often as subjective as it is emotional.
But, no one had exploded this much, at such a tender age, it became immediately clear greatness was written all over him, and that’s a fact.
By the end of that campaign, the boy who would be King, had already done enough to be named Soccer Star of the Year, sharing the award with CAPS United forward, George ‘‘Tyson’’ Nechironga, before taking the gong, again, the following year.
Bosso had never tasted the glory of being champions, before King Peter arrived, but all that was swept into the history books as the teenage forward sparkled, in grand company, playing with the swagger of a genius, and the composure of a veteran, to lead them to the Promised Land.
Twenty years later, can Highlanders strike gold again? The signs appear to suggest that.
After all, as was the case in the ‘80s, they have gone back to the basics and, following flirtations with
Dutch and Zambian coaches, they have returned to the model that helped them build the foundation for success in 1990 by employing a British coach.
Mark Harrison will be in charge of Highlanders this season, following into the footsteps of his countrymen — the late Eddie May who led Bosso to two league titles at the turn of the millennium and
Bobby Clark, who built the platform for the initial success in 1990.
“The fan base is huge and, I think as a coach or player, you always want to play in front of a full stadium,’’ said Harrison.
‘‘There’s nothing worse than playing in front of an empty stadium.’’
So, where are the similarities between football in 1990, and in 2020, which should give the Bosso fans, at least, something to boost their hopes of a return to the success their team wrote back then?
Then, and now, the football gods must be crazy
1 July 1989 — Midfielder Mike Phelan joins Manchester United in a £750,000 transfer from Norwich City (10 May 2019 — Manchester United confirm Mike Phelan has rejoined the club as the assistant manager on a three-year contract).
8 July 1989 — Olympique Marseille pay Tottenham Hotspur £4.5 million for winger Chris Waddle, a fee that makes him the most expensive British player (2 August 2019 — Manchester United sign Leicester defender Harry Maguire for £80 million, a fee that makes him the most expensive British player).
15 July 1989 — Laurie Cunningham, who played in Wimbledon’s FA Cup final triumph 14 months earlier, dies in a car crash in Spain at the age of 33 (1 June 2019 — Jose Antonio Reyes, who played in Arsenal’s FA Cup final triumph 14 years earlier, dies in a car crash in Spain at the age of 35).
19 August 1989 — On the first day of the English First Division (now Premier League) season, London giants Arsenal concede four goals in a 1-4 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford (11 August 2019 — on the first day of the English Premiership season, London giants Chelsea concede four goals in a 0-4 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford).
19 August 1989 — Liverpool thrash Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield in a league match (10 November 2019 – Liverpool hammer Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield in a league match with Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all on target for the Reds).
29 August 1989 — Gary Pallister becomes Britain’s most expensive defender in a £2.3 million move from Middlesbrough to Manchester United (2 August 2019 — Harry Maguire becomes Britain’s most expensive defender in an £80 million move from Leicester City to Manchester United).
12 September 1989 — Liverpool thrash Crystal Palace 9-0 in a league match, with eight different players scoring, including John Aldridge, in his last appearance for the club (25 October 2019 — Leicester thrash Southampton 9-0 in a league match, with five different players scoring, including hattricks from Ayoze Perez and Jamie Vardy).
19 December 1989 — Aston Villa sign their first Trinidadian striker, Dwight Yorke (19 December 2019 — Aston Villa begin moves to sign their first Tanzanian striker and, in January 2020, complete the capture of Mbwana Samatta).
31 December 1989 — The year and the decade ends with Liverpool as the league leaders and Leeds United among the top contenders in the second-tier league (31 December 2019 — the year ends with Liverpool as the league leaders with Leeds United among the top contenders in the second-tier league).
7 January 1990 — Manchester United beat Nottingham Forest 1–0 at the City Ground in the third round of the FA Cup and save Alex Ferguson’s job (26 January 2020 — Manchester United need to beat Tranmere Rovers away from home in the fourth round of the FA Cup to save Ole Gunnar-Solksjaer’s job).
21 January 1990 — Manchester United’s sorry plight in the league continues as a 2–0 defeat at Norwich City (22 January 2020 — Manchester United’s sorry plight in the league continues with a 2-0 defeat at home to Burnle
31 January 1990 — Liverpool end January as First Division leaders (31 January 2020 — Liverpool will end January as the leaders in the English Premiership title race).
28 April 1990 — Liverpool seal their 18th English top-flight league title (28 April 2020 — Liverpool are expected to have sealed their 19th English top-flight league title).