TALENTED and dedicated players, good leadership and ambitious coaches won Highlanders Football Club the four consecutive league titles and several trophies around the turn of the century.
At least according to former midfielder Blessing Gumiso (BG) who took a long time to get into the hearts of Bosso fans largely due to hisA� basic football.
Speaking to our correspondent, Noel Munzabwa (NM), the Mutare-born midfielder took us back into time.
NM: Blessing, you were part of a trailblazing Highlanders Football Club team that scooped four successive league titles and numerous cups along the way, how much do you cherish those days?
BG: Those were the best soccer years of my career. Once I look at the four league championship medals and many other awards we won, it makes me want to pass my knowledge to young boys and those aspiring to play soccer professionally.
God knows I did my best with the gift he blessed me with. Playing for Bosso made me a better man. I have lots of friends from all walks of life all because of Highlanders.
NM: Tell us, what was the real driving force, where did you guys get inspiration from?
BG: The first point is that our team was full of talented and dedicated players led by the ambitious Rahman Gumbo, Willard Khumalo (late), Benjamin Moyo (late), Peter Nkomo and Ernest Maphepha Sibanda.
Our first triumph came under Roger Muhlwa then the bulk came under (James) Mangwana Tshuma (late). The likes of Kenny Ndebele, Liqhwa Gama and Nhlanhla Dube managed to lead us through their different roles with a passion.
The team medic of that time Emmett Ndlovu would make sure we match fit. To sum it up it was a team effort.
NM: Quite a reflection . . .
BG: All the players hadA� hunger for success.
NM: As an individual did you ever dream of such a team show?
BG: Yes it formed part of my dream. During my first training session with Bosso at the club house, I could tell the presence of talent and my best players on arrival at Highlanders were Dazzy Kapenya, Siza Khoza and Gift Lunga (jnr) became my close friend.
We also had senior players who were guiding us like Gift Lunga (snr), Mackey Nyathi (late), Johannes Tshuma, Abraham Mbambo and from their guidance we became a strong team ready to destroy any opponent.
NM: As a footballer of note, when can you say was your defining or breakthrough moment?
BG: It was the day Enerst Maphepha Sibanda told me the coaches were interested. Then I only knew Rahman Gumbo from the Warriors games on television. From that moment on, I knew I had to work hard to win big with Highlanders.
Highlanders are just not an ordinary platform and it is a challenge for any player to preserve that reputation so that became my immediate challenge. Once again, thanks to Gift Lunga for being there for me together with Simon a�?Doinka�? Sibanda and goalkeeper Marlvin Moyo.
NM: What was your memorable football moment?
BG: Scoring a cracker of a goal against Arcadia United at Barbourfields Stadium which increased our chances to win the first championship. We won 1-0 and that is the game that won me the hearts of the Highlanders faithful.
NM: Any regrettable moments?
BG: Failing to make it past the knockout stages in the Caf Champions League especially looking at the quality of players we had.
The most painful game was losing to Sable De Batie of Cameroun in Cameroun.
That was very painful and regrettable. If we had won we were going to play in the mini league of the African Champions League.
I think it was immaturity from both the players and technical stuff. Leading by 3-0 from the first leg I think we were supposed to go and defend for the whole match. It was going to be possible considering the quality of players who were there then, although they say the best way of defending is to attack. We lost tactically.
NM: You talked passionately about your arrival at Bosso, before Highlanders where was Blessing?
BG: I was in Mutare playing for Tanganda juniors then moved to Gweru United before coming to Highlanders. I was born and bred in Mutare and my all time great player being Lloyd Mutasa who was our idol in Manicaland.
He personally inspired me when I was with Highlanders. We would chat before matches, promising him a tough game especially when he was at Dynamos.
NM: After Highlanders?
BG: I moved to Sporting Lions then Masvingo United, later AmaZulu, spent six months at Eiffel Wild Cats in Kadoma before retiring at Mwana Africa. Age was no longer on my side and I wanted signing on fees.
NM: The game today versus the game during your time?
BG: To be honest the game today is not as exciting as it used to be. The excitement graph has been going down from one generation to another. Look at the era of George Shaya era to the Japhet Mparutsa time. We had lots of exciting flare from the likes of Moses Chunga, Willard Khumalo. You can hardly compare any player from todaya��s generation to the likes of Paul Gundani, Carlos Max, Memory Mucherahowa, Benjamin Nkonjera and Peter Ndlovu. We also had the likes of Desmond Maringwa, Ronald Sibanda, Joe Mugabe to the Edmore Mashiri, Honour Gombami, Norman Maroto and Tapiwa Kapini.
NM: What is Blessing Gumiso doing today in football or business life?
BG: Blessing is into entrepreneurship and doing soccer coaching courses.
NM: Should we expect Gumiso to bounce back to Highlanders or Zimbabwe football and in what role?
BG: Definitely coaching, even at Highlanders I would not mind being given an opportunity. My brother Reubern Ndebele has been urging me on. Blessing Gumiso is a great coach in the making and only time will tell.
NM: Your throw back time?
BG: Growing up in Mutarea��s Sakubva playing plastic balls with the likes of Blessing Makunike (late), Lazarus Muhoni, Eddie Dube, Joseph Takaringofa to mention. Mutare is rich in football products look at Onesimo Bhasera, Wonder Sithole, Washington Arubi, Willard Katsande, Pascar Manhanga, Muhoni, Makunike and Nyika.
NM: To call you by your famed nickname Gumi Gumi, thanks for your time and wish you all the best!
BG: Always my pleasure.