IT’S a new year and new season but some things never change; Highlanders fans remain a volatile lot judging by what transpired at Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday.
With champions FC Platinum on their way to adding the Castle Challenge Cup in their cabinet courtesy of Silas Songani’s brace against Bosso, all hell broke loose in the stands in added time.
Bosso fans began attacking the visitors’ fans, with anyone wearing green and white at the receiving end of the beatings.
What had sparked the fans’ anger was a decision by referee Arnold Ncube to award Pure Platinum Play a free kick when Nqobizitha Ncube had fouled Ralph Kawondera.
The match was stopped for more than 30 minutes after FC Platinum fans fled onto the pitch to escape the beatings from the thugs.
Police had a torrid time trying to restore order as the Highlanders hooligans tried to go after the visitors’ fans on the pitch.
Although it was only a pre-season challenge match that is supposed to act as the curtain raiser for the 2020 campaign, Highlanders fans had invested a lot of emotion into the game.
For many seasons, Barbourfields has been turned into a no-go area by these unruly Bosso thugs.
Not all Highlanders fans exhibit this primitive behaviour but a section of those in the venue are painting the entire Bosso followers with the same brush.
On Saturday, police seemed afraid to take stern action and stop the violence by plucking out the trouble makers.
Instead they could only form a barricade to stop the thugs from invading the pitch.
Highlanders are the country’s oldest team and should lead by example.
Every season there seems to be flash points of violence at Bosso’s matches even when they are on the road.
The club must play a leading role in ensuring these unruly elements among their supporters are identified and barred from entering the stadium.
For many seasons, Highlanders is struggling to attract sponsorship, with telecommunications company NetOne their only partner.
It is therefore no surprise when players are constantly going on strike over unpaid salaries and bonuses because Bosso rely on the one major corporate partner.
Other major companies are not willing to come on board for fear of having their image tainted by these misguided thugs masquerading as Bosso fans.
Saturday’s violence occurred in front of some of the league sponsors Delta Beverages’ top executives.
Delta and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) are currently finalising their sponsorship agreement for the 2020 season.
Although they have been loyal to the game for many years, no one would blame Delta for pulling out of football if such acts of violence continue to happen.
The onus is on the leadership of Ndumiso Gumede, Kenneth Mhlophe and Nhlanhla Dube to ensure their club gets rid of these bad apples.
Barbourfields should be a safe haven where families should feel comfortable to attend matches without fear of violence breaking out whenever a result does not go Bosso’s way.
The PSL and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) are also mollycoddling Highlanders.
If these two bodies come down hard on the club, the Bosso leadership will have no choice but to act on these unruly elements amongst their fans.
At the moment, Barbourfields is undergoing renovations after Zimbabwe was banned from hosting international matches by the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
Some of the areas recently worked on were damaged by the violence on Saturday.
The Bulawayo City Council and the government are investing a lot of money into these renovations and its is only a fool who will then cause damage to these new installations.
Zimbabwe is already racing against time because Caf inspectors are coming before August to check on these renovations.
However, the BCC will never be able to complete this project if there is violence almost every time that Bosso have a home match.