On the Ball
BACK in 2004, former “Warriors” captain Peter “Nsukuzonke” Ndlovu played a league match for his then English Division One (now known as the Championship) side, Sheffield United, against Millwall on a Friday evening.
The mercurial winger grabbed the winner for “The Blades” in a 2-1 thriller.
When the referee sounded his final whistle at around 10pm, the little wizard did not join his team-mates in the dressing room for a celebratory melody and flowing champagne.
He dashed — full kit and all — into a friend’s waiting car outside the stadium and was driven to Heathrow Airport — a distant three-hour drive in heavy traffic — to catch a direct British Airways flight to Johannesburg!
I bet you’re wondering what the heck was going on with “Nsukuzonke”?
Well, he desperately wanted to go and play for his beloved motherland in a Cosafa Cup quarter-final away clash against Swaziland at Somhlolo Stadium on Sunday!
Ndlovu was just in time to catch the flight — as other disbelieving and amused passengers stared at the soccer-clad figure as he trudged to take his seat.
Ndlovu did manage, though, to take a “bath” and change into casual wear and sleep . . . correction . . . doze on that gruelling 11-hour flight to Jo’burg.
When he boarded the Swazi-bound carrier at 10am on Sunday, he was totally exhausted but his mission was clear — Zimbabwe, his beloved nation — came first.
And he was going to feature for “The Warriors” against “Sihlangu” of Swaziland, come hell or thunder!
“King Peter” arrived at Somholo two hours before kick-off.
The then “Warriors” coach — Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa — was flabbergasted by his skipper’s appeal to be included in the starting line-up.
“Mhofu” agreed and he had the fitting, last laugh because his side walloped the hosts 5-0, with Ndlovu bagging a hat-trick!
I just wanted to share this tale with you after the apparent snub for national soccer duty by the “Warriors”’ South African-based duo of Willard Katsande and Kingstone Nkatha.
I do not wish, though, to judge the two after they gave their side of the story and reiterated their allegiance to the “Warriors” cause; claiming that they are, indeed, injured and cannot travel to Tanzania for a crucial 2015 Afcon tie scheduled for today in Dar es Salaam.
All I wanted to illustrate is how one man — a true “Warrior” — was willing to fly to any lengths to don the gold and black jersey of Zimbabwe’s senior soccer side.
And Ndlovu’s former manager, Winston Makamure, once aptly said: “We will never see a greater ‘Warrior’ than Peter”! I totally concur, Winston.
Go, Warriors Go against “The Taifa Stars” later today!
It’s now seven games played in the Castle Lager Premiership; that’s a quarter of the season gone.
There surely have been twists and turns in the early race for supremacy in the top-flight league. Who would ever have thought that Hwange would be ruling the roost at this stage?
Who would ever have thought that Harare City, who had fashioned a cascade of imperious displays in every soccer field they played in last season, would be languishing perilously at the bottom of the standings at this stage?
I’m sure we’re all headed for more thrills and spills as we head towards the halfway bend.
I will be nominating my “Castle Soccer Stars” after every quarter-season and the following are the 11 exponents whom I think have stood head and shoulders above the rest so far:
Goalkeeper Tendai Hove, Raphael Manuvire (ZPC Kariba); Eric Mudzingwa, Kudakwashe Mahachi (Highlanders); Steven Alimenda (Dynamos); Douglas Sibanda (Shabanie Mine); Tafadzwa Mombeshora (Buffaloes); Kudakwashe Musharu (How Mine); Ronald Pfumbidzai (CAPS United); Alick Marime (Hwange); Clement Matawu (Chicken Inn).
Well, that’s just about it for this week.
Remember to take care of your loved ones and each other.
Till next week, it’s bye bye for now.
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