Thando the Platinum Prince

19 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Thando the Platinum Prince

The Sunday Mail

Langton Nyakwenda
Sports Reporter

GIVEN his background, education was always going to be one of the obvious avenues to make a living.

But, as a talented footballer growing up in rural Mberengwa, sport provided an alternative path.

However, Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya combined the two to good effect.

The red-hot FC Platinum forward completed his Advanced Level studies last year and is now one of the stand-out players in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.

Ngwenya wears jersey number seven and has scored seven goals and four assists to date.

Last week, his fine form was rewarded with a Player of the Month award for May, while his coach Norman Mapeza bagged the Coach of the Month gong.

The 20-year-old is one of the players headlining the youth revolution which Premiership champions FC Platinum have undertaken.

It has taken exactly a year for Ngwenya to rise from obscurity to stardom.

He scored on his top-flight debut after coming on as a late substitute when FC Platinum walloped WhaWha 6-0 in a Chibuku Super Cup Group 4 match at Mandava on May 22, 2021.

He shone again on his maiden Premiership match, grabbing a brace as FC Platinum got their 2021/2022 campaign to a blistering start with a 6-1 thumping of newboys Tenax on November 6, 2021.

Since then, he has never looked back and is now three goals adrift the league’s top scorer Brian Muza of Chicken Inn ahead of the resumption of the championship marathon.

“I give credit to coach Norman Mapeza who believed in me. He gave me the chance to play and he is also nurturing me.

“I remember my first match was against WhaWha in a cup match and I played the last 10 minutes and  managed to score.

“It was a shock because I never even thought I would play in the first place,” said Ngwenya. He was born in Gwanda but attended Masase Primary School in Mberengwa, where his mother was a headmistress.

After taking over as the dominant force in domestic football and winning three consecutive league titles, FC Platinum sought to reinvigorate their squad through the infusion of youthful players.

Mapeza took the risk at the beginning of the 2021/2022 season by introducing the likes of Kelvin Mangiza (21), Oscar Bhebhe (19), Hagiazo Magaya (22), Panashe Mutimbanyoka, who turned 20 in February, and Ngwenya.

As the young players settled in at FC Platinum, the team rose steadily from mid-table to second position by the time the league took its mid-season break on June 5.

Ngwenya says Mapeza believes in the youth brigade, and this has inspired him.

“It’s because the coach believes in us, so we are just using the chances that our coach is giving us.”

Ngwenya’s target is “to score more than 10 goals” this season.

He attended Mnene High School but ended up at Guinea Fowl, one of the highly reputed schools in the Midlands, courtesy of football.

“I went for the Under-16 trials in 2017 and coach Joe Bekerai noticed my talent and chose me out of many players who attended the auditions.

“I was then moved to Guinea Fowl where I did my Form Three to Lower Six.

“Then I went to Zvishavane High.”

FC Platinum have a partnership with Guinea Fowl, who incubate the club’s junior players.

From being a ball boy during FC Platinum’s matches, Ngwenya has risen to become one of the most feared strikers in the top-flight.

“I believe coach Mapeza was sent by God to carry me through my career because I never thought I would line-up with players like Gift Bello, Silas Songani and Petros Mhari.

“When I was playing for the club’s Under-17 side, I would also assume the role of ball boy when the senior team was playing. I would admire the senior guys playing for the first team.”

Ngwenya was set to play for FC Platinum’s Under-19 team when a rare opportunity to jump straight into the Premiership side arose.

“Some senior players were injured so coach Mapeza called us to help the seniors train. That is how he picked and signed me for the first team.”

Mapeza thinks Ngwenya has been an integral part of his team’s steady rise.

“Thando has been doing very well and for him to also get the Player of the Month award for May is good. He really deserved it.

“Those four goals he scored during the month helped us a lot as we went unbeaten,” Mapeza told The Sunday Mail Sport.

“He is still young; he has got so much potential. What’s important for him is to keep working hard and keep his feet on the ground.”

The gaffer also shed light on his youth project.

“In football, if you are going to start a project, you need to have belief, and if it wasn’t for us believing in this project, I don’t think we would be where we are today,” he said.

“So, it wasn’t easy but I think we had massive support from our fans. They really understand where we are coming from and there was not a single day you heard them booing the players or the technical team.

“It’s obvious some people were not happy that some senior players left. It was a huge challenge for us as the defending champions but at the end of the day it was all about self-belief.”

The former Warriors captain made his Premier Soccer League debut with Darryn T at the age of 20 in the early 1990s.

He benefitted from Wieslaw Grabowski’s trust in talented young players.

“We need to give these youngsters an opportunity to play football.

“For them to really understand the Premier League, they need to play football and that’s what I have been doing and I will keep doing that. “We don’t have any pressure at the moment; what we want is for the youngsters to keep learning and get proper guidance from senior players like Bello, William Stima, Petros (Mhari) and Mbweti (Gift).

“We still have more youngsters within our ranks and I think it’s just a matter of time.

“By end of the season, we would have introduced two or three more new youngsters.”

Share This: