ON the road trip from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls on Thursday, as the world celebrated Christmas Day, it was impossible not to think about that tragic journey which the great Adam Ndlovu undertook, for the last time, in a life that was cruelly cut short.
A life as a footballer whose shooting boots, and the goals they supplied with regularity, evolved from representing a football club, and a city with an eternal romantic attachment to this team, to a national team, a national dream and an entire nation.
As a key member of the Dream Team, Adamski carried a heavy burden of responsibility on his shoulders, every time he wore that green and gold jersey, to deliver goals for a nation that now believed we were a special breed of footballers, just like those fellows from the north of the continent.
And, on many occasions, he delivered.
Like that goal against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the cauldron of Yaounde, 21 years ago, which gave us hope, that we could clear the final hurdle of the 90 minutes, which stood between us and a place at the ’94 World Cup finals, in the United States.
Sadly, we lost that game 1-3, to a home team that had the powerful machinery of match officials aiding their cause, something that made Reinhard Fabisch explode in anger, waving some dollars in the direction of the referees, in a defining image that sent the message that they had been bought to influence the cause of the Indomitable Lions.
Of course, Fabisch knew there would be consequences, and the subsequent one-year ban that he received from the CAF leadership, endorsed by FIFA, for his act that day in Yaounde, condemned as an assault on the integrity of the game, effectively marked the beginning of the end of his beautiful romance with the Dream Team.
And the beginning of the end of a golden period of an adventure, in Africa, for the German tactician, and although he would, in later years, take Benin to the Nations Cup finals, there was no doubt that his Finest Hour had come with his Dream Team and, in Yaounde in ’93, they destroyed it.
Fabisch must have taken his reservations about the way African football wasn’t a level playing field, titled in favour of the traditional heavyweights, into his grave, after losing his battle with cancer six years ago.
But, for all his globe-trotting, it’s very likely that the Warriors, the Dream Team that he created from nothing into an irresistible force that stood toe-to-toe with the biggest foot giants in the continent and beat a number of them, was the one that occupied a very special place in his heart.
“What I remember most of the Dream Team in the early nineties is that they seemed to me to have been a cult of some sort that almost everyone wanted to be a part of,” his wife Chawada told The Saturday Herald in her adopted home, just outside Hamburg, in the north of Germany, three years ago. “And, of course, the leader of this group was a very charismatic man by the name of Reinhard Fabisch who, together with his 22 disciples, had the ability to gather over 50 000 people on a weekend into a stadium and entertain them for 90 minutes.
“REINHARD ALWAYS TOLD ME THAT IT WAS THE BEST COMBINATION OF PLAYERS HE EVER HAD AS A COACH, SO THAT HIS JOB WAS THAT MUCH EASIER TO DO BECAUSE HIS TASK WAS SIMPLY TO PLAY A STRATEGIC SYSTEM WITH HIGHLY MOTIVATED AND TALENTED PLAYERS.”
Adamski was one of those players, the supermen who made a nation believe, who almost delivered a World Cup appearance ticket, who made a country find immense pride in its identity and, as Chawada noted, the players and their coach always delivered.
“It worked, time and time again, over 11 matches without a single defeat.”
Refreshingly, I am not the only one who still remembers Adam Ndlovu, this good footballer who, at some point in his career, even forced Sir Alex Ferguson to invite him for trials at Manchester United as the great Scot looked for that forward who would provide the X-Factor to help his Red Devils end a 26-year-wait for a league title.
“Today marks exactly two years since Adam ‘Adamski’ Ndlovu departed from this earth for higher calling,” Faith Silandulo Dube noted.
“Everyone lost out — the family lost a son, brother, uncle, father etc. Some lost a friend, coach, legend, neighbour. We all lost out. I have had an opportunity to meet football players (former and current) from all over the world but I have never met someone so humble like Adamski.
“The large turnout of people, in their thousands, during the funeral wake spoke volumes of the legendary and heroic stature of Adamski.
“People decide their heroes in their own ways and I believe Adamski is a hero and we will continue to celebrate his life forever.”
On Thursday, as I drove past the very place, where the accident that took Adamski’s life occurred, I could not help it but see him again, that charming smile that never faded from a handsome face crafted to make you feel warm, as if he was there again, back in the living years, wanting to say something to me, just as was always the case when we met over the course of our numerous interactions.
I was also lost for words, what could I say really — the Warriors had failed to make it to the Nations Cup finals once again, even suffering the embarrassment of losing in the preliminary round of the qualifiers this time around, the team had been dissolved once again, we didn’t even have a coach to take care of the team?
Our football had undergone a dramatic change, in the past two years, the dominant characters were those people in the boardroom and not people on the field, as was the case when Adam and his Dream Team were entertaining us, chances are he would have been the Highlanders’ head coach now, if fate hadn’t dealt him a cruel blow and, oh by the way, the Soccer Stars of the Year, once again, provoked a lot of controversy.
SOCCER STAR OF THE YEAR CONTROVERSY
Adamski did not win the Soccer Star of the Year award in his football career but he is in illustrious company because neither did Joel Shambo, Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, Sunday and Misheck Chidzambwa, Oliver Kateya, Friday Phiri, Jimmy Mbewe, Benjamin Nkonjera, John Phiri, Onias Musana, Robert Godoka, Joseph Zulu, Ebson “Sugar” Muguyo, Victor Mapanda, Josiah Nxumalo, Barry Daka, Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, Nyaro Mumba, to name but a few.
There was a time when winning the Soccer Star of the Year award, in our football, represented the fulfilment of greatness, when there was universal acknowledgement across the country that those who won this award where the crème-de-le-crème of our national game, when one of the reasons that people would use, to support their argument that George Shaya is the greatest footballer of all-time in our country, was just to mention that he won the Soccer Star of the Year award five times.
Given the purity that represented this award, back then, such an argument would earn widespread respect as having the credibility to back the reason why those guys who were putting it forward, to support why they believed Shaya was the greatest, were making a lot of sense.
The same guys would then say they believed Peter Ndlovu was the second greatest footballer of all-time, to emerge in our country, and they would say he won the Soccer Star of the Year award, as a mere 17-year-old schoolboy in 1990 and won the award again, the following year, when he played just about half the season.
Others would, however, argue that Peter is, indeed, the greatest of all-time and the Soccer Star of the Year would feature prominently in their argument, with this group, suggesting that the Flying Elephant was unique and would have won the award more than five times if, like Shaya, he had spent all his career in this country rather than get poached, at the age of 18, to play in England where they even suggested that he was the best thing to emerge in their Premiership after George Best.
I have my reasons why I belong to the Peter Ndlovu group, even if it doesn’t mean that we are the ones who are right, and I have always argued with my friends that while King Peter ticks all the boxes, especially after his success story with the Warriors where he became our most successful skipper, it’s unfair to use that against Shaya simply because his best moments came at a time when Rhodesia was an outcast of the international football family.
Others quickly say if Shaya was as good as those who back him, Charles “CNN” Mabika religiously belongs to this group, then why did the Portuguese buy Freddie Mkwesha, instead of the Mastermind, at a time when his talent, just like a 17-year-old Peter in 1990, should have been shining for everyone to see?
There is another group, which backs Moses Chunga, as the greatest of all-time, and they will tell you that Bambo was so good Nottingham Forest, at a time when this club was powerful enough to be European champions, asked him to go for trials and, if you could catch the eye of legendary coach Brian Clough, then it means that you were very, very special.
At a time when Africa’s greatest players spent their time on the continent, given that the doors to Europe were not as wide open then as they are now, Chunga walked into a Belgian team, became its skipper and left memories to last a life-time they feted him like a king when he paid them a visit recently.
Had Bambo not been unfortunate with injuries, his disciples argue, he would have scaled heights that few footballers, not only in African but world football, would have touched.
They say if he had passed the ball, when ordered to do so by Brian Clough, rather than dribble the entire opposition, at a training session, to score a spectacular goal, he would have made it into English football, playing for a team that had been European champions a few years back, and the rest would have been history.
Of course, Bambo won the Soccer Star of the Year once but we know that the other year he was just elbowed out, because of disciplinary issues, and if he had stayed around in the domestic Premiership, rather than go to Belgium to start a new career at the age of 21, chances are that he would have won this award on numerous occasions.
While the Soccer Star of the Year, back then, was the crowning of a player who would join an elite club of special footballers in this country, one now gets the feeling that those who are winning it now, especially since the turn of the millennium, don’t belong to those supermen and, among the blind, we are just picking the one-eyed guys to be the king.
Dennis Dauda, Tawanda Muparati, Denver Mukamba, Washington Arubi, Charles Sibanda, Ramson Zhuwawo, Evans Chikwaikwai, Murape Murape, Clemence Matawu. Joseph Kamwendo, Cephas Chimedza, Energy Murambadoro, Dazzy Kapenya and Maxwell Dube are fine footballers but the brutal truth is that they are at a certain level lower than the greats whose careers were defined by winning the Soccer Star of the Year award.
We could even say that, even in this post-millennium group, there are different levels of finesse, maybe two or three levels, and the tragedy is that the crop from where the winner is being chosen is getting poorer by the year because Cephas and Joseph were picked at a time when there were better footballers, from which to choose to winner, than was the case last year and has been the case this year.
Imagine if a guy like Adamski had played on the domestic scene this year, and not sparkled in the year that Agent Sawu was banging in goals both for the Dream Team and Zimbabwe Saints, we wouldn’t be having all this controversy about who should be the Soccer Star of the Year.
Sharuko On Saturday Awards For The 2014 Football Season
Footballer of the Year — AUBREY CHIRWA
The Zambian youth international didn’t even make the top XI players, in the Soccer Stars of the Year selection process, but those who closely followed this Zambian youth international’s performance for FC Platinum, in the just ended season, will tell you that he was simply sensational and, sadly, he played for a team that didn’t attract a lot of attention, for much of the first half of the season, and when the spotlight fell on them, in the second half, much of it was on their coach Norman Mapeza and how he worked his magic.
Coach of the Year — TAURAI MANGWIRO
It’s sad that this man’s difficult task, to revive a Green Machine that would complete the entire season unbeaten at home, guide them to more points than they have ever harvested in nine years, make them win more games this season than in any other campaign since they were champions and reduce the gap between them and the champions from 18 points in 2010, 15 points in 2011, 30 points in 2012 to just four points this year, isn’t appreciated — even by some of those that he was serving.
Mangwiro comes through as the classic subject of Leonard Zhakata’s hit-song, Nhamodzenyika, and the lyrics suit him well.
“Ukazotora ropa rangu baba vako uchazokungura, uchazodemba
“Uchaona kuti uchavenyore kuvenga nyangwe unatseseyi hakuna anozviona
“Asi chitsive hatidi nyangwe zvikurwadze sei ungazodzivirira makomborero kubva kumatenga.”
Given the challenges they faced in their camp, where financial issues marred their campaign at crucial stages of the championship, one can only imagine what would have been case if he had the tranquility, and financial muscle, of his rivals.
Special Mention — Callisto Pasuwa and Saul Chaminuka
To win a fourth straight league title, something being done for the first time in the 52-year history of the domestic Premiership, was special but there was an expectation, after the foundation that Pasuwa had built, that his Glamour Boys would deliver and, after Week 29, the plan almost went horribly wrong.
For Saul, to bring together a group of players to play for a team that was coming from Division One, where Jostein Mathuthu had taken them into the Premiership, and turn them into such a competitive team, even when they didn’t have a home, was something remarkable but, crucially, he choked when it mattered most.
A lot of people have gone to town about this homeless team, saying what they did was special, but the same people forget that How Mine have been playing without a home, for two years now, but at the end of last year they even qualified to play in the CAF Confederation Cup.
Game of the Season — ZPC Kariba vs CAPS United
The five-goal thriller between ZPC Kariba and CAPS United, in the final game of the season at Gwanzura, was a blockbuster of an encounter, given what was at stake, and to produce five-goals, including two beautiful ones by Moses Makanje and Honey Chimutimunzeve, and a great goalkeeping performance by Tafadzwa Dube, was just special.
Team of the Season — DYNAMOS
You have to give it to the champions for making it four-in-a-row, in terms of the league titles, in a season in which, among the top eight teams, they only scored more goals than two teams — Chicken Inn and How Mine.
In a game where strikers win you matches and defences win you championships, where they were tested once again after losing the back-to-back ties to ZPC Kariba, where they didn’t have an outstanding individual, where a revitalised CAPS United offered them better opposition, where their elimination from the Champions League came via a disputed penalty from the team that would eventually qualify for the final of the tournament, the Glamour Boys, as a team, wins this award.
Administrator of the Year — WILLARD MANYENGAVANA
The ZIFA Northern Region chairman branded his league, bringing in sponsors left, right and centre and he had a good team to work with as vice-chairman, Martin Kweza, and secretary-general Sweeney Mushonga also worked tirelessly throughout the year.
Best wishes Zimbabwe as we inch closer to a new year.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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