Saturday, December 22, 2012

Adam Ndlovu The Great: Rest in Peace

Adam Ndlovu loved football and his country to bits. My first encounter with the football hero was about 20 years ago in Zimbabwe. I was trying my luck as a player at Highlanders FC at the Club House and sessions moved to Nguboyenja grounds sometimes.

Many will remember that Zimbabwe was an African power house during those days of Reinhard Fabisch’s Dream Team. Adam, like other national team players were available for clubs once in a while. Roy Barretto would arrange separate recuperation session for them.

Together with the late Benjamin Nkonjera, the late Mercedes Rambo Sibanda, Rahman Gumbo, Willard Mashinkila Khumalo and his brother Madinda Khathazile, they made the jovial noise at training following their successful exploits in the national team, and we envied them.
Nkonjera was known as a practical joker and very much the most vocal, rivaling Rambo and Mashinkila. Rahman and Adam always wore their national team jerseys at training. What made Adamski a cut among that crop, not even Nkonjera caught him with his pants down. He wore the national team jersey with honour and respect, and made sure everybody called him the way he wanted, including Makanaky.

Adam wanted to be known as ‘The Nation’s Number 9’ (Unamba 9 wesizwe) That is the only way he would respond to anybody – not Adamski, Mirro or even Mr Ndlovu. Benjie would try to pull all the stunts and sing and shout. Not until he said the ‘code’ – The number 9 of the country. This is not to say there were no prouder players, but I am still to see that kind of passion anywhere.

His national caps and records are everywhere on the Internet for all to see, but it is the things like these that one does not get to see or hear often that can make one respect the man.

I was a novice until he left for overseas, and Adam came to complete his career in his home country and I happened to meet him in his home country, again. This time I had just completed my tenure at Highlanders FC as a Technical Advisor following the ill-fated Africa Champions League debacle against Young Africans of Tanzania.

He was closely attached to Stuart Murisa and every time I attended the late Eddie May’s training sessions, we drove together and he dropped me ‘home’ in Famona. He would propose a visit to Mater Dei hospital in the days the late Mrs Editor Ngwenya-Sibanda was hospitalized (– Ernest Maphepha Sibanda’s wife.)

Instead of taking me home he would invite me for coffee at Haefellis CafĂ© or his Selbourne Park dwelling. In all this, he acted with exceptional quality of a very mature statesman. Murisa was a talkative and jocular person who liked to tease Adam. In most of his responses, Adam would insist that he was ‘a man of class’.

I must say that I was amazed at his ability to recognize me at the second meeting when he came from overseas. Remember I was about 13th in the ranking of being the Bosso keeper before he left for overseas. I was a nobody.

At the time he came to South Africa playing for Moroka Swallows, we met when they played Bidvest Wits at the campus. He asked me if I cared joining Swallows. He introduced me to their officials who had a post in the development side. I was not prepared to coach then, let alone a development side.

‘The Nation’s Number 9’ did not rest, connecting me to his then agent, Gordon Ndlovu, who orchestrated his move to Dynamos. Gordon also tried his best in moving me to Alex United which did not materialize. We kept contact with Adam and he appraised me on some of the things he did on the field of play.

All this proved the humility of Adam Ndlovu - The Great. You will never find a humbler person. He was a sensitive giant and lived a very good life. It amazed me the respect he gave someone like myself, not because it was me, but he did that to all who were around him. He was an amazing character, strong and true.

We will miss you Adam Ndlovu and may your good soul rest in eternal peace.

Adam Ndlovu’s remains will be laid to rest in his home town of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The former football great, passed on following a car accident near Victoria Falls and his brother, Peter Ndlovu sustained serious injuries.