Methembe Ndlovu talks about his football journey

21 Apr, 2024 - 00:04 0 Views
Methembe Ndlovu talks about his football journey

The Sunday News

Lovemore Dube

METHEMBE Ndlovu and a couple of guys last week met a number of former Highlanders players in the United States to appreciate the man who facilitated their scholarships, Ilan Elkaim.

Elkaim who grew up and owned businesses in Bulawayo was the man behind scholarship opportunities for many, a majority of them from Highlanders Football Club, among them Methembe, Mubariki Mamba Chisoni, Thubelihle Nkomazana, Mkhokheli Dube, Joseph Ngwenya, Nkululeko Moyo, Wayne Albertyn, Thabani Moyo, Tawanda Kaseke, Tapiwa Kaseke and Tawanda Chitapa.

Describing what the former players did for him, Elkaim said: “I feel wonderfully satisfied by all the people. The first was Methembe Ndlovu. The inspiration was based on my perception that I could help the guys who would probably never have been able to afford such an education, it would be a tremendously satisfying thing to do. I am gratified by all their stories.”

It was time to catch up and update each other how life panned out for each one of them as some chose to pursue careers away from football after graduation.

Ngwenya and Dube went on to play in the Major Soccer League (MSL) with the former getting into the books of Bayern Munich. Radio personality Ezra “Tshisa” Sibanda was flown to be director of ceremony at the occasion. Methembe this week took time to reflect on his life and football journey.

“There were many people involved in my move to the US and I am sure I will not be able to mention everyone here. But they include Thabisa Dube who allowed me to leave TD Cosmos where my coach was Thabani Mnkantjo to join Highlanders juniors Under-14s.

“At Highlanders the legendary Ali ‘Baba’ Dube was a great influence who played a big role in my development. Ultimately, when the opportunity for a college scholarship came he recommended me to Malcolm King who was friends with Bobby Clark as a deserving scholar athlete. Malcolm King and Ilan Elkaim were the key architects of the move as they handled all the logistics and kindly provided facilities for phone calls, arranging and paying for the entrance examinations as well as the air ticket. Tommy Clark, Andrew Shue and Mike Sanchez were great mentors who supported my preparation for the SAT entrance examinations.

“Bobby Clark was the coach who believed in me and selected me to join his college team. But locally a lot of coaches, managers and senior players played a role in my development,” said an appreciative Methembe. Bobby was Highlanders coach in 1983 and promoted several youngsters like Netsai Moyo and the late Mercedes Sibanda.

Methembe said there was also the family influence where Kaynot Luphahla and Mduduzi Mpande both his uncles, his older brother Thabani who he looked up to and was a great athlete, played a role in the grooming of his character on and off the field.

He also spoke highly of Bosso legend Lawrence Phiri who was the club manager when he was doing his A-levels at Milton High School.

“Phiri was my first boss as I interned for him when he was Highlanders manager and I was doing my A-levels. I used to work in the Highlanders office during school holidays and got to watch and learn how the system worked and learned a lot from watching how he managed complex situations,” said Methembe.

He said Phiri was the first person to show him how to use a computer.

Once promoted to the first team Methembe said Barry Daka and Cosmas Zulu were very supportive.

“Roy Barretto gave me my first start in the first team when I was still doing my A-levels and really believed in me. Majuta Mpofu was also someone who gave me a lot of confidence when he coached me in the youth national teams though he used to tease me by saying ‘you are too simple, why ungela ma tricks njengo Makheyi?’ ”

“But when game time came he would give me confidence saying ‘ngeke sidliwe wena ukhona,” said Methembe.

He acknowledged that once abroad it was hard to adapt to the culture and climate.

“Bobby Clark and his wife Bette really looked after me and I was well received by the team. Bobby Clark is an exceptional coach, leader and human being. Beyond soccer coaching, I learned a lot about leadership and humanity from him. I have taken a little bit from each of the coaches I have played for, but Coach Clark is the one who inspired me to become a coach,” he said.

While playing for him, Bobby would take Methembe to coaching clinics in the community working with young players.

“My role was to help demonstrate for the young players, but I was watching all the time how he taught the game. I had always wanted to be a teacher because both my parents were teachers and he crystallised for me that coaching is just another word for teaching.

“That is when I first thought of possibly having a career as a coach. There were other leadership figures at the club that supported me and gave me encouragement when I was transitioning from the junior team to the seniors, such as Ndumiso Gumede, Silas Ndlovu, Nkululeko Mabhena, Kenny Ndebele, Shadreck Sibanda and Vana Hlabangana. There are too many to mention including those I worked with at the office such as Sis Sme who were all very supportive of me,” said Methembe.

He spoke highly of the senior players and the support they rendered to him when he came through.

He is a celebrated hero at Highlanders, having won the league championship as a player in 1993 and the last coach to win it in 2006.

Since then a number of coaches have failed to deliver to Emagumeni the prized trophy. Senior players at the time were Boy Ndlovu, Rahman Gumbo, Mercedes Sibanda, Cleopas Dlodlo, Madinda Ndlovu, Dumisani Nyoni, Makwinji Soma-Phiri, Amini Soma-Phiri and Adam Ndlovu. His age mates were Lovemore Ncube, Thabani Moyo, Wayne Albertyn, Craig Payne, Makheyi Nyathi, Benjamin Konjera, Musa Masango and Gift Lunga (Senior).

He recalls Amini Soma-Phiri always insisting that he goes home straight. He would pick him up after training and drop him home straight so that he does not “fool around” in Mzilikazi suburb.

He remembers with a fond memory a pair of football boots brought from Germany by Willard Khumalo and passed on to him by Kainot Luphahla.

Methembe is now coaching in the US and is also remembered for his Bantu Rovers project that produced players who have made a mark in the country and beyond the borders, among them Kuda Mahachi, Teenage Hadebe and Marvellous Nakamba.

What Methembe and colleagues did was commendable to meet and sing their praises of their benefactor while he lived.

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