The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
WHEN Admos Ncube first met Prince Dube, he remembers how he was such a tiny little boy that he was scared to field him in his Shooting Stars team.
Ncube got to know about Dube through his son Emmerson who told his father about the small but talented lad in 2012 when the two boys were learning together at Somvubu High School in rural Inyathi, Matabeleland North province.
Sunday News tracked down Ncube to his home at Badala Business Centre in Inyathi and he got to share how he met Dube, who just had a fruitful season with Azam in Tanzania where he scored 14 league goals to finish third in the race for the Golden Boot.
Ncube said he asked his son to bring Dube to him so he could see if he could draft him into Shooting Stars, a social soccer team that plays in the Inyathi Football League. The former referee was sceptical about fielding the then 15-year-old against bigger boys. On the day of the match Dube surprised Ncube by scoring three goals as Shooting Stars, a team formed in 2009 won the friendly fixture 3-0.
“My son Emmerson came to me and said there is a boy I learn with called Prince, he is a small boy but is a very good footballer, then I said bring him. We had organised a friendly against Golden Lions, a local police team. When I looked at Prince, he was such a small boy. I then said to him, since we are playing against bigger boys, don’t dribble and don’t mark, just wait to receive the ball. Prince scored three goals in that match and we won 3-0, that’s when I realised that Prince was extremely talented. Prince would go back to Somvubu, we used to give him transport fare before he came to live with us,’’ recalls Ncube.
The former Highlanders striker lived with Ncube’s family for over two years and featured for Shooting Stars part of 2012, the whole of 2013 and 2014. Ncube remembers how in 2014 Dube scored 27 goals for Shooting Stars while Emmerson was a goal behind. Despite all those goals, Shooting Stars still lost out on the league title to Mahlabathini.
Dube ended up at Highlanders after he was first picked from Inyathi to Lobengula Stars (Bulawayo), a division two team then owned by former Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu. Mafu was to later on loan the player to Highlanders, where he played for the Academy team before being promoted to the senior team. Ncube maintains that it was Mafu who scouted Dube from Shooting Stars to Lobengula Stars. And that Mafu then moved with him to Highlanders when he became Bosso coach in 2015.
Dube started off with the Highlanders Academy (now Bosso90) when the team was in the Zimbabwe Football Association Bulawayo Division Two League. He was the top goal scorer with 20 goals when Highlanders Academy finished second to Talen Vision when both teams were promoted to Division One.
“Prince lived with us for from 2012 to 2014 and left 2015. In 2014, Bongani Mafu came to scout for players. He picked Emmerson, Prince and our goalkeeper. Unfortunately, these boys were still at school so we then suggested that they go with him during the holidays. He came and took them to play for Lobengula Stars, whenever they did not have matches in Bulawayo, they would come play for us.
“In 2014, we won so many matches because of Prince. In 2015, when the two boys had finished Form Four, I sat them down in my kitchen and asked them what they wanted to do since I knew they were not academically gifted, all they did was play football. Prince said he wanted to go to Highlanders and I told him to talk to Bongani Mafu,’’ said Ncube.
Sources said because Mafu had been sacked as Highlanders coach before the end of the 2015 season, he decided not to pursue the issue of Dube being a player belonging to his personal club, since that would have appeared like sour grapes. This paved the way for Highlanders to register the player as their junior when he was promoted to the first team for the 2016 season.
“When Prince Dube left Inyathi, he left with Bongani Mafu, Mafu showed me some documents pertaining to Prince belonging to Lobengula Stars, he then loaned him to Highlanders. When I asked Mafu about Prince, he said he could not pursue the matter since he had been fired by Highlanders. He said it would appear as if it was sour grapes, but the person who left Inyathi with Prince was Bongani Mafu, Highlanders never took him from here,’’ Ncube said.
Dube had been taken to Somvubu by a teacher named Mbayimbayi who saw him from Paradise, an annex of the former. Ncube is convinced that the striker mellowed faster when playing for Shooting Stars because he was playing against boys that were way bigger than him.
“Prince matured in our hands because he was playing with big boys, that is why it became easy for him to break into Highlanders because if he had followed the Highlanders junior structures, it would have taken him a long time to make it into the first team. He might have been young but because he was playing with bigger boys here, that is what made him mature faster,’’ said Ncube.
On the position in which Dube excelled while at Shooting Stars, Ncube said he shined more on the wings.
“Prince played attacking number seven, number eleven. He never played as a central striker, he was good coming from the wings and scored lots of goals. His combination with Emmerson was something else.”
Despite Ncube having lived with Dube for over two years, he never met the footballer’s mother with the only time the two have spoken being over the phone. It was in 2015 when Dube had gone to Inyathi to play in a tournament and not informed his mother where he had gone to.
Ncube described Prince as a respectful child who appreciated him more than his own son did during the time he lived with the family.
“Prince was a respectful child to me, he respected me probably more than my own son. When he came to see me at the beginning of 2019, I was impressed with what he did for me, he looked for me, took me into a shop and told me to take whatever I wanted. I was afraid to pick up things but he told me to take whatever I wanted and he paid for everything,’’ reminisced Ncube.
As someone who played a part in grooming the player, Ncube is not happy with him being in Tanzania since he believes the 24-year-old should be playing in the world’s top leagues. Ncube is longing for the day the striker moves to England or Spain.
“I followed his progress in Tanzania, I know he got injured and was sent to South Africa. I know he was the top goal scorer but someone overtook him. I was not happy with him going to Tanzania because the football there is nothing amazing.
My wish is for him to go to big teams in Europe. I even told him that the football he is playing is so competitive. Yes, in Tanzania he is playing so that he stays in shape but Prince is going miles, he is headed far with his football career. My wish is for him to go to Spain or England,’’ Ncube said.
A few know how Dube got to be nicknamed “Mgadafi”, a nickname that he earned while he was still playing for Shooting Stars. According to Ncube, the fans used to call shout “umgade afe” which is loosely translated to mean leaving someone for dead because that is what Dube used to do to his opponents, he used to dribble past defenders leaving them on the floor.
“They were saying umgade afe (leave him for dead), because every time Prince had the ball, he would leave the opponent on the ground. Then it became umgade afe. He got the nickname in 2014 when Shooting Stars were hot, we beat all the teams, we only lost to Mahlabathini. Prince scored 27 goals and Emmerson scored 26 goals. We used to win by three or four goals, the whole team scored 63 goals. Mahlabathini won the league because they beat us home and away, had we beaten them at home, we would have won the league,’’ Ncube reminisced.
However, Shooting Stars despite playing a huge part in grooming Prince, they cannot benefit anything for developing him since they are not affiliated to Zifa as they are a social football club. Ncube used to be a goalkeeper for another Inyathi team, Black Swallows but when he lost his place, a decision was made that he should train as a referee.
He initially did not like the idea to an extent that he ran off to Bulawayo to avoid attending courses. Ncube eventually became a class three referee in 1990 before illness forced him to quit refereeing in 2000 just as he had started handling matches in Bulawayo. He still handles social soccer matches in Inyathi. — Mdawini_29.