The Sunday News
Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
A DETERMINATION to play first team football for Highlanders FC saw a focused Tendai Ndlovu trace his roots back to the Bulawayo-based giants early this year and try his “luck”.
Growing up playing in the Highlanders’ juniors, it had always been Ndlovu’s dream to don the black and white stripe at the highest level but his dream was derailed when he was offloaded from the seniors in 2012, where he had played a cameo role struggling to command a first team jersey.
After nursing disappointment and while playing for other local teams, Ndlovu, also known as Rock, Mampintsha or Tindo, said after being in the “wilderness” for three years during which time he played for Bulawayo Chiefs, Black boots and Bulawayo City, he felt the time was ripe to go and try his luck at Highlanders and attended trials at the beginning of the year.
“I had signed a one-year contract with Bulawayo City last year and when it ended I felt it was time to go back to Bosso, I just had faith I could make it into the team, I was determined to make it and just told myself nothing can stop me,” he said.
However, he says he never envisaged becoming the backbone in the Highlanders defence together with Peter Mudhuwa building a fortress.
Their partnership has steadied the Bosso defence bringing some stability and keeping many strikers at bay.
His exploits in the league have not gone unnoticed and has been rewarded with a call up to the national team by coach, Kalisto Pasuwa albeit for a friendly against Zambia.
“I am glad my hard work is being seen out there and it is something I am happy about considering, it is my first year playing regularly in the top flight.
“I hope this is the beginning of a long journey with my flirtation with the national team,” said Mampintsha.
Ndlovu began his football journey at Helemu Primary School in Njube suburb before joining Highlanders juniors where he rose through the ranks with the likes of Highlanders goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda, Joel Ngodzo graduating to the senior team in 2009. He said it was inspiring finding himself in the same team with several “heroes” that included Richard Choruma, Johannes Ngodzo, Gift Lunga and Gilbert Banda among others.
However it was not an easy ride for Ndlovu who found himself sidelined from Bosso in 2012 and had to look for a new team.
The 27-year-old moved to Chiefs where they won promotion into the Premiership but there was a swap with Bantu Rovers as the club administration felt they were not financially ready to play in the top tier league.
He then moved to Blackboots before joining Bulawayo City last year which was promoted to the Premier Soccer League.
Ndlovu attributed his good performances to having learnt his lesson early when Highlanders lost to FC Platinum in their second game, a match he named as his worst.
He said it was a match to forget as defensive blunders gave the game away but was glad he used it as a lesson and came back rejuvenated and learnt that he had to be on his toes throughout each and every match.
Scoring against Dynamos in the second leg at Barbourfields also brought him delight, saying after communicating with his partner, Mudhuwa, they resolved to play a hand in their nemesis’ fall.
“We were both not there in the first leg when we won in Harare and told ourselves we have to work for this win and Peter encouraged me to get into the fray when Erick (Mudzingwa) was taking a corner kick and I notched it in.
“A few minutes later, Peter was in the thick of things and set up Ralph (Matema) for the winner,” said the former Njube High School pupil.
Ndlovu attributed the central back pair’s good performances they have developed over time to a telepathic relationship they have developed adding spending time together outside the pitch has made cemented and solidified their partnership.
He said he was aiming higher and believes he still has it in him to attract foreign interest.
Ndlovu said although Highlanders’ championship hopes suffered a big dent when they lost to Tsholotsho last week, there is still belief in the team things can turn around and they would be focusing on winning their two remaining matches and hope Caps and FC Platinum, whom they face in the next match, slip.
Rock, who grew up in Njube, turned to soccer as difficult circumstances at home forced him to eke out a living soon after completing his O-levels.
He was raised by a struggling single mother and he had to quickly find a way to earn a living and assist at home after losing his father when he was 10.
Outside football, Rock said he is a movie fanatic and is an indoors person who occasionally drinks during the off-season.