The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWEAN football legend, Peter Ndlovu has described the late educationist Cuthbert Chiromo as a pillar of strength that guided him through the highs and lows of his illustrious career, playing a desperately needed fatherly role is his life, particularly at the start of his career.
Chiromo, who collapsed and died last week while in his car, was buried at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo yesterday. Chiromo spent close to two decades at Mzilikazi High School, having joined in 1985 where he was the school’s head until 2002 when he left to head a private school, St Thomas Aquinas. He was in charge of the private school for a solid 19 years before retirement in 2021.
In an interview on the sidelines of a funeral service for Chiromo at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Kumalo suburb, Ndlovu, a Mzilikazi High alumnus, told Sunday News Sport that after discovering that his young prodigy did not have a father, Chiromo took it upon himself to occupy the vacant role in the then young promising footballer’s life. Ndlovu’s father passed on when he was young.
“He was like a father to me because some of us grew up without that guidance. Imagine, when I went to Mzilikazi, the first thing that he asked was, how’s your family? I replied and told him that I don’t have a father and he said No, I am your father. So really, I learnt from that,” he said. Ndlovu said Chiromo had maintained a presence in his life even after he left Mzilikazi High and although he went on to scale dizzy heights in England, he never lost touch with Chiromo who acted as his compass whenever he needed direction.
“Any relationship has got ups and downs but to me and him it was just ups because as soon as he saw my quality, he recommended me to the Highlanders senior team. He had been my pillar of strength and my line of guidance, and where I am and what I have done would have never happened without his guidance. Everything that I did was through him. Everything that I did was because of him and he was there for me throughout my life and I appreciate it. It is sad that he is no more and we really don’t know who is going to guide us now,” he said.
Ndlovu said he felt like a part of the Chiromo family and he would remain in their lives even beyond the death of Chiromo.
“Sometimes when we express what is inside, people just really don’t see what we feel. Right now, it’s fine we can go to the family and console and comfort them but we really don’t see what’s inside their hearts to really see what they feel. I want to thank umdala Chiromo for what he has done for me but I also want to say thank you on behalf of others whose hearts he touched. At the moment it’s a sad day and there will be time to talk about a lot of things. To his family, I just want them to know that we are there for them and we will be forever and ever. We want God to put a healing upon them and they’re not alone because we are family,” he said.
A die-hard Liverpool fan, Ndlovu said he was willing to forsake club allegiances for this season in the hope that Chiromo’s beloved Arsenal would lift this year’s English Premiership. On Friday, former Arsenal star and now juniors coach Jack Wilshere sent a condolence message to the Chiromo family on behalf of the club.
“A man of his calibre always let his feelings out. You can imagine how many kids around in England were under him at school. For a team like Arsenal to send him off with a few words means that he was even bigger than what he thought. If things like that are coming from such an institution you can imagine what messages he has received from places like Canada and his students elsewhere around the world. We really appreciate and celebrate his life. Some of us are really die-hard Liverpool fans but because of what he has done for us, you just wish that they carry on. If you look at his team, Arsenal, they are doing well and you just wish that wherever he is, if they win the championship, he can say that his team has done it for him. That would be great,” the Zimbabwean legend said, now manager for South Africa giants Mamelodi Sundowns.
Ndlovu’s older brother, Marko Dube, said Chiromo had become a father-like figure to the entire family.
“He was like a father in our family. I can say he bred Peter Ndlovu and from the time that he discovered him, we became so close that we virtually became one family. We ended up giving him all major responsibilities like the running of the Peter Ndlovu tournaments during the old days. To me and the family, he was an icon,” he said.
Bosso legend, Douglas “British” Mloyi said Chiromo was a man who possessed the Midas touch and had managed to make Mzilikazi a conveyor belt of talent for Highlanders and other local clubs during his time at the institution.
“He was a sporting guy and whatever he touched turned to gold. His skills uplifted a lot of young boys and while it might have been too late for him to work with some of us, most of the boys that did well went through his hands. The way he handled our young boys, means this is a big loss for the Bosso family and one thing that people don’t realise is that while he groomed a lot of boys for the club, there was not enough space for all of them at Highlanders so a lot of players went to other clubs as well. So, this is a loss for the whole country,” he said. Chiromo (75), is survived by his wife, children and grand children. — @BruciEEye