That is the chequered story of Njabulo “JB” Ncube, the Castle Lager premiership’s current leading goal scorer.
With five goals to his credit and currently topping the chart together with CAPS United’s Simba Sithole, Ncube’s career reflects the good, the bad and the ugly.
The former Zimbabwe youth international was at one time rated as one of the most feared strikers on the domestic soccer scene, coming as the second best top goal scorer in 2004.
Few can afford to forget that “train locomotion” celebration that JB would perform every time he found the target, while playing for modest side Railstars in the 2004 season.
Week after week, fans witnessed that celebration and the 15-goal tally saw him falling three short of the eventual golden boot winner Leonard Tsipa, but that achievement earned him a place on the country’s 11 best players for the 2004 season. Modest side Railstars finished 10 that season — a relatively good achievement by their standards.
With that feat, JB announced his arrival and many clubs jostled for his signature with a number of big teams such as Highlanders and Dynamos coming into contention.
Ambitious side Motor Action eventually won the battle after forking out a fortune of nearly $55 million (Zimbabwe dollars) that included a house in Bulawayo for the stocky striker.
However, the then braided JB, who now spots a chisekop and a goatie became the biggest flop in the 2005 season.
“I have to be honest with you. I do not think I was ready to leave Bulawayo then. I had never lived anywhere else and that change of environment really affected me.
“The other thing was that I did not look after my body during the off-season and went into the new season with excess fat. I put myself under pressure trying to justify the price that had been paid to Railstars FC for my signature,” said the Mzilikazi-born striker.
He, however, does not regret his move to Harare.
“I would like to thank Mr Eric Rosen for giving me a chance to see the other side of life. In Harare I saw how other players survived and that helped me a lot. I also got a chance to own a house,” he said.
However, as is the case with most soccer players when it comes to investment, JB sold the house that Rosen bought for him opting to stay at his mother’s home.
Problems Forced JB to sell the house
Njabulo Ncube said problems at home forced him to sell the house that Rosen had bought him.
“I had some problems at home and that is why we decided to sell the house. I am OK now as I am staying at my mother’s home and my mother is staying at a house the church gave to her,” he said. Ncube’s mother is a pastor.
Upon failing to make it in Harare, JB came back to Railstars and as misfortune seemed to follow, had another unhappy stay that saw his side being relegated.
“That was something else bra (brother). I packed my bags to Masvingo but only stayed there for six months,” he said.
JB’s fairytale in South Africa
In 2008, JB quit football and joined the great trek to Johannesburg, South Africa where, like many before him, he was to discover that all that glitters is not gold after failing to benefit from that country’s hosting of the World Cup as had been perceived.
In the “City of Gold” JB struggled to get employment and managed to work at a construction company as a general hand.
“Things were tight that time my brother. It was that time when Zimbabwean life was really hard so I had no option. I worked in South Africa until March 2010 when I realised that I had had enough. In South Africa, there is too much food, but one will never develop,” he said.
Upon his return JB tried his luck with his uncles’ favourite team Highlanders, but his efforts were in vain.
“I grew up in the care of my grandparents — the Ncubes — who raised me after my biological father Richard Bvunzawabaya went back to Mutare where we originate. These people have always had a desire to see me in Bosso colours.
“So when I came back I trained with the team with a view to joining them, but Mahomed Fathi (then Highlanders coach) told me that I was too fat.
“The current Highlanders coach Mkhuphali Masuku then advised me to rejoin Railstars in Division One and I listened to him. I became the league’s top goal scorer and this season I joined Bosso.
“This has been my uncles’ dream and I am happy to have fulfilled it,” he said.
But what is the secret behind his revival?
“It is just self belief my brother. I am 29 at the moment and I survive on playing football. I might have made mistakes in the past, for not looking after my body but I will never do that again.
“I am happy that everyone at Highlanders is supporting me and I promise Bosso fans more goals will come. I owe a lot to this region as they raised me after my father Richard Bvunzawabaya went back to Mutare,” he said.