HIGHLANDERS’ legend Madinda Ndlovu has been credited for assembling formidable squads that have risen to rack up silverware for the Bulawayo giants, further cementing his legendary status at the club that nurtured him into one of the best players in the country in the 1980s.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
In the mid-1990s when he took over as head coach of the club for the first time, he was responsible for the recruitment of players who went on to achieve tremendous success at the club.
Khathazile, as Ndlovu was popularly known in his playing days enlisted the services of a number of young players that included Desderio “Dazzy” Kapenya, Thulani “Biya” Ncube, Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu, Gift Lunga Jnr, Melusi Sibanda, Melusi Ndebele, Dumaza Dube, Jones Mulenga and Kelvin Kaindu, Charles Chilufya and Richard Choruma, among others.
Ironically, Madinda did not win any silverware for Highlanders but most of the players that he had recruited went on to clinch the league title four times in a row, in 1999 and 2000 under Rahman Gumbo and in 2001 and 2002 under the late Briton Eddie May.
After May, Highlanders enlisted the services of the late Zambian Dick Chama and Ndlovu was brought back once more in 2005 to assemble another squad that won Bosso’s last league championship crown in 2006 under Methembe Ndlovu.
That outfit which included Zimbabwe internationals Honour Gombami and Vusa Nyoni, the likes of Ralph Matema, Gilbert Banda, brothers Johannes and Zephaniah Ngodzo, Danisa Phiri, Master Masiku and goalkeeper Washington Arubi, among others.
After 11 years of league title drought with coaches that included Egyptian Mohamed Fathi, Mkhuphali Masuku, Rueben Tsengwa, Kelvin Kaindu, Mark Mathe, Bongani Mafu and former players Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu and Amini Soma-Phiri, the charismatic Ndlovu has been brought to the fore once again.
Ndlovu, now back after a stint in Botswana where he made history by becoming the only coach to win three back-to-back league titles is, however, quick to warn the club’s demanding fans not to expect instant success.
Instead, he says his initial target is to ensure the club rediscovers its identity and the players start playing an exciting brand football which was popular with the club’s fans.
“I have been appointed to be the technical manager of Highlanders with a view to bring fresh and young blood into the team and bring back the lost glory to the team,” Ndlovu told The Sports Hub in an interview last week.
“I know that it is not going to be an easy thing to do, but I think it is doable. That is what our focus is on; to try and put together a formidable side that will bring back the masses of the Highlanders’ supporters back to the stadium,” Ndlovu says.
Ndlovu, however, said for that to be possible, it was important for the club to retain most of its junior players.
He starts with a relatively young squad having discarded the veteran players in the squad in the mould of Matema, Erick Mudzingwa, Simon Munawa, Tendai Ngulube and Allen Gahadzikwa, who are trying their luck elsewhere.
“The idea is to try and get back to the correct path and bring back Highlanders’ tradition or culture. We are looking at a long-term kind of a solution and we want to put into place a mechanism which is going to be followed by anybody who takes over Highlanders after me so that the culture does not go astray. That is the biggest mandate I have,” he says.
The departure of the old horses has paved the way for a virtually new look squad of unknowns from the Under-18 and the developmental side. These have been blended with a few remaining players from last year’s squad.
He has brought in young players Nigel Mukombe, Munyaradzi Chitambwe and McClive Phiri from outside the Bosso ranks and is searching for an experienced striker to bolster that squad.
Ndlovu’s decision to add new blood to the squad while offloading the veteran players has been met with mixed feelings from the club’s fans.
While some think it was long overdue, others have questioned the wisdom of getting rid of seasoned players such as Mudzingwa who has been loyal to the club.
Ndlovu however, is sticking to his guns. “If 10 years ago I gave Erick a chance to play in the first team, why should I be asked 10 years later why he is not in the team? It does not make sense to me. Everything has got a lifespan,” he said.
“I am not expecting to make everyone happy neither am I expecting to make everyone angry. But it should be balanced. Some will appreciate some won’t; it’s the nature of the job. I played for this club together with my two younger brothers (the late Adam and Peter). I stopped playing and they remained,” he said.