After witnessing the sterling work that Tonderai Ndiraya had managed to accomplish at Ngezi Platinum Stars in such a short space of time, it came as a shock when the leadership at the Mhondoro-Ngezi-based premiership football side decided to thank “Stanza” by firing him.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
Although Lloyd Mutasa’s departure at Dynamos was expected, nobody anticipated the Ngezi Platinum Stars authorities to give Ndiraya the boot at a time “Madamburo” were strongly in contention for the league championship.
Ndiraya knew as well as anyone else that he would be judged by results, but did not expect Ngezi to be as harsh as Dynamos, who sacked him soon after his team had finished second behind Chicken Inn in the 2015 title race.
The 1-0 defeat at the hands of bottom-placed Bulawayo City — which came hard on the heels of Ngezi Platinum’s elimination from the Chibuku Super Cup — was the result that sealed Ndiraya’s departure from the Mhondoro-Ngezi-based football team.
However, to dismiss a coach whose team is only five points behind leaders, FC Platinum, with five matches remaining in the race for the league championship, can only be described as not only ill-timed, but also ill-advised.
With 15 points still at stake, the league title race is not yet over for Ngezi Platinum given the fact that Madamburo still have a game against the leaders Kugona Kunenge Kudada even though that match is away at Mandava Stadium.
Critics and analysts alike are quick to point out that the authorities at Ngezi Platinum Stars dug their own grave by giving Ndiraya the boot especially at this time of the season when they still have something to play for.
The critics argue that Ndiraya’s departure is likely to have a strong adverse effect on the Ngezi Platinum players’ confidence and will also have a negative impact on their overall performance and team spirit in their remaining five matches.
Ndiraya symbolised a sense of unity and purpose and had become more of a family with his players as he assumed the role of a fatherly figure in the three years he had been with the club.
In those three years, Ngezi Platinum Stars built themselves into a force to be reckoned with and also competed strongly for the league championship with FC Platinum and Dynamos in 2017 before finishing third, and the team is currently in second place on 62 points while FC Platinum are on 67 points.
It should also be placed on record that under Ndiraya, Madamburo won the Chibuku Super Cup in style, beating, of all teams, bitter rivals FC Platinum 3-1 in the 2016 final, and won the right to represent Zimbabwe in Pan-African football.
Ndiraya’s classy side of 2017 also dominated the Castle Soccer Star of the Year calendar providing three of the 11 finalists Terence Dzvukamanja, Tichaona Mabvura and Qadir Amini in what can be described as an outstanding year.
The flair and the attractive short passing game that Ndiraya brought to Madamburo also increased their support base and Ngezi Platinum are now among the most followed teams in the Premiership, competing with the likes of powerhouses like CAPS United in crowd attendances.
Sadly, though, for now, Stanza will be lost to the Premiership because the Ngezi Platinum Stars leadership felt the coach was slowly losing grip of the league title race.
Maybe those at Ngezi could not stomach the idea of continued stay in the shadows of fellow platinum miners FC Platinum, who seem to be running away with the league title for the second-year running.
Surely, the ambition would have been to win the league title, but a place in the top two would not have been bad for Madamburo considering the quality of the opposition.
It will be interesting to see how new coach Clifton Kadurira will endear himself with the Ngezi Platinum Stars followers as Ndiraya had won a lot of public good will due to the manner in which his team played.
The remaining five games will also be crucial to Kadurira — who led Ngezi to promotion, but was demoted to assistant in favour of Ndiraya — as the matches will be the yardstick to measure as to whether he will get the job permanently or not.
Ndiraya, however, will take comfort in the fact that there are too many suitors waiting outside his door and soon, and not later, he will have another marriage and probably with Dynamos again.
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