The Herald (Harare)

21 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Adamski Was Great for Bosso but He Was Awesome for the Warriors and, in the Dream Team, He Found the Team of His Dreams

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If you are reading this blog then that means one thing -- the world didn't end yesterday. That's the closest I could get to a print version of the video that the American space agency, NASA, posted today to show that Doomsday didn't come to pass: "If you are watching this video then that means one thing -- the world didn't end yesterday."

Well, it's a fact now that the rogue planet Nibiru didn't slam into our lovely Earth, December 21 didn't bring the curtain down on this world and the completion of the 5 125-year-long Mayan cycle didn't usher in a global catastrophe that destroyed our planet.

Thousands of Doomsday believers had by yesterday flocked to the tiny French village of Bugarach, where they believed a mystical mountain gave them immunity from the pending disaster, which would bring the world to an end.

Bugarach Mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, was concerned that his village, which has a population of just 189, was in danger of being overrun by thousands of the New Age fanatics who wanted to watch from their safe haven while the rest of us perished.

Interestingly, this wasn't the first Doomsday that this world has survived.

California radio presenter Harold Camping had predicted the world would end on October 21, Baptist preacher William Miller said the world would end on October 22, 1844, and when it didn't, it was dubbed "The Great Disappointment".

Denver Mukamba survived to celebrate his 20th birthday yesterday but, sadly, legendary Zimbabwean footballer, Adam Ndlovu, didn't make it.

Adam was there to see Denver's crowning moment, when the Dynamos talisman became the youngest Glamour Boy to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year, in Harare eight days ago.

His iconic brother, Peter, was even given time to address the guests and gave a moving speech, talking about a game he knows best, including some tips to the new king of the domestic Premiership, as he begins his journey in search of greatness.

About 30 hours later, the two brothers were being retrieved from the wreckage of their BMW X5, which had veered off the road after a tyre burst and ploughed through three trees before landing in a ditch, some 860 kms away from where Peter had given his touching address in the capital.

Peter somehow survived to live another day.

But Adam didn't.

And, just five days before the Doomsday cultists expected our world to come to an end, Adamski's 42-year adventure on this planet, in which he evolved from being just an ordinary boy in Bulawayo to become a legendary footballer, came to a tragic end.

Adam was killed in the line of duty, going out to do exactly what he loved, playing football, the game that had shaped his life and transformed him from a man whose identity would be linked to one particular club, or city, into one whose name would represent an entire nation.

Such was his massive appeal, his tragic death did not only touch the lives of the community of football, where he lived and worked, but spread beyond the crazy world of our poisoned national game to draw the tears from men and women who have never been to a football ground.

Such was his magical appeal, you didn't need to have been a sports fan to be touched by Adam Ndlovu's death and there were thousands, if not millions, who don't care a thing about sport who were shedding tears this week.

Such was his universal appeal, his death did not turn into a domestic Zimbabwean affair, to be felt and dealt with only by the Zimbabweans, but spread beyond our borders to touch the lives of millions across the world.

A domestic football community that had spent the past three years being drowned in a quagmire of divisions, created by warring factions battling for control and influence, suddenly found the spirit that had united it into one strong and powerful family, when Adam and his Dream Team charmed them, as it mourned the death of a legend.

A domestic football community that had spent the past three years being choked by a poisonous environment, created by deep divisions, suddenly found the strength to unite for a legend whose contribution to the game could not be questioned but only celebrated.

A domestic football community that had spent the past three years staggering in darkness, lured by everything that represents evil, suddenly found the light to guide them to a place of innocence where, together as one, they found the heart to mourn a gentle giant who had sacrificed so much for his motherland.

Adam Ndlovu was not the greatest striker to ever play for Highlanders because his brother Peter was a class apart. Neither was Adamski the greatest forward to play for the Warriors because the shadow of the Flying Elephant will always loom large.

But Adam was special, in a way that was unique, because he was a different football celebrity -- the one who never plunged into the headlines for all the wrong reasons, the one who had the best image for a cult-hero, the one who represented everything good that should be followed by a budding teenage footballer.

It was virtually impossible to hate Adam Ndlovu, even if he played for the team that you disliked to the bone, because his charm made him such a very good guy, so irresistibly loveable the flash of his wide smile, which brought a spark on the dark features that shaped his face, simply blew you away.

It was simply natural to like Adam Ndlovu, even after he had just scored the goal that had sent your team crashing out of a knockout tournament, because he was this guy with this infectious appeal it just blew away your defences, whatever they were, and you just kept a soft spot in your heart for him.

So, Adam moved away from being just a member of the Ndlovu clan and became a member of the Zimbabwean family, who belonged to all of us, who served all of us as a nation, who represented everything good about us as a people, who was there for all of us as a country.

That explains the reason why we all cried for him.

Adam Ndlovu, the Footballer, the Striker

Adam Ndlovu, the footballer that we all know, was as good a striker as they will ever come in this country -- someone just born to score goals, just delivering as and when it mattered, a gunman that a huge club like Highlanders could rely on and a nation, like Zimbabwe, could bank on.

Adam was only 20 when he attracted the interests of Coventry City and went there on a six-week attachment, with Claudius Zviripayi, where he impressed the then Sky Blues' manager, Peter Sillett, who had already made a decision to sign Peter Ndlovu.

"I wanted to sign both of them, but the board would only let me sign one, and I went for Peter," Sillett told BBC Sport this week.

"Adam went off to Switzerland and had a good career but Peter was the most talented player I have ever seen. They were both cracking lads, and were very, very close as brothers."

Adam came back home, not because he wasn't good enough to sign for Coventry City then, but simply because the board of directors at the Sky Blues had made a decision that they could only let their coach sign one of the two brothers.

It wasn't an easy era, back then, for black players, coming straight from Africa, to make an impression on a coach of an English Premiership club.

The good African players who had ventured into Europe then had gone to France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, while England, isolated from mainland Europe by the channel, was virgin territory for the boys from the mother continent.

There was an element of doubt, when it came to African players, which lived in the minds of English Premiership coaches then, about their pedigree, their discipline, would they adjust to playing football in those brutal winter conditions, would they be accepted by their teammates at a time when a good chunk of professional footballers in England were a group of drunkards who behaved as if they ruled the world?

Crucially, would they be accepted by the fans, many of whom were blatantly racist, and renamed Liverpool, Niggerpool, after the Anfield giants had signed a black player, John Barnes?

Barnes moved to England aged 13 in the late 1970s and in his early years at Liverpool he was racially abused by rival fans and an iconic image, of the winger casually back-heeling a banana thrown to him by Everton fans during a match at Goodson Park, told the whole sickening story.

Shockingly, Barnes said some Liverpool fans even wrote to him, when discussions were underway for him to move to Anfield from Watford where he had become a massive hit, not to sign for the Reds because they had no place for black players and they just could not take them on as their heroes.

His talent, which was undoubted, didn't matter. His skin was all that mattered.

During his first days at Anfield, Barnes said the lady who served tea to the players somehow served everyone else, who was in the players' lounge, except him, and he replied by cracking a joke and asking if she had snubbed him because he was black?

Barnes even claims writers like Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs had turned Britain a country of "passive racists" through their classic tales as Ten Little Indians, Tarzan of the Apes and The Jungle Book.

John Barnes was not an ordinary footballer, he had won two English Premiership titles, two FA Cup titles, had scored a wonder goal for England against Brazil at the Maracana and would be capped 79 times for the Three Lions - a record for a black player.

Now, if all this could happen to John Barnes, who had lived in England since he was 13, who played for England and was as good a player as they will ever come, what about a player coming straight from Africa?

That someone needed to be really special, as a footballer player coming out of Africa, to break this wall of resistance, which had kept others away from the England game, and Peter did, and Adam would have followed, if the Coventry manager had been granted his wish to sign two, rather than one, of the Ndlovu brothers.

Two years later, Adam arrived at Old Trafford for a month-long trial period, under Alex Ferguson, who was looking for a striker who could provide the spark in his team's quest to end a 26-year-wait for the league championship crown.

Chances are that he would have signed for the Red Devils but for the arrival, on the market, of a certain genius called Eric Cantona who would get the place and, in the process, shift the balance of power in English football from Anfield to Old Trafford.

Amid all this, Adam continued to shine at home, playing for his beloved Highlanders, and was top goalscorer in the domestic Premiership in '91 with 32 goals, runner-up in the Soccer Star of the Year awards to Wilfred Mugeyi the following year and top goal-scorer again on the local scene with 24 goals in '94.

The European clubs simply couldn't resist him and invitations for trials came from all over the places and he went to Sweden, Denmark, back to England, Greece, Germany and even to Turkey where he had trials at Galatasaray long before Norman Mapeza came in and became the first Zimbabwean to play in the Turkish top-flight league.

Adamski eventually settled in Switzerland and in '97, three years after his arrival, he was voted Player of the Year after his 14 goals for Delemont won him the Golden Boot, took his team to the semi-finals of the Swiss Cup and brought him to the attention of FC Zurich who took him on board.

Adamski the Dream Team Warrior

It's good to be a very good club player and we had many of such stars whose magic only illuminates when they are playing for their clubs and, inexplicably, fades away when they are playing for their country.

But it's better to be a very good club player, and also very good national team player, at the same time, because your area of appeal spills from just the boundaries of your club's constituency to a nationwide audience and support base that begins to appreciate your talent for what it is.

Significantly, by playing well for the national team, one tends to do more, in service to his country, which is more important than serving your club, no matter how big that football club is.

Adam Ndlovu was cut from the cloth that makes good club players, and very good national team players, at the same time.

Adamski was great for Bosso, no doubt about that, but he was awesome for the Warriors and in the Dream Team he found the team of his dreams.

Adamski was superb for Highlanders and is a legend there because he was part of the group of players, when he was only 20, who finally managed to power the Bulawayo giants to their maiden league championship crown in '90, when they finished eight points clear of both CAPS United and Dynamos.

Three years later, Adamski was part of the Bosso team, which won the club's second league championship.

But Adam Ndlovu made his big international profile, not in the black-and-white colours of Bosso, but in the green-and-gold colours of the Warriors and, playing for the Dream Team, he turned himself into this awesome character that was strong enough to carry the full weight of his nation.

It was a like a match-made-in-heaven, perfect for both the player and the team, and Adam blossomed playing a leading role for the Dream Team and, when we needed him, he delivered with stunning accuracy and refreshing regularity for his country.

Strong and athletic, blessed with a commanding presence in the penalty area that sent shivers down the spines of the opposing defenders, an eye for goal that could be trusted, composure inside the danger zone that made him so cool, under extreme pressure, he never faltered, and a team player who put his team first and everything else next.

"What people don't know is that during the Dream Team, Fabisch brought all the players together and we bonded together as one family," Vitalis "Digital" Takawira, told The Herald on Thursday from his base in the United States.

"He (Adam) was a true friend and the world will miss him. Rest in peace Adamski and may God bless the Ndlovu family in these trying times."

Adamski scored 34 goals for his country in 79 appearances and, fittingly, was part of the remnants of the Dream Team who remained around to fulfil the Mission and walk into the Promised Land of the Nations Cup finals in 2003.

He was 33 when the Mission was accomplished, had spent 13 years in the trenches fighting for such a golden moment, and when it finally came, under the guidance of coach Sunday Chidzambwa, who had been part of the backroom staff during the Dream Team, it sent an entire nation into delirium.

Adamski was four months short of his 34th birthday when he scored his debut Nations Cup finals goal, in the 2-1 win over Algeria, in our final match of a maiden appearance at the grand stage where we distinguished ourselves by running Egypt close, which could have been a draw had Wilfred not missed a good chance, and scoring three goals, in a losing cause, against Cameroon.

I was there in Sousse in Tunisia, on a chilly February afternoon, when the Warriors won their first match at the Nations Cup finals and Adam had squandered two good chances before arriving at the right time to connect a cross from Peter in the 65th minute to give us the lead.

Joel Luphahla scored moments later and, at 2-0 and with Egypt settling for a goalless draw against Cameroon, in their final match, the Algerians were being eliminated.

A blunder by Tapiwa Kapini handed Hocine Achiou a gift goal in the 73rd minute and the Algerians progressed despite the defeat.

I have found it hard to forget those heroes of Sousse -- Kapini, Dumisani Mpofu, Bhekithemba ndlovu, Kaitano Tembo, Shereni, Choto, Gidiza, Nengomasha, Peter, Adam and Joel.

On the bench were Energy, Mazarura, Kapenya, Yohane, Esrom, Kurauzvione, Muhoni and Mbwando with Mugeyi replacing Adamski with four minutes left of regulation time to play.

As Adam left the pitch that day, to a standing ovation from the travelling Warriors fans, I could feel this was a man walking away with the satisfaction that he had played his part, in full, for his nation and it was time for others to take over the baton.

If this was the end, then it was a perfect farewell to a hero who had starred for his country and, from the dizzy heights of the Dream Team to the euphoria of qualifying for our maiden Nations Cup finals, had not only seen it all but also done it all.

Get Well Soon King Peter

In the first English Premiership season, '92 /'93, there were only three Africans on show -- Bruce Grobelaar, Peter Ndlovu and Efan Ekoku.

Peter was the first black African footballer, to be bought directly from Africa by an English Premiership side, solely for his football talent.

The Flying Elephant's impact opened the doors for a host of others, including Kanu, Jay Jay Okocha, Drogba and his goal against West Bromwhich, in '95, was voted one of the top 10 goals by African footballers and, if you watch it on YouTube, you will see the reason why.

Former Blackburn defender, Andy Morrison, who was tasked with making Peter in '94, has already come out to tell the world, the Flying Elephant was the one who destroyed his career.

"I was at Blackburn, had broken into the first-team squad and was in the plans of the manager, Kenny Dalglish. But I got ripped to shreds by Peter Ndlovu," he told the Coventry Telegraph.

"Blackburn still had a chance to win the title and were pushing for an equaliser. Time and again I was left one-on-one with Ndlovu and he tore me to pieces. He beat me on the inside and the outside until I was put out of my misery after 80 minutes.

"I came across him a few years later and told him that he had ruined my career. He, of course, had no idea what I was talking about."

That was Peter, the greatest we ever had and we will possibly ever have, and let's all pray for his full recovery.

Nothing is impossible. After all, they told us the world would end yesterday. But here we are, still going strong, on December 22.

Merry Christmas!

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