22 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Sad It Had to End So Tragic

TRAGIC Adam Ndlovu, the charming Zimbabwe Warriors' legend who has just passed away, untimely, aged just 42, in an horrific car crash near Victoria Falls on Sunday, was one absolutely fantastic, magical and inspirational lad.

Needless to say, the aftermath of his death has spun untold grief, tremendous heartbreak and complete disbelief at home and across the globe.

I pray the genuine, widespread outpouring of grief may help the Ndlovu family begin to heal from their immense pain when life soon returns to routine, for the rest of us, non-family members.

Ever the joker, sociable, absolutely down-to-earth, Adam represented Zimbabwe, at home and abroad, with distinction. And his goal-scoring record for the Warriors, just only surpassed by his beloved brother Peter, speaks for itself.

That he always made the team in a talent-heavy Dream Team, speaks volumes of his titanic talent. Stats don't lie (not hips please Miss Shakira).

Sorry mukoma Stanley (Chirambadare), but one of my most vivid, hilarious, everlasting football images is a boyish Adam and a petite Peter getting out-and-out naughty; running rings, uncovering and turning you inside-out, at left fullback for Dynamos. I mean, like Stan wasn't even there!

Take solace Stan, you were not the only recipient!

Throw in big brother, bonafide speed-merchant Madinda, and you had Alexandre Dumas' relentless Three Musketeers. (Ever the small-time scientist; I will acquire computer software to decipher, from video, who was quicker off-the-mark, Madinda or Peter.

Needless to say, they were both blessed with blistering, too-much-for-football speed, that could have served them well competing at a World Championships or the Olympics. Over speeding muscular footballer, Francis Nechironga is probably the only footballer I thought may have been faster)

As a strength and conditioning professional, I admire beauty and brawn combined, but the latter titillates my taste buds more.

Stomping, hard-core, in-your-face, power-play athletes such as famed Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos; another long-lasting leftie, AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini, are just my kind of competitors.

It's not just in defence artistry, but the world was wowed for years by the intricate tricks of Ronaldinho and ageless Dutch hardman, Seedorf. As for Brazil's Ronaldo, what can I say?

His take-off speed, acceleration and power-application is the best I have ever seen in a football athlete. I have to add to that list though, departed Warriors centre-back, tough guy Francis Shonhayi.

All these guys had, in my book, an uncanny ability to not only display with astonishing frequency, delightful skill and trickery, but as a trademark, were adept at applying raw strength and power. And their rippling muscle was always there for all to see.

Therefore, Adam was just my typical kind of athlete; inflicting physicality and punishment on opponents in a true old-fashioned man's game style (well, it's a woman's game too nowadays so I better watch my mouth!)

An expert at using arms just like Benjani, to legally hold off his marker and securing the ball, Adam scored with punishing regularity. Typically, such highly-conditioned players have longevity, a component that Adam had plenty of.

In a long-spanning career, that took him from dusty elokesheni fields; Highlanders, three different clubs in Europe, various clubs in South Africa, Adam, a passionate and hard-working football lad, made a mark wherever he was signed such that in his prime, he had professional clubs constantly enquiring on his availability.

And his inaugural coaching season, PSL 2012, as head coach at Chicken Inn, ended in an unlikely second runners'-up spot.

It is my good fortune and blessing to have known and worked with Adam and Peter as their fitness coach at the Warriors for years, giving us an opportunity to appreciate each other.

I am thankful for living in the UK in the '90s, as it enabled me to appreciate from close-by, the gigantic impact that Peter had on English and African football as the English media, who compared Peter to George Best, the very finest that the British have ever produced, would never have enough of him.

Goal.com enthuses, " . . . as Zimbabwe mourns the loss of Adam Ndlovu, the footballing world should recognise Peter, one of the leading, iconic figures in African football."

Well said!

Adam would relentlessly tease me about what he called, "running down into the ground your elders", (he was about three years my senior) especially after what he thought was a killer conditioning workout.

Then again, he had this sarcastic banter about how he was never petrified of the toughest of my workouts as he'd always persevere and still be alive at the end of it all!

So it was always, "bring it on Jerry Maguire", as most Zimbabwean football players affectionately call me.

And for the second time this year, fleeting hours before his sad demise, at the Soccer Star Awards, Adam Ndlovu offered me, in the presence of Peter, a contract, to instruct his 2013 pre-season conditioning at Chicken Inn.

In as much as I'd love, one day, to live and work in Bulawayo, the famed "City of Kings", as it'd no doubt help spruce-up my isiNdebele. But for long-established, daily business commitments in Harare, I unhappily turned his offer down.

I occasionally reminisce about Zimbabwe/Algeria at Sousse, Tunisia, 2004; for me, the Warriors' best-ever international performance.

Ever unlucky, Zimbabwe, at Tunisia 2004, pitted in an almighty Group-of-Death against superpowers and all former winners; Egypt (seven), Cameroon (four) and Algeria (one); we stood little chance of progressing to the next round, but we gave it our best shot.

In that last group game, Adam scored the first goal and I remember him dashing to the bench and exclaiming to Sunday Marimo (now Chidzambwa), "we are beating these guys no matter what."

It's a miracle we did not pump half-a-dozen past an anxious Algeria who were desperate for a win to progress into the quarter finals as we were dominant in a match in which livewire Joe Luphahla, Peter and Adam were almost unstoppable.

Playing and winning at Afcon! It was magical -- the stuff of dreams coming true! And our Adamski was starring, leading the rest of the cast.

As for Peter, thank God, he's got another shot at life! He's escaped the malicious jaws of death!

I always chuckle how you my humble Zimbabwean homeboy had, over a long period of time, forced football powerhouses Liverpool and Arsenal to try and have you on their books.

Peter's unbelievable, rare hat-trick for Coventry City versus Liverpool at Anfield was exquisite!

On that day, in my book, Peter was the fastest and best player in world football.

Be healed soon, my brother-from-another-mother (some quacky Nigerian is said to have coined that!)

Since that dreadful Sunday morning, when time momentarily froze, I am occasionally thankful; reminiscing, smiling, quietly laughing to myself, in an obvious celebration of Adam's incredible, delightful, rich, full life.

Over many years, we fed off each other, but I guess I am richer for him. I owe him. He made me look good. Better!

I will forever treasure the portrait snapped at the Soccer Stars banquet, sandwiched by Peter and Adam; local football's very finest.

Boy, now I know, I genuinely loved Adam. Unforgettable, fantastic, top-drawer lad.

Hamba kahle qhawe lesizwe Adamski. Adam Ndlovu #13.

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