22 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Adamski Was Very Special

London — Death is a thief that no one can catch. This African proverb contains a deep truth.

However, it is not only the timing, but the manner in which death sometimes comes that compounds

our pain and leaves human beings bewildered and confused beyond words.

It is also said that birth is accidental, but death is certain, which means that death is something we all have to accept as an unpleasant part of human existence.

But when we come across instances of sudden or untimely deaths, such as the passing away of Adam Ndlovu, we all wish we could force the messenger of death to announce his coming in advance.

My own parents died in 2001 and 2004 respectively. The hardest part for me, on both occasions, was staring in the grave and being hit by the finality of leaving mum and dad in the ground. Death is very real, very cruel and very painful. This is a simple, objective, unchanging fact.

Such is the pain I felt when news of Adam's sudden death reached me that I found myself wishing I could pen a personal tribute to the former Highlanders and Zimbabwe forward.

Thanks to The Herald, I'm able to bid farewell to an old friend using a public platform. This is only the second time in my journalism career that I have felt compelled to write a tribute of this nature.

The other person whose death moved me was Reinhard Fabisch -- a man whose time in charge of the "Dream Team" coach was lauded to the skies.

"If you don't have an ego, especially in sport, you're not going to go very far," someone once said.

I'm convinced Adam -- who contributed vital goals to the cause of the ultra-competitive Highlanders side of the 1990s -- never came across that quote because he certainly had no ego.

He was the antithesis of the modern footballer, a star who abhorred the razzmatazz. Indeed, he was an engagingly modest individual with no delusions of grandeur, cheerful and unfailingly polite.

Whenever I travelled with the Warriors, I found him to be an affable and courteous footballer, a natural lifter of team-mates' spirits, and always willing to speak to journalists.

Adam possessed an explosive right-foot shot and was blessed with a goal-poacher's instinct for being in the right position at the right time.

He was quick, often blindingly so, and had a habit of pouncing with sudden venom to score goals seemingly out of nothing.

I'm sure there are many others besides myself, who regarded him as one of the major personalities of the fabulous Highlanders team that also included the dazzling talents of his two brothers, Peter and Madinda, Willard Khumalo, Siza Khoza and Benjamin Nkonjera, to name but a few. After years of ruining the reputations of defenders and goalkeepers alike, Adam threw himself into coaching with characteristic enthusiasm and vigour, and signs of a successful time in the dug-out were evident as he worked his socks off for Chicken Inn.

Adam's longevity at the top level of the game was underpinned by a remarkable dedication to his profession.

It is my humble opinion that there has been no more thoughtful, open-minded or passionate student of football than Adamski.

He was a player whom people would travel long distances to watch and happily part with hard-earned cash for the privilege.

But there was more to his appeal than an impressive football pedigree. He was also blessed with an infectiously sunny outlook on life in general. Above all else, Adam Ndlovu was a real gentleman.

I wish I could say Adam Ndlovu IS a real gentleman. Sadly, that is no longer possible. Death is, indeed, the greatest enemy of the human race.

Farai Mungazi is a Zimbabwean journalist who works for BBC Sport.

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