The 'best underrated' defender of his era

HARARE - Former Black Rhinos captain Geoffrey Ndlovu ranks as one of the most underrated players of his generation.

For 10 years, Ndlovu was a vital cog in Chipembere’s central defence, having joined the team in 1997 when they were still in the first division and played with distinction until 2007 when he left for Botswana.

But despite being a steady defender who was not only a good man marker, he could also launch raids from the back, Ndlovu never got the recognition he deserved.

At the turn of the century, Ndlovu was one of the outstanding defenders in the country but for all his stellar performances he never got a call up to the national team nor did he ever grace the Soccer Stars of the Year calendar.

“For many years during my days with Rhinos we were one of the strongest teams in the land, but unfortunately, I never got a chance to represent my country and up to now I don’t know whether it was because I was unlucky or it was because I played for an unfashionable team,” Ndlovu muses.

“I remember there was a season when I played so well and towards the end of that particular season, football commentator Steve Vickers told me he was confident that I would make the Soccer Stars calendar, but it was not to be and again I was overlooked.”

Ndlovu started playing street football with his peers in Bulawayo’s Luveve Township and later on joined a local juniors outfit, City Rovers, when he was a student at Mafakela Primary School.

He continued playing football for City Rovers and the school team when he enrolled at Luveve High School and in 1994 joined second division outfit Olivine together with a host of his teammates from his boyhood team after graduating from the junior ranks.

Ndlovu helped Olivine gain promotion into the first division after playing for them for just a season and found himself playing in the country’s second tier league in 1995, but the team failed to adjust to maintain their new-found status and found themselves back in the second division in 1996.

But Ndlovu did not go down with Olivine after he was signed by Kango, who were seasoned first division campaigners and spent 1996 in their books.

At Kango, he played alongside the likes of Highlanders goalkeepers coach Tembo Chuma and former Quelaton head coach Farai Sibanda.

At the beginning of 1997, Ndlovu was lured to Harare by former national team coach Roy Barretto, who was in charge of army side Rhinos.

“I played in a money game that featured a number of high profile players who included Ronald Sibanda and the late Benjamin Nkonjera in Lobengula and after putting up a five-star performance someone told Barretto about me and he got in touch and invited me to Harare for a trial,” Ndlovu says.

“After just a week, Barretto was convinced that I was the type of player that he was looking for and signed me up.”

It was easy for the player to easily fit in at Rhinos as there were a number of players with Bulawayo roots in the team and these included Bhekinkosi Ndlovu, Itai Masawi, Sifiso Mguni, Darlington Phiri and Cassius Siziba.

After just a season with Chipembere, Ndlovu found himself playing in the Premiership after the team won the Northern Region first division championship.

And during his stay with Rhinos, he went on to win the Independence Trophy and was twice a losing finalist when the army side lost in the Madison Trophy final to AmaZulu and also in the OK Grand Challenge Cup when they were beaten by Shabanie Mine.

The victory in the Independence Cup enabled Rhinos to take part in continental club competition in 2004 when they participated in the then African Cup Winners Cup.

Chipembere were eliminated from the competition by Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca and Ndlovu says that game was the toughest in his career.

“We drew the first leg of the match 1-1 in Harare and when we went there we held our own and went to the half time break with the scoreline at 1-1,” Ndlovu says.

“The game changed completely in the second half and we were run rugged by those guys such that at one point Melody (Wafawanaka) counted the opposition players to see if they were the same number as us.”

The match ended in a 5-1 drubbing and Rhinos went out 6-2 on aggregate.

Chipembere had accounted for Maxaquene of Mozambique and Kiyovu Sports of Rwanda in the earlier rounds of the competition.

After leaving Rhinos in 2007, Ndlovu played in Botswana for a season, where he turned out for Great North Tigers alongside former Black Aces and CAPS United midfielder Rabson Masauso.

He hung up his boots at the end of the 2008 season and returned home.

In 2012 Ndlovu was part of the founding members of Luveve Juniors but has since taken a break from running the team.

He is married to former Zimbabwe national handball player Solitaire and they have two children, Cole (14) and Kohller (6).

Comments (1)

he wasnt good enough...... period.

chamhembe - 15 December 2013

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