Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
TEAM Zimbabwe UK have shown the way by presenting Warriors legend Peter Ndlovu with an Award of Excellence in honour of his trailblazing football career in Europe and the tremendous contribution to the game in Zimbabwe.
The former Warriors skipper was honoured in absentia during the Team Zimbabwe UK victory celebrations held in London at the weekend. The award was received by his brother Brian, the youngest sibling in the legendary football dynasty that also produced former national team players Madinda and the late Adam.
“As an organisation we saw it befitting to give an Award of Excellence to Peter Ndlovu to honour him for his outstanding achievements in football,” said Team Zimbabwe UK CEO Marshall Gore.
“We are giving this to him to honour him as the greatest ever Zimbabwean player in the last 40 years, most capped (100 caps) and the country’s all-time top goalscorer (38 goals).
“As Zimbabwe captain, we felt that Peter demonstrated true leadership both on and off the pitch. His outstanding performances were also felt here in the UK.
“We felt he deserved to be honoured because of his contributions to the communities and to the national game itself.
“So it’s only befitting that we honour our legend as it will also help inspire the new generation of players coming up to be motivated knowing that if they do good they will also get rewarded by the community.”
Ndlovu, who remains one of the rare talents to emerge from the country, holds the distinction of being the first African player to feature in the English Premiership when he joined Coventry City in 1991 from Highlanders.
As a raw teenager, the forward had stars written all over his future after he burst onto the domestic football scene and became the youngest player ever in the history of Zimbabwe to win the Soccer Star of the Year award in 1990, albeit in an unprecedented tie with George Nechironga.
But he went on to win it again the following year and could have bagged the award multiple times had the English Premier League not opened its doors for him in 1991.
Ndlovu was scouted by John Skillet while playing for Bulawayo giants Highlanders and English football legend Terry Butcher facilitated his signature for the trailblazing move to Coventry City in July 1991.
History was to be made on Wednesday August 19, 1992, when Ndlovu officially became the first African footballer to feature in the English Premier League in a match against Tottenham, although he played for only 20 minutes.
The Flying Elephant, as he was affectionately known, later played alongside legendary striker Micky Quinn, who joined Coventry City in November 1992, and their partnership was formidable.
In his debut season, the slippery forward made 32 appearances and scored seven goals at a rate of a goal every four games or so for his whole career average at Coventry, which spanned six years.
He scored over 90 goals during his 12 seasons, garnering about 338 appearances in the English leagues. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers to emerge from Zimbabwe, earning 100 caps for his country and scoring 38 international goals.
Ndlovu captained the national side that made history by qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations for the very first time in 2004 after years of agonising near misses.
Gore said such achievements needed recognition. He said more sporting icons will be honoured by his organisation in the future.
“We are hoping as an organisation that every year when we hold our event we will also recognise one sporting icon who made a difference in the communities. Obviously it will be on the basis of merit.
“With Peter, it was special to start with him because it appears he had been forgotten. We have to cultivate the culture of learning to appreciate those who do good in the communities.
“We felt such a thing will help generations to get inspiration. Above all, we recognise his tremendous contributions to the game in the following ways:
He achieved excellence by being the first ever African player to play in the English Premier League and also went on to become the longest serving African player in the EPL.
We cherish his special dedication to football as player and captain for the Zimbabwe national team during their most successful era.
We recognise and appreciate his great service to the nation as an icon who inspired many in the Diaspora and back home to achieve success in football.
“We worked with Peter for a long time when he was still in the UK. He did a lot for the community, he would come and grace some of the tournaments and would volunteer some of his time on the pitch.
“His humbleness and humility makes him a great person, captain, leader and role model,” said Gore.
Former players like Maxwell “Marhino” Dube, Frank “Dealer” Nyamukuta and Liberty Masunda, representatives of the Zimbabwe Embassy in the UK and the Diaspora community leaders attended the Team Zimbabwe UK victory celebrations where Ndlovu was honoured.
Gore said it was also a special moment to recognise the Zimbabwe Diaspora Development National Football teams’ successes in the last five years.
The teams participate in Non-League football events collaborated by the English Premiership. They won the 2019 African Nations Cup UK (Senior Cup), 2019 Inner City World Cup (Vets Cup), 2018 Inner City World Cup (Vets Cup), 2017 African Nations Cup UK (Under-17 Tournament) and 2016 African National Cup UK (Under-17 Tournament).
Prince Mutsvunguma was crowned the Diaspora Player of the Year while Muzi Nduna was the best player of the decade. They also honoured the young players and most disciplined player of the year.
Germany-based midfielder Seth Patrick was named the Young Player of the Year. Patrick, who plays for Germany side FC Phönix Lübeck, featured for the Zimbabwe Under-23 for the first time last year.