WARRIORS coach Sunday Chidzambwa led the tributes yesterday as Zimbabwe football was plunged into mourning again after the death of one of the greatest players to emerge from this country, the legendary Shadreck Ngwenya who leaves a legacy of excellence on the pitch. Ngwenya — one of the most famous Dynamos sons — was among the first few players from this country to ply their trade in South Africa during that country’s pre-Independence era in the late 1970s.
According to one of his two daughters, Memory, Ngwenya died “peacefully” yesterday morning at his Ntabazinduna Centre home in Bulawayo at the age of 70. Chidzambwa, who played alongside Ngwenya when the Warriors gaffer joined Dynamos from Chibuku Shumba in 1977, yesterday described the former tough centre-back as one of the best players he ever rubbed shoulders with at both club and national team level.
“In fact, when I joined Dynamos at the beginning of the 1977 season, it was Shadreck Ngwenya who took me under his wing and taught me how to play as a real centre-back. I was a very quiet and reserved person, but Shadreck taught me how to talk (or bark instructions) on the pitch and apart from playing together at Dynamos for two years, I also partnered him at the heart of the senior national team’s defence when we played South Africa’s Springboks in 1977 . . . I played with him in the national team for two years,” Chidzambwa said.
Revered soccer commentator Charles “CNN” Mabika described Ngwenya as a gentleman on and off the field “who I would put in the class of good defenders like Steven ‘Faka Simbi’ Chimedza, Sunday Chidzambwa, Douglas ‘British’ Mloyi, Ephraim Chawanda, Francis Shonhayi and Alexander Maseko”.
“I remember him featuring in an advert of a margarine brand — Stork Margarine — depicting how he would stick to a striker like margarine on a piece of bread. He was a very successful player who made history in 1976 by winning as a player-coach the BAT Rosebowl, the Castle Cup, the league title and the Southern Africa Club Championship as well as leading Dynamos to the Chibuku Trophy semi-finals where they lost 2-1 to Zimbabwe Saints.
“No coach has ever achieved that feat and it was unfortunate that he didn’t have an opportunity with the national team as a coach of which I think he deserved. I even nicknamed (South Africa’s) SuperSport United’s assistant coach, Kaitano Tembo, ‘Ngwenya’ because of the similarity in their type of play,” Mabika said. Former Dynamos captain Kaitano Tembo yesterday sent his condolence message to the Ngwenya family following the death of his former mentor.
“He coached me briefly at Kadoma United when I was on loan from Superbeef. He was a humble person with a great personality . . . that’s where I got my nickname (Ngwenya). Condolences to the Ngwenya family . Go well legend,” Tembo said from his base in Pretoria, South Africa. Ngwenya is best remembered by the older generation of Dynamos fans for helping the Harare giants, who were then nicknamed “Hainangozi”, to lift the Southern Africa Club Championship after beating one of South Africa’s football powerhouses Orlando Pirates in 1976.
During that year, Orlando Pirates were led by arguably the best player to emerge from South Africa during both that country’s pre and post-Independence era — the legendary “Crown Prince of Soweto” Jomo Sono. In an international showdown at a packed and rain-soaked Rufaro in 1976, Sono’s Orlando Pirates were walloped 4-1 by Dynamos. Orlando’s two-goal advantage from the first leg was wiped out, enabling Dynamos to lift the Southern Africa Club Championship.
Dynamos beat Orlando Pirates 7-6 on aggregate over two legs (they lost the first leg 3-5 in Johannesburg before winning the second leg 4-1 at Rufaro) to be crowned the kings of Southern Africa. So painful was their 4-1 defeat to a well-oiled Dynamos machine that Sono cried after the final whistle (of a match which this reporter watched as a 10-year-old boy) at Rufaro.
Ngwenya was also part of the talented Dynamos outfit that won the league title and almost all the domestic cup competitions, including the Castle Cup in which they hammered Zimbabwe Saints 8-1 in the final, in 1976, a season in which he rubbed shoulders at the star-studded “Hainangozi” side with the legendary George “Mastermind” Shaya, Shepherd Murape, Kuda Muchemeyi, Shaw “Kojak” Handriade, Simon Sachiti, Isaac Nhema, Oliver “Flying Saucer” Kateya, David Phiri, Charles Gwatidzo, Barnard Chidziva, Hilario Nengari, Matthew Mwale, John Revai, Cremio Mapfumo, Enock “Mujibha” Pakamisa, George Yoyo and David George.
In fact, in 1976, Dynamos won five of six cup tournaments (losing to Zimbabwe Saints in the semi-finals of the Chibuku Trophy), scoring 67 goals in 19 cup fixtures over the season. And after the historic achievement of helping Dynamos to win the Southern Africa Club Championship, Ngwenya was quickly scouted by one South Africa’s top clubs Moroka Swallows who snapped him in May 1979 for his third professional stint Down South.
In fact, Ngwenya, who was born in Bulawayo on July 23, 1947 in a family of nine, had a meteoric rise to stardom, making his first international debut barely a season in the elite league in 1969. In 1969, Ngwenya was part of the then Rhodesia national team that played Australia in a World Cup qualifier at Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique.
Racism in then Rhodesia was rife. When Ngwenya and his teammates went to play teams like Salisbury Callies they would not be allowed to go into their dressing rooms. Black players would go where equipment for the facility and things like whitewash were kept.
But Ngwenya’s star continued to rise, taking him from Chibuku Shumba to Dynamos (after he was recruited by the late Morrison Sifelani) and then later on to Moroka Swallows before he hung up his boots in 1983 and went into coaching with relative success getting Zimbabwean sides Metro Peech and Kadoma United into Division One in his first year with them in 1984 and 1985 respectively.
As a coach, Ngwenya also won the Natbrew Under-18 tournament in 1985 with Kadoma United which had the likes of Stephen Shamuyarira who played in the Premiership. He stayed up to 1998 in Kadoma and then returned “home” to Bulawayo where he coached Prison TD from Division Two to Division One. At the time of his death, Ngwenya was a widower with two daughters Patience, who was five when he returned from Moroka Swallows and Memory, who was born in Bulawayo in 1980.