LEGENDARY former Warriors captain Peter Ndlovu says he is prepared to give his souvenir national team jersey to President Robert Mugabe.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
In a wide-ranging interview with BBC, Ndlovu, who was capped 100 times at national team level from 1991 to 2007, scoring 38 international goals, opened up on what it meant leading the national side during his illustrious football career.
“This is my national team jersey that I wore with pride,” he said proudly displaying his famous Warriors Legea strip.
“Everytime that I wore this jersey, I was trembling to do well. I was actually challenged to do well because leading the national team, everything is in your hands regardless of whether you score or not. The important thing is the national flag.
“This is my number one jersey and I can only part with this jersey to present it to my President, Comrade Robert Mugabe. This I can give to my President.”
Ndlovu was speaking to the BBC as part of their Where Are They Now? series, looking at former English Premier League players from the African continent.
The former Coventry City striker was the first black African player to play in the English Premier League since its inaugural season in 1992 and went on to feature consistently in the English top-flight for 11 years.
Ndlovu, whose breakthrough came in 1991 when he signed for the Sky Blues at the age of 18 from Bulawayo giants Highlanders, also remains one of the longest-serving African players to play in England, after spending 14 years while at Coventry City, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Sheffield United.
Reflecting on his time in England, Ndlovu said: “At that time, there were so many black players, if I can say, but when you stand out to be the first African to play in the Premier League, it really means (a lot) and I treasure that and respect that.
“I’m lost for words because it’s just a big thing for me to be the first one to have played in the Premier League.”
Ndlovu also spoke about the players who had an impact on his career in England, singling out the likes of former teammates Kenny Sansom, Dion Dublin and Bogdan OgrizoviĆ.
“I played alongside great people and if I say great people, I mean people that have done it and were willing to help me. One of them that stands out is Kenny Sansom, who was the left-back for Arsenal and England. Obviously Dion Dublin, (he was an) unbelievable, unbelievable leader,” Ndlovu said.
“He (Dublin) led by example from the top or from the back,”
“He was just a special, special player. There’s also big goalkeeper OgrizoviĆ, he was another one who had an influence on me. After every training, he would sit down with me and say ‘you’re looking good, you’re looking sharp, you can still improve, you’re good, but you can still improve’,” he said.
Asked who his toughest opponent was, Ndlovu responded: “It’s David Beckham. He used to run his socks off . . . it was a good crop of players to learn from and admire, to say ‘OK they’re playing for the big team.’”
Ndlovu is currently the team manager at South African Premiership club Mamelodi Sundowns.