FORMER Zimbabwe skipper Benjani Mwaruwari has described the late Chicken Inn coach Adam Ndlovu as a great motivator who helped younger players ease into the demanding task of playing for one’s country.
Benjani was still a member of the national Under-23 side when Adam, who died in a road accident on Sunday, was still at the peak of his powers, fronting the national team attack with Agent Sawu and his younger brother Peter.
Peter was seriously injured in the horrific accident that also claimed the life of a 24-year-old woman Nomqhele Tshili who will be buried in Esephezini this morning.
Benjani, who is expected to arrive this morning for Adam’s burial at lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo, spoke glowingly about the former Highlanders forward who also saw duty in Switzerland and South Africa before getting into coaching.
He said he grew up looking up to senior players at Highlanders where he was a junior plucked from Magwegwe by Ali Dube, with the elder of the Ndlovu siblings Madinda as his childhood hero.
Former Manchester City, Portsmouth and Blackburn Rovers forward Benjani also said he was deeply touched by the passing on of a friend and brother.
“When our younger generation of players came on board in the national team set up, Adam was like a brother, guiding us in camp and at training. He was an inspiration who looked at the team goals and ensured that we felt at home and we give our best for the nation,” said Mwaruwari.
The former Manchester City striker said he had to postpone his trip to the UK where he would have joined his family for the festive season.
“I got a call from home on Sunday morning just as I was ready to fly out to the UK. I called off the trip to be with the Ndlovu family and Zimbabwe as we go through this painful moment where we mourn the passing on of a true legend, a striker par excellence.
“He was a man of great humility who was liked and loved by all those that he came across,” said Mwaruwari.
Adam was travelling to Victoria Falls with brother Peter and a friend Tshili when their car crashed on the 417km peg along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road. Tshili died on the spot while Adam passed on, on the way to hospital.
Peter was admitted at Mater Dei Hospital after being attended to at the Victoria Falls Hospital soon after the accident. Mwaruwari said, Adam was a brotherly figure who would lighten up camp and ease nerves of younger and new members of the team through his jokes and advice.
“So when I joined the Warriors, he was already a senior player always ready to give advice and encouragement to the whole group.
“When I moved to Europe he was someone I communicated with regularly about my early days. He did not stay longer in Switzerland where I also played at some stage as he came back home, but he was somebody I really looked up to having been brought even much closer by my agent Ralph Nkomo who knew him too. He was an inspirational brother and teammate,” said Benjani.
Mwaruwari said even when he held his testimonial match, he had been well received by former Warriors players including Adam.
“They came in numbers to support the launch of the Benjani Mwaruwari Foundation. I was really touched to see some of the guys I grew looking up to, devoting their time and energy to my cause.
They supported even the junior soccer tournament under the foundation,” said Mwaruwari.
He said his prayers were with former Warriors skipper Peter as he battles for recovery.
“I wish him a speedy recovery so that he can carry on with the development work in the game that he had embarked on. May he take solace in the fact that my family and the rest of the football fraternity are sharing with him the grief of losing a dear brother, friend and teammate. We wish him a speedy recovery,” said Mwaruwari.
Benjani was one of a host of sports personalities including swimming icon Kirsty Coventry who sent their condolences to the Ndlovu family and also wished Peter a speedy recovery.
Coventry said her prayers and that of the nation were also with Peter whom she described as a “a very strong fighter who should be able to pull through the challenge”.
Adam’s good friend and former Warriors midfielder Kennedy Chihuri, now based in Leeds, England also expressed shock at the coach’s death.
“I am still shocked by Adam’s death. My heartfelt condolences to the Ndlovu family. Adam was a great player, coach, a great friend and teammate. He was a great inspiration to the younger generation and he will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace Adam.
“Peter, I am just praying for you and I know you will pull through. May the good Lord look after you until you fully recover,’’ said Chihuri.
Former Warriors coach, Charles Mhlauri, now based in the United States, also said he had been saddened by Adam’s death but remained optimistic that national Under-23 mentor Peter who underwent surgery in Bulawayo yesterday would recover.
Warriors’ right back Noel Kaseke, who plies his trade in Cyprus, also sent his condolences to the Ndlovu family.
Coventry City Former Players Association have also set up a fund to help their colleague Peter Ndlovu’s family based in the United Kingdom to fly to Zimbabwe and join the football icon as he mourns his brother.
A statement from the club’s website said the money raised would be used to enable Peter’s close relatives to fly to Zimbabwe to be with him at this sad time. CCFPA have started the fund by donating £500 and plans have also been put in place to make collections at the team’s Saturday home game against Preston.
Ndlovu is regarded among the club’s legends following a successful stint with the team in the 1990’s. Local Premiership Champions Dynamos also sent their condolences. DeMbare secretary general Raymond Kazembe said Zimbabwe’s soccer fraternity has been robbed of a valuable asset.
“Adam was one of the greatest strikers Zimbabwe has ever produced. He had just started to make an impact as a coach as evidenced by the performance of Chicken Inn.
“On behalf of the Dynamos family, we say to the Ndlovu family, our hearts are with you during this sad moment. May Adam’s soul rest in peace. We wish Peter a speedy recovery. Our prayers are with you Peter. Be strong. You have won a lot of battles before,” said Kazembe.
The Premier Soccer League, Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association, Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches Union have arranged buses to ferry mourners to Bulawayo.
ZNSSA has received two buses from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and they will depart from the ZTA offices along Samora Machel Avenue tomorrow at 3:00pm.
Tristar Insurance joined the nation in mourning the passing on of the soccer legend. The company is providing a bus to carry mourners from Harare, Kwekwe and Gweru to Bulawayo on Friday and back on Saturday after burial.
A company spokesperson said mourners would be picked up at Crowne Plaza at 9:00am in Harare and then the bus will stop over at Wimpy in Kwekwe where those also wishing to travel should board at 1:00pm. The last pick up point will be Gweru Wimpy at 2:00pm. The Herald