By Robson Sharuko
Peter Ndlovu, the greatest Warrior of all-time, turned 46 yesterday, in the very month when, exactly 15 years ago, he became the first captain to lead the national football team to victory at the Nations Cup finals.
The country’s most celebrated in-field footballer, second only to Bruce Grobbelaar in terms of global appeal among the nation’s footballers, King Peter remains a celebrated figure in the game, 22 years after he waved goodbye to his time in the English Premiership.
The footprints, which his magical left foot made on the football fields in the English Premiership, during his time as a trailblazing African footballer, leading such giants like Liverpool and Arsenal to coming knocking on the Coventry City doors to try and sign him, are still visible.
He is the first African footballer to feature in the re-branded English Premiership, opening the doors for such legends like Tony Yeboah, Jay Jay Okocha, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Riyad Mahrez, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Lucas Radebe, Nwankwo Kanu and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Hardly a season of the English Premiership, which has transformed itself into the most watched sports league in the world broadcast in 212 territories with the and with the Manchester United/Liverpool game on Sunday broadcast in more than one billion homes and 190 countries, without the mention of King Peter.
A Premiership of mega-riches where West Bromwich Albion, who finished bottom in the last campaign during the 2017/2018 season, pocketed US$45 million, which was US$7 million more than the US$38 million which France took home for winning the 2018 World Cup.
Then, there were also the additional payments for television broadcasts (£1,016,690 for general UK rights to match highlights, £1,136,083 for each live UK broadcast of their games and £39,090,596 for all overseas rights) and commercial rights (a flat fee of £4,759,404) that also come into the coffers of the clubs.
There is also a fee based on final league position, £1,941,609 multiplied by each finishing place, counted from the foot of the table, which means that a team like Burnley, who finished in 16th place last year, received 5 × £1,941,609 = £9,708,045 merit payment.
That King Peter only played for a modest football club like Coventry City, during his time in the English Premiership, underscores the special quality of Ndlovu’s contribution to the world’s most popular football league.
“Ndlovu scored 43 times in 176 appearances for Coventry City between 1991 and 1997, often in crucial games and often spectacularly,’’ the club noted.
“He was nicknamed “Nuddy” by the Sky Blue Army who took the Zimbabwe international to their hearts:
Hat-trick against Liverpool, March 14th, 1995 — Some people would be daunted going into a tough away trip to Anfield. But not Ndlovu. He fired a hat-trick, the first by a visiting player since 1961, as City earned a famous win.
His first goal was a real poachers’ effort, arriving at the back post and firing past David James. His second was a confidently taken penalty. But his last goal was something special.
Picking the ball up from halfway he slalomed his way through the Liverpool defence before unleashing an unstoppable strike that drew applause from the Kop end.
Versus Aston Villa, September 28th, 1991 — In one of his first games for the club, Ndlovu became an instant hero as he scored the only goal of a passionate Midlands Derby against the Villa.
There did not seem to be much on when he picked the ball up, but his trademark dribbling offered him a sight at goal and he smashed the ball into the corner with the outside of his foot, sending Highfield Road into raptures.
Versus Arsenal, September 7th, 1991 — City made a habit of winning at Highbury in the early 90’s and Ndlovu announced himself in the top division of English football by scoring the winner on this occasion.
He nipped in to dispossess the defender, before showing remarkable composure to fire the ball past David Seaman.’’
Former Warriors goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini turned to Twitter to congratulate King Peter on turning 46.
“Happy birthday Sir Peter NDLOVU the (one) and only wish you many more and stay blessed and humble as ever, enjoy your born day,’’ he wrote.
Last year, King Peter took to Twitter to thank all the people who have believed in him in his football journey.
“I get a lot of tweets from people saying I used to be their favourite player,’’ he tweeted. “Thank you one and all. This makes me feel very honoured.’’
One of those who responded was his former coach at Coventry City, Bobby Gould.
“Nuddy, your footballing talent was of a very, very high ability and you were great person to coach,’’ Gould, who was the Coventry City manager between June 1992 and October 1993 when he resigned, responded on Twitter.
“Hope this message finds you in good health and good spirit, Love BG.’’ The Herald