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Welcome back ‘Flying Elephant’

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It has been 20 years since Peter Ndlovu last played in the domestic league, then he was playing for his boyhood team, Highlanders, in Bulawayo before he was snared by the then English Premiership side, Coventry City.

Two decades down the line, the former silky striker, discovered by legendary juniors coach Ali “Baba” Dube, will be returning to the same turf that nurtured him into a world-class footballer that took him to England during the pinnacle of his career.

The former Warriors captain this week joined police team Black Mambas for the forthcoming 2011 season.

“The Flying Elephant”, as he was popularly known then, played for Coventry City when the team was in the top English league and was the golden boy for the club. He was even compared to legendary striker George Best after scoring a hat-trick against Liverpool.

After spending a record 13 years in England where he turned out for teams such as Birmingham City, Sheffield United and Huddersfield, Ndlovu flew over the oceans and landed in South Africa where he signed for the glamorous Mamelodi Sundowns in 2004.

He left the lofty Sundowns to join minnows Thanda Royal Zulu in the same country before the Durban side were relegated. After the South African sojourn, Ndlovu decided to come back home in 2009.

During his sabbatical from the beautiful game, Ndlovu has been busy setting up youth development structures with friend Edzai Kasinauyo.

Feeling that was not enough, the football ace has decided to once again dish out his cuisine to the local fans.

He might not be the same Peter of the late 1980s, who would make an easy carnage of defenders with his sublime skills and speed, but he is certain to take the fans, especially the older ones, down memory lane.

He will be slower and more on the leadership side on the field of play, but there is no doubt the Peter Ndlovu brand will reignite the local Premiership that has been yearning for big names and sponsorship.

As the player himself admits, he is not coming in to set the soccer scene alight.

He said: “I will see how far my legs will carry me. It’s not about getting a first team jersey at Mambas but the focal point is the development of the game and whatever inspiration I will bring to the boys.

“I will give my best in football; age is nothing but a number, look at Roger Milla. He played a little part in the qualifiers for the World Cup but was called up because he was an inspiration and a leader in the Cameroon team.

“I am not trying to build my name, I have done that. I am paying back to the youngsters out there because I can also learn something from them. Some of these things they do these days, I can’t even do them, so I will also learn from them.

“There are youngsters that are willing to learn and with the knowledge that I have, I believe I will be able to inspire some youngsters to greater heights and make other players, especially the youngsters, fulfil their dreams and greatness in football.”

The Bulawayo-born prodigy is certain to woo the crowds back and fill the void that has been left by the departure of our big names for South Africa.

Black Mambas must brace for more crowds at their matches courtesy of Peter, and the sooner the better they abandon their small and prison-like Morris Depot home base.

Very few people have bothered to watch Mambas at Morris Depot because of its proximity to State House and hosts so many police details whose presence force soccer fans not to express themselves.

So far, it will be a case of welcoming back a “prodigal son” when the season gets under way, presumably in March.

The nation waits with bated breath for the most capped Warriors player and the most successful skipper of the same team, after guiding the national soccer team to the 2004 and 2006 African Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia and Egypt respectively.

Welcome back Peter.

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