Joel Ngodzo is an old lion that refuses to die

06 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
Joel Ngodzo is an old lion that refuses to die Joel Ngodzo

The Chronicle

Stanford Chiwanga, Online News Editor
WHEN he first broke into the Highlanders first team, he was hailed as the next Johannes Ngodzo.


A creative midfielder blessed with astounding abilities.

The comparison was not off the mark.

The comfort on the ball was similar, the coolness, the calmness, the crafty pass, the dexterity, the skill and the collected manner was hard not to compare.

The bravery in the occasional tackle, the eye for goals and that killer pass made sure that Joel ‘Josta’ Ngodzo was regarded as the rock of Highlanders and the national team after many had tried and failed.

Here was an extraordinary, almost the perfect midfield hybrid.

He displayed the passing brain of Ronald Sibanda, the surging forward drive of Richard Choruma and the switch of play of his elder brother.

Assured performance after assured performance, Zimbabwe was held spellbound by a magician who came from a family that gave us Johannes.

It was not surprising when he was voted the second best player in Zimbabwe in 2010.

The dazzling performances not only won him adulation and accolades but caught the eye of FC Platinum, the rich boys of the league.

It came as no surprise when FC Platinum came knocking and snapped him with ease in 2011, thanks to the mega bucks of their wealthy owners.

In the 2011, Josta was expected to be thrown into world stardom in a Highlanders shirt. Zimbabwe’s top young player could help Highlanders win the league title which they last won in 2006 butt that was not to be.

FC Platinum came knocking on his door with a big cheque and he jumped ship.

The talk was not the controversy of leaving Bosso for FC Platinum but how FC Platinum who were assembling a team of local galacticos, could use him.

Was he going to be the nerve centre of the team? The creative hub from where all FC Platinum attacks could be launched?

Was he going to be able to wave his magic wand without the backing of a full stadia?

At Highlanders the cheers from the fans provided the fuel to his fire.

Things did not work out well for Josta.

What was supposed to be a dream move quickly turned into a nightmare. He failed to adapt to life in Zvishavane.

Most tellingly, he failed to reproduce the form that had made him the darling of the Highlanders fans.

The coaches at FC Platinum seemed unsure of how to use him.

In a nutshell, he was like a rabbit in the headlights.

He was lost.

His performances garnered criticism, with the FC Platinum fans accusing him of not being committed to the cause.

Poor performance after poor performance saw the coaches losing patience and with time he found himself on the bench.

There were purple patches here and there, but largely his performances were below par.

There were more lows than highs during his spell in Zvishavane and the decisive 2013 was the nadir of his FC Platinum stretch as he found himself more and more on the bench.

Lloyd Mutasa, the then FC Platinum gaffer, told Josta that he should lose weight if he wanted to play for him – in other words Josta was too fat.

Those closest to him said that he lost his way and took out his frustrations on junk food, alcohol and barbequed meat after it dawned on him that he did not have the support of his coaches.

Suddenly Ngodzo found himself not so quite convincing and the excuse used in 2013 was that he was no longer able to cope with the pace of the game.

He came up short against teams that played direct and fast football.

His fall was hard to ignore because Ngodzo is a once in a lifetime player. Players like him are hard to find.

It is not every day that Zimbabwe births a footballer blessed with a crafty-deadly pass and a brutal eye for goals.

For many the demise of Josta was a cataclysmic capitulation so bad that it still almost defies belief.

Thumbs up to him for refusing to give up the ghost at the first sign that the end was near.

The determination to linger on as long as possible and the defiance have always been synonymous with Ngodzo.

In his mind, FC Platinum betrayed him and did not live up to the promises they made to him. So, he decided he wanted out.

He wanted to be a footballer again.

He wanted to regain lost status.

He wanted to be the centre of attraction.

He wanted to be among the best players again. There was only one club he was going to join.

The only club he believed could help him become the player he was and that was Highlanders.

But the script did not go according to plan.

He wanted to be on the field of play, creating chances for his teammates and scoring goals for Highlanders.

He failed. Again. So he left for Caps United, determined to show them all that Josta was still Josta.

And, boy, he did silence his critics as he was crowned the soccer star of the year in 2019.

How did the player who was called fat and lazy climb from the deep hole he found himself in?

It was the fighting spirit of the man that saw him raise his game.

He was told that he was done but he did not listen to his critics, he did not let the opinions of sheep kill the lion in him.

But all lions die eventually, including the king of the jungle. Ngodzo has since failed to reproduce the form of 2019. He left Caps United.

He even went to Zambia and joined BuildCon but he did not scale the heights of the past.

In the second half of the 2021 season, he joined Highlanders.

The scarred lion of many battles was home for one more shot.

The dying horse wanted to go out with a thunderous kick. It was not to be.

While former Highlanders coach Mandla Mpofu allowed the lion to roam the corridors he once ruled, Baltermar Brito, the coach who replaced Mandla, did not have time for history lessons and nostalgia.

Baltermar Brito

“About Joel, he doesn’t belong to our squad. We wish him all the luck in the next step of his career.

With us he was a professional player.

We released him because we don’t care about status but care about performance.

We felt he couldn’t fit what we requested for the position he took in the field.

So, the status of him we know is big, we don’t care about status, but performance, but we’re with the people that we know and think can fit the request for the positions that they have.

“He was very professional when he was with us.

Maybe he can go to the other side and do well because he is not a bad player.

It was only a technical decision.

We looked at him and felt that he doesn’t have the details and background needed for that position, so maybe it’s better that he goes,” Brito said as he let Ngodzo, who has since re-joined Caps United, go.

Some say Ngodzo needs to realise and accept that he is now in the summit of his career and walk away from football.

They are convinced that there is no way he is still able to play regularly.

If he insists that he still has it, someone will put the old warrior out of his misery.

He no longer has the legs to carry him for a few more years even though the talent remains.

But ruling out Ngodzo is a gamble.

One must admire the fighting spirit of the man, a spirit that has seen him rule out retirement after Bosso let him go.

He does not want it dictated to him; he will leave when he wants to leave – he still believes that he has it.

And if he does have it, then he must use it ruthlessly because failure to shame his critics will see him reluctantly falling on his sword.

If Ngodzo unravels that pit in his gut, he is going to blow people away.

The only obstacle in his way is his confidence.

If he overcomes that psychological hurdle, he will certainly make his critics eat the proverbial humble pie.

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