The day Zimbabwean football icons ‘clashed’ at Wembley
Brandon Moyo, [email protected]
PICTURE this: Wembley Stadium, packed to the brim with thousands of football fans, all eagerly awaiting a historic clash that would etch its way into the annals of English football.
Last Saturday was a day to remember, as Luton FC, affectionately known as the Hatters, took on Coventry City FC in a battle that would determine their fate in the English Premier League (EPL) for the first time in over three decades.
And what made this encounter all the more intriguing was the presence of two Zimbabwean
football icons, Marvelous Nakamba and Peter Ndlovu (in spirit).
For many Zimbabwean football followers, this was a momentous occasion. Finally, they had a reason to watch an English Championship match, and that reason was none other than their fellow countryman, Marvelous Nakamba.
The talented Warriors midfielder had become an integral part of the Luton Town squad, capturing the hearts of fans with his skill and determination. The stage was set for Nakamba to make history.
If you asked any football fan on the street which team they were rooting for that day, the answer was unanimous: Luton Town. Their unwavering support for Nakamba, their compatriot, knew no bounds.
But Luton Town had another Zimbabwean connection, Admiral Muskwe, who unfortunately struggled to secure game time after his loan spell at Fleetwood Town. Nevertheless, the Zimbabwean fans’ fervour for their heroes was unmatched.
However, amid this sea of Luton Town supporters, there was one Zimbabwean football legend who found himself caught between his compatriots and his club.
Peter Ndlovu, arguably the country’s greatest footballer and history-maker, owed his major breakthrough to Coventry City. In 1991, Ndlovu became the first African player to grace the EPL, signing with none other than Coventry City.
Ndlovu’s loyalty to Coventry City was unwavering, and rightfully so. He etched his name into Coventry City’s folklore, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick against Liverpool at Anfield since Terry Allcock achieved the feat in 1962.
The legend had a choice to make: support his fellow countrymen or stand by his club. Like many other legends of the game, Ndlovu’s club loyalty could not be easily swayed.
With love and respect for Coventry City, Ndlovu sent his best wishes to the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final at Wembley Stadium through a heartfelt Twitter post before the match.
“Best wishes Coventry City for the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final at Wembley stadium today. I have faith that you will come out victorious.
With love from Peter “Nuddy” Ndlovu,” he posted on his Twitter before the start of the match.
His words carried the weight of a true ambassador of the game, someone who understood the significance of loyalty and the bond between a player and his club.
And so, the stage was set for the clash between the two Bulawayo boys, Nakamba and Ndlovu. As the match unfolded, it was the younger hero who emerged victorious, guiding his new-found team, Luton Town, to the coveted top-flight football.
Nakamba’s composure during the penalty shootout proved instrumental in Luton Town’s 6-5 win, and he could now look forward to playing in the premier league next season, whether at Aston Villa’s Villa Park or at Kenilworth Road.
Nakamba’s journey to Luton Town had started on the last day of the January transfer window when he joined the team on loan from Aston Villa.
In his 17 regular league appearances, he showcased his talent and received rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Playing a crucial role, Nakamba inspired his team to nine wins, seven draws, and only one defeat against the championship-winning Burnley, managed by the legendary Vincent Kompany.
Nakamba joined Luton on deadline day of the January transfer window on loan from Aston Villa. He went on to ascertain himself well at Luton, receiving rave reviews during his 17 regular league games’ appearances.
The 29-year-old inspired his team to nine wins, seven draws and one defeat against Vincent Kompany-coached Burnley who won the championship and direct promotion to the EPL. Luton lost 1-0 to the eventual champions.
Including the promotional playoffs, Nakamba has provided defensive cover in 20 games, capping it with a winner’s medal.
The two Zimbabwean football ambassadors, Nakamba and Ndlovu, despite being on the opposing sides of the fence, will be remembered fondly by both the two teams, with whom their loyalties lie.