“Ngiyaxolisa jeki. Bengingakubonanga,” (Sorry mate I had not seen you).This is what Warriors legend Peter Ndlovu said as he profusely apologised to Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda after he fluffed a glorious scoring opportunity in a World Cup qualifier against Mauritania at the National Sports Stadium on October 12 2003.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Ndlovu had failed to convert Gidiza’s pin-point pass and such was his heavy guilty conscience that he walked to Gidiza and shook his hand while apologising.
Even fans in the giant stadium were stunned that a player of Ndlovu’s calibre would fail to do justice to such a slick pass.
“I vividly remember that incident and it is one of those things that happens in football. Peter is a legend. Playing alongside him in the national team was an honour and I will always cherish that,” said Gidiza.
“We had a telepathic understanding with Peter and he used to phone Warriors coach Sunday Marimo to ask if I was in the Warriors squad. If I would have been left out, Peter would convince Marimo to include me. He was like a brother to me and would often fly me from Bulawayo to Harare for national team assignments, as well bringing me soccer boots from England.
“Peter once visited me at our house during my early days with the national team but he could not find me there. When I came back, I found my mother awestruck and could not believe that a legend like Peter had come looking for me. She knew I used to idolise Peter when I grew up,” he said.
For all the admiration from a legend like Ndlovu, it is worrisome that the Warriors’ search for a playmaker of Gidiza’s fashion is still elusive.
Gidiza would make defenders dance in desperation to stop his ball spraying antics and that earned him the childhood nickname “Gidiza”, which means dancing in Ndebele.
Blessed with intelligent reading of the game, an excellent touch and pin-point passing, the script was always written that the former Zimbabwe Saints, Dynamos and AmaZulu midfielder was destined for a wider football audience.
Rejected by Highlanders as a teenager, Gidiza resolved then that he would never turn out for Highlanders. In future and during his peak, Bosso fans resented him for frustrating them while in Saints, DeMbare and AmaZulu colours.
“My brother Bongani Mafu took me to Highlanders in 1994 when I was 18-years-old and I trained with the senior team for one day under Roy Baretto, Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu and Barry Daka. But they told me to go to the juniors and a week later, Gibson Homela spotted me and whisked me away to Saints.”
Missing out on the chance to play for a traditional giant, he takes solace in the two stints he had at Dynamos, especially in African Champions League days in the late 1990s.
“I support Dynamos and wish to coach them one day,” Gidiza said.
“In 1998 Highlanders wanted me but Dynamos came with a good offer plus the prospect of playing in the Champions League lured me there.”
Since his national team debut in 1998, he went on to earn more than 50 Warriors caps and featured at two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) editions with the Warriors despite failing to play in competitive foreign leagues.
“Of course I do regret that I never played overseas. Playing there was going to benefit me financially and make me a better person in life,” he said.
Failed attempts to join foreign leagues
Ronald SIbanda’s intended moves to foreign leagues were blighted by misfortune.
While at Saints in the mid-90s, he had a trial stint at English Premiership side Sunderland as well as Polish top-flight league outfit Slask Wroclaw in 1997 but with no luck.
He also once tried at Germany Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt while South Africa’s Umthatha Bushbucks were also keen on him during his AmaZulu days.
“Sunderland were too tough for me as I was so young then. Saints denied me clearance to join Slask Wroclaw because Wieslaw Grabowski who took me there had given them the impression that I was going for trials when in actual fact I was going to sign right away. Saints then realised that I had also been made to sign a contract with DT Africa United meaning they would have got nothing from the move so they quickly blocked it,” Gidiza said.
Even on football statistics website wildstat.com he is stated as Wroclaw’s player in the 1997/98 season.
“I also almost joined Bushbucks in South Africa but Delma Lupepe [then AmaZulu owner] refused to let me go after we had agreed for a fee. Bushbucks guys came to Bulawayo to finalise my move but Delma wanted me to remain at AmaZulu. He did not think about the future of my career. I was very angry about it.”
He turned 37 two weeks ago and works with juniors in Bulawayo’s Lobengula suburb.