Zimbabwe’s Ncube is a revered figure in Eswatini Stanford "Collymore" Ncube

MBABANE – It is every footballer’s dream to become an icon in their own country, but not everyone can achieve what the likes of Jay Jay Okocha, Peter Ndlovu, Didier Drogba and Lucas Radebe, did among others.

One such former player is Stanford Ncube, who is hardly remembered in his native country, Zimbabwe.

Ironically, he is an iconic figure in Eswatini’s football circles where he spent the better part of his career.

The Biblical scripture Mark 6:1-6 fittingly describes his standing. It reads: “Only in his hometown among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour…..” Ncube admits the verse is an apt summation of his life as a footballer.

Born in Bulawayo, Ncube grew up with a burning desire to play for Highlanders and Zimbabwe. This is a dream shared among the majority of budding players from Mzilikazi and Makokoba – two high density suburbs renowned for carving some of the finest footballers in Zimbabwe’s second largest city Bulawayo.

As anticipated, the Mzilikazi boy broke into the Highlanders Under 16 in 2000 together with former Warriors stars Johannes Ngodzo, Honour Gombami, Vusa Nyoni and Gilbert Banda, among others. Without a doubt, this was a class of great footballers.

While the other players went on to establish themselves at the Bulawayo side, forming the backbone of a team that rattled the Zimbabwean Premiership until 2012, fate had other plans for “Collymore” as Ncube was fondly known.

Collymore is a nickname he earned during his days at Mzilikazi Primary School where he was likened to former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore. Following his impressive exploits in the Highlanders junior ranks, he captured the sights of Njube Sundowns who immediately signed him.

“I played for Highlanders juniors, but at the age of 16 I was recruited by Njube Sundowns soon. At that time Sundowns were in the Second Division.

“It was difficult but we played well until we were promoted to the First Division. We played in First Division for one year and we were promoted into the Premier League,” Ncube said.

Although he established himself well at Njube Sundowns, his childhood desire to don the black and white jersey of Highlanders, popularly known as Bosso, did not die.

And it was veteran gaffer Methembe Ndlovu who brought him back to the Bulawayo giants to fulfil his dream at the start of the 2006 season.

“I played at Sundowns for most of my time until 2006, when I was signed by Highlanders. That was my childhood dream and it was finally fulfilled as I reunited with my colleagues from the Bosso Juniors.”

Colly, as some call him, would only spend six months at the club before switching to Mbabane Highlanders where he rose to stardom, to become arguably the best Zimbabwean ever to grace the Eswatini league.

“I was signed by Highlanders in 2006 of which I only played there for half a season as I was soon recruited by Godfrey Paradza a Zimbabwean coach who was coaching Mbabane Highlanders. Eswatini season, as you know kicks off in August and ends in May. So I arrived there in 2006 mid-year. Mbabane Highlanders is one of the biggest teams here,” Ncube says.

It was painful to leave a club of his dreams to join a football club in an obscure footballing nation. But his desire to earn better inspired him to make the move.

“It was not an easy decision for me to leave Highlanders, a club I always wanted to play for but the welcome I got in Eswatini was good enough to comfort me. They gave me an apartment but what made it easy was that I arrived at the same time with my countrymen Master Masiku and Jacob Muzokomba,” he adds.

However, six months into his stay at Mbabane Highlanders, disaster struck as his former club, Njube Sundowns threatened to withdraw him from the Eswatini club, demanding their dues for the transfer.

“But hey, I only played half a season before Njube Sundowns demanded the money they were owed and it was almost certain that I was to return home (Zimbabwe) early January 2007, ” the 36-year-old says.

Nevertheless his tale took a new twist after another Eswatini giant Mbabane Swallows stepped in with a better offer for his services.

They completed a deal with the player two days before his day of departure to Zimbabwe.

“I consider myself lucky because soon after that, their rivals Mbabane Swallows got wind of my situation they stepped in and bought me. I was happy to stay because I was not prepared to go and restart back home in Zimbabwe, I needed to stay and establish myself,” says the soft-spoken Ncube.

It is at Mbabane Swallows that the former Highlanders midfielder made his name an anthem in Eswatini after helping them win the 2007/2008 MTN Premier League and the Premier League of Swaziland Cup.

That same season he was also named player of the season.

He also won the Swazi Bank Cup golden boot that season, which he remembers as the turning point of his career.

In the 2008/2009 season they won the league but the following year presented another twist in his blossoming career after he sustained a serious muscle sprain.

That injury triggered his exit from the Mbabane based side, as he felt they never invested in his treatment.

“In 2010 I got injured, I sustained a muscle strain that never got proper treatment so much that I ended up using injections and pills to kill the pain so that I play.

“For that I ended up having a fall out with the Mbabane Swallows leadership because they were refusing to cover the cost of my muscle operation. It was painful,” he said.

In fact, that injury cast a spell on his career, as he would spend a significant time on the sidelines trying to recuperate. It cost him a potential move to South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns, who were keen on his services.

“I took a two-month break before I signed for Manzini Wanderers 2010/11. I only played there for a season but the injury kept me in and out.

“I took another break before joining Green Mambas during the 2011/12 season where we won the Champions Swazi Bank Cup, MTN league Champions and Trade Fair Cup

“With Green Mambas I also managed to play in the Champions League against FC Platinum of Zimbabwe but we lost in the first round,” he adds.

However, despite his impressive exploits in Eswatini where he is ranked among the likes of Wandile Mazibuko who is revered in the Southern African country, Ncube remained a forgotten Zimbabwean Warrior.

He never received a senior national team call up despite his illustrious career until he hung up his boots in 2015.

However, Ncube, who was granted an Eswatini citizenship a few years back, is a classic example of the importance of planning for life after football as he is thriving after venturing into the transport business.

“I started the transport business which is basically offering shuttle, chauffer and rental services, a year ago and I am currently busy with trying to complete its registration process.

“However, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken me backwards, crippling my finances.

“I already have two cars, an eight seater and a sedan with experienced and reliable drivers to drive people or any client around the country and anywhere in South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. I am one of the drivers,” he said. – Panafricanfootball.com

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