The death of former international striker Adam Ndlovu at the weekend has rocked Zimbabwean football to its core. Driving back from watching a local game with his younger brother Peter, best known for his time in England with Coventry, Adam was killed with a female passenger when their car struck a tree following a tire blow out. Adam, who played alongside his brother in the national team and scored 34 goals during that time, was killed instantly whilst his brother was left in a critical condition with multiple injuries including a broken leg, head injuries, internal bleeding and broken ribs. The former international striker who still holds the records for the most caps and goals collected by a Zimbabwe player, he is loved in his homeland as much as he is loved across the midlands of England where he made his name. During a 13 year spell in England, Ndlovu played for a variety of clubs including Sheffield United, Huddersfield and Birmingham but it was his time at Coventry, the club that brought him to the uk, that Ndlovu is most fondly remembered for.
Signed by Terry Butcher under the recommendation of former Blues boss John Sillett, Ndlovu became a fans favourite early on in his time with his dazzling runs, trickery and explosive finishing. Scoring on his debut against a strong Arsenal side helped but it was his goal against local rivals Aston Villa that remains in the memory for those that were lucky to witnessed it. Known to the fans better as Nuddy, Ndlovu starred during a relatively exciting times for Coventry fans, playing alongside the likes of Mickey Quinn, Roy Wegerle, Darren Huckerby, Noel Whelan and Dion Dublin. Despite this, Coventry and Ndlovu suffered a rollercoaster time during his six-year spell at the club, playing under 4 different managers and coming to relegation on more than one occasion. But this wouldn’t deter Ndlovu, even when offered a £4 million escape route by Arsenal at the end of the 1994 season, Ndlovu was committed to the club and was going nowhere.
Ndlovu would eventually leave Coventry to join Trevor Francis’s Birmingham but rumours surrounding his departure suggested it was not Peter’s decision. Considered a success during his time at St Andrews, Ndlovu only spent 4 years at the club (with one on loan to Huddersfield) before moving again to Sheffield United in 2001. Moved from a central striker to right midfield, there were concerns by many that Ndlovu’s goals would dry up but their fears were unfounded as Peter went on to score 25 times in 135 appearances, helping Sheffield United reach two semi finals in three years. As his career wound down, thoughts turned towards returning to Africa and making the move into coaching. He would get his wish, firstly joining South African based team, Mamelodi Sundowns for a further 4 years, prolonging his playing career. It would be during this time that he played his final game for Zimbabwe, alongside his brothers Adam and Madinda as he had done many times before.
Like Adam, who moved into coaching after his retirement, Peter’s love for the game never faltered. He was honoured to play alongside his brothers in any capacity, whether it be in a friendly kick around or in the Zimbabwe national shirt. The two players had become legends in their country, going down in history as part of Zimbabwe’s Dream Team. Sunday’s tragedy has affected the whole country, with Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai expressing what the country is feeling in a series of tweets yesterday:
“I am deeply saddened at the passing on of soccer legend, Adam Ndlovu, who was taken away from us in the horror crash that left his young brother, Peter, in hospital. I wish Peter a speedy recovery. Adam and Peter were part of our national football Dream Team in the 1990s and have continued to impart their skills to other young Zimbabwean footballers. They have made a significant contribution to culture in Zimbabwe. My prayers are with the Ndlovu family, the football fraternity and the nation at this sad loss. On behalf of my Office, my family and on my own behalf, I join with so many others who knew Adam, in offering our deepest sympathy on his passing.”