FOOTBALL reality has it that immortality will only be sealed by how footballers perform in their national team colours — that is where greatness is secured.
It is a stage where men turn themselves into supermen because nothing beats the honour of representing your country and that is reportedly the reason why those who do well in that regard are deemed our greatest heroes.
Long before Moses Chunga, Peter Ndlovu and Bruce Grobbelaar came along, and changed themselves into the vital cogs of Zimbabwean football in the 1980s and 1990s, there was one George “Mastermind” Shaya, a diminutive figure who reportedly possessed golden feet that stunned many after producing something from the top drawer.
Ahead of Zimbabwe Football Association’s inaugural awards that will honour the man who remains a reference point, when it comes to brilliance through a People‘s Choice Award on 11 November in Harare, the question still remains, Who is Zimbabwe’s greatest footballer of all time?
The four legendary players, Shaya, Ndlovu, Chunga and Grobbelaar were shortlisted for the award and yesteryear player David George who was privileged to see the quartet in action reckoned:
“It’s a tricky one. Besides George Shaya all the other three former players managed to play overseas. But if we are going to consider personal achievements, my vote will go to Bruce Grobbelaar. He won the FA Cup and the Champions League with a big club like Liverpool. Those were not mean achievements and he also did well for the country.”
David was crowned Zimbabwe’s Soccer Star of the Year in 1978 and he played alongside the great Shaya at Dynamos.
Asked on who he was tipping for the People’s Choice Award, veteran football commentator Charles Mabika was tight lipped.
“The four guys just deserve the award. It’s unfortunate I tend to influence public opinion. I will open up on who I voted for after the awards. I will also give reasons,” said Mabika.
Agnes, who got married to Shaya when he was honoured with his fifth and final Soccer Star of the Year award in 1977 — and his third in succession —naturally believes her better half deserves the accolade.
“No one has scooped the Soccer Star of the Year for a record five times just like my husband. He also did well for the country before the likes of Peter Ndlovu and Bruce Grobbelaar came into the picture,” she said passing her mobile phone to her legendary husband.
Shaya did not mince his words.
“While it’s a tricky one, I come out first. Peter Ndlovu comes out as my second best,” he said.
Here are their profiles:
George “Mastermind” Shaya
The “Mastermind” had a very colourful career with Dynamos which saw him being crowned Soccer Star of the Year a record five times, an achievement yet to be replicated. He has often been described as a midfield genius of his day whose moves and dribbling ability could carve open any defence, which inevitably earned him the nickname “mastermind”. Shaya was a very important player for Dynamos and proved decisive on many occasions during his tenure at the Glamour Boys. In his own opinion, his most exhilarating experience was when he curled a free kick past the Zimbabwe Saints wall to score the goal that would clinch the Castle Cup in 1976 for DeMbare.
Peter “Nsukuzonke” Ndlovu
He played professionally as a striker from 1988 until 2011. He played for Highlanders, Highfield United and Black Mambas in Zimbabwe. In the English Premier League he turned out for Coventry City, Birmingham City, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United. In South Africa he played for Mamelodi Sundowns and Thanda Royal Zulu.
He was capped 100 times by his country, scoring 38 international goals.
He captained the senior national team with distinction and twice led the Warriors to the Nations Cup finals, including Zimbabwe’s first appearance in Tunisia in 2004.
Bruce “The Jungleman” Grobbelaar
Better known as The Jungleman, he made 628 appearances for English Premiership giants Liverpool over 13 years and won six League Championships, three FA Cups, three League Cups and a European Cup for a return of 13 major trophies in 13 years at the Anfield giants. Bought only for £250 000 from Canadian club Vancouver Whitecaps, Grobbelaar provided real value for money for Liverpool.
Grobbelaar also did well in the Dream Team.
Moses “Bambo” Chunga
He moved to a Belgian club, at a time when there were few African players playing in Europe. Bambo’s 46 goals, in one season in the local premiership, remains a yardstick of goal-scoring brilliance.
The Zimbabwe football legend recently received five-star treatment in Aalst after returning to his old club, Eendracht Aalst in Belgium.