Home » Sports » Joel Ngodzo – a Case of Self-Inflicted Curses

It is saddening to see potential being thrown into the dustbins because of self-inflicted curses of substance abuse, indiscipline and laziness. A soccer career is very short and I have always urged young players to be aware of this and make the most out of their soccer careers.

It is worrying when you see a good number of youngsters behaving as if they have the whole of their lives to hone their soccer playing career.

Soccer is not a game like golf and bowling where one can go into their 60s playing competitively. Soccer is a physical game and very few are lucky to go beyond 35 still playing at the highest level.

I was disappointed and hurt when I heard that Joel Ngodzo was contemplating retiring from soccer after failing to make it into the Highlanders’ provisional 30-men squad.

This is a youngster in whom one of my colleagues, former FC Platinum coach Lloyd Mutasa, had so much faith.

We had an argument last year about his best player at FC Platinum and Lloyd went about the whole day trying to convince me that there was no talent like Joel Ngodzo in this country.

He spoke of all the attributes that you would want to have in a playmaker — ball control, passing (both short and long, horizontal and vertical), dribbling, shooting, dead balls, reading of the game and unlocking defences. From his description, I felt we had found the answer to the national problematic playmaking role.

In Joel, we had a near-complete playmaker whose weaknesses were heading and chasing back, Lloyd told me.

Joel Ngodzo had burst into the football scene in 2010 showing great promise with many expecting him to eclipse his brothers, Johannes and Zephaniah.

After watching him in a few games at both club and national level, I had my doubts that he was going to better the exploits of Johannes.

In Johannes, the nation had found an exquisite playmaker who was following in the footsteps of the likes of Moses Chunga.

Unfortunately, Johannes got injured and since then Zimbabwe has failed to fill the gap he left as a Warriors’ playmaker.

Because of the trust I have in Lloyd Mutasa’s judgment, I thought that maybe this young man was truly going to be the great player the southern side of the nation expected him to be.

The fact that he had broken the domestic league transfer record when he crossed from Highlanders to FC Platinum in 2011 added to the weight of expectations put on this young talented boy.

Four years down the line, Joel Ngodzo is running club-less with a month to go before the 2015 soccer season starts.

Highlanders have had enough of Ngodzo’s indiscipline and laziness.

At the beginning of last season, Ngodzo had to be “put on strict diet to shed weight” by the then Highlanders gaffer, Kelvin Kaindu. And you wonder how on earth a 23-year old footballer has weight problems. And it showed during the season when he put on shoddy performances and succumbed to injuries.

As if that was not enough, Ngodzo was found on the wrong side of the rules, not by his team only but by the police as well.

He was arrested for “drinking and being disorderly” in last season’s Highlanders’ 0-1 loss to Chicken Inn. To add salt to injury, he wasn’t part of the team on the day because of injury and instead of resting he went about drinking and causing chaos risking aggravating his injury.

Later in the season, Highlanders gave him a written warning following a night out boozing during camp ahead of the TM Pick ‘n’ Pay Challenge Cup against Dynamos. Coincidentally, Highlanders lost 1-4 to Dynamos.

One would have thought that would deter him, but not our Joel. At the beginning of this year’s pre-season, new Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu put Ngodzo on a special programme, again to deal with his weight problems. Ngodzo refused this programme and the team was left with no choice but to let him go.

Now, the player once touted as the answer to our playmaking role predicament, stands club less and contemplating retirement only at the age of 25. One would have thought any player would have learnt from the well documented stories of soccer players whose careers went down the drain because of alcohol and substance abuse.

Countless articles have been written of players whose promising careers have been destroyed by indiscipline and laziness. Countless more have been written highlighting the need for players to set their priorities right and making the most out of this short term career.

In Zimbabwe we have a long list of players whose careers were blighted by alcohol abuse and indiscipline. One that comes to mind who was equally vastly talented is Mutshumayeli Moyo.

A player who was endowed with equal power and prowess in both feet, just like Ngodzo, he was expected to fill in the Warriors’ playmaking role. And in the same way Ngodzo is going, Moyo flattered to deceive and never rose to even half of the expectations. And the last time we heard of him was when he left Dynamos for Democratic Republic of Congo.

All because of alcohol abuse, indiscipline and laziness.

When are our players going to learn? When are they going to learn that the playing career rarely lasts 10 years, that is if you are lucky to survive injuries? When are they going to learn that no matter how talented you are you still need dedication, focus, discipline and hard work?

Why is it most of our players arrive so early? Why do they get so big-headed early in their career? When are they going to learn the virtues of humbleness?

A month ago, there were rumours that Ngodzo might end up plying his trade in the unfashionable world of southern region Division One. I read that he might end up joining BCC Lions.

Is that what Ngodzo had envisioned for himself four years ago? Is that what his family and the nation at large expected to become of such talented potential who had shown so much promise?

As I write, Ngodzo is training with CAPS United, and please note, ‘he is training’. Mark Harrison is still to decide on the player. Judging by his statements or lack of them on Ngodzo, he doesn’t seem too keen. His last statement about Ngodzo was, ‘he is unfit’.

CAPS United might look like a decent destination but the club has since lost its glamour because of financial challenges. Ngodzo might be forced to take that route not out of choice but out of desperation to play premiership football. And the capital city is not good destination for guzzlers and those who are wayward.

Ngodzo is now considered a brand risk. The New Zimbabwean reported, ‘despite his immense talent, corporate backed teams like How Mine and Chicken Inn stayed away from the player to avoid risking their brand’.

Ngodzo needs to do a self-introspection and evaluate the direction his career and life has taken. Age is still slightly on his side but he needs to make amends fast otherwise he will end up on the long list of ‘would-bes’.

It’s painful to live a life of regrets and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s devastating to look back at your career and life and imagine what could have been. It will be a sad day when on his deathbed Johannes looks back and says, ‘what if my life was a lie?’ Unfortunately, for Ngodzo, this deathbed might not be on his actual demise but the day he would try to resuscitate his career and it would be too late.

The young man needs help and I hope what has happened will act as a wake-up call for him and many others who have fallen into the same trap.

Respect yourself, respect others and respect football.

The writer is a banker and former Premiership footballer and can be contacted for feedback on e-mail: bmahlengwe.cb@ gmail.com

Source : The Herald