Ncube: Coach and referee rolled into one
From Page 8 management badly needed a good result and that after the match we would be taken to the factory to get shoes for our children, I then invited him to our dressing room.
“While there I introduced myself as a teacher, Jele as an administrator with some company that was at York House in Bulawayo’s CBD. I then said the third guy was a police officer and called on my colleague to effect a citizen’s arrest with Jele on the man for attempting to bring the game into disrepute.
“How he got to the door first and turned the key to escape sudden arrest was so quick that, within seconds he was vanishing into the crowds to escape a thorough beating and arrest. As referees we have to protect both clubs and those paying hard cash to keep the game going,” he said.
Ncube was to get another bribery attempt on him in a match Ziscosteel badly needed to win at Torwood Stadium in Redcliff against Highlanders FC.
“This gentleman barged into the dressing room. We could hear him say we are homeboys, we speak SiNdebele. He asked to speak to the referee in privacy. I went out of the dressing room to hear his story. He said Zisco wanted the win more than Highlanders to survive and that we had to make sure they win and we would be rewarded handsomely.
“I took him to the dressing room where I said my colleagues were in the police force. I then gave him a lecture that as a teacher by profession, match officiating called for impartial officiating as both clubs needed our protection. I threatened that I would put it into my report and that he should stop his ways. With his tail between the legs, the guy left the dressing room very humiliated,” Ncube said.
He said back in the day football was about passion and winning for players and coaches.
Remuneration was poor
“It was for the love of the game that people engaged in it. There were no gemological factors like inducements, be it cash or drugs,” he added.
How did Ncube get into refereeing? After completing his teacher training course at St Patrick’s Mission in Gweru, he was posted to Lobengula Primary School in Bulawayo’s Mzilikazi suburb.
In 1971 he started coaching the first crop of Highlanders Under-14s which had the legendary Highlanders goalkeeper Peter Nkomo.
“I was passionate about football. There was this crop of juniors I worked with at 11th Street pitch at Makokoba. I trained them up to a stage where they were close to first team action before Ali Dube took over. I then was challenged by Bosso chairman Mtshena Sidile (late) to join the referees’ ranks. That was about 1975.
“He said there were too many referees from the Indian and Shona communities, so there was a need for Ndebele speaking chaps to come on board and protect everyone’s interests in the sport. I then started running lines and eventually was assessed and given centreman roles leading to my rise to Class One,” he said.
Ncube was involved in the short-lived South Zone Soccer League matches where he recalls the likes of the late Francis Sikhosana, Majuta Mpofu, Lemmy Mnenekwa, Thomas Chipembere, Danny Mahaso, Nicodemus Mabhena, Conrad Nkomazana, Tito Paketh, Boyce Malunga, Lawrence Phiri, Alfred Ngedla Phiri, Douglas Mloyi, Doughty Sithole, John Reilander and Neil and Richard Boonzaier as having been some of the best players in the league.
In the elite leagues on either side of Independence, Gibson Homela, James Nxumalo, Max Tshuma, Majuta Mpofu, Madinda Ndlovu, Douglas Mloyi, William Sibanda, Onias Musana, Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, Joel Shambo, Robert Godoka, George Shaya are among the heroes of the game.
Ncube said he was inspired by referees like Frank Valdermaca, John Nkathazo and Wilfred Mukuna.
“Frank was a cut above the rest. His reading of the game, situations and application of the rules was superb. John was great and this one (Mukuna) who liked to back pedal a lot too did a great job at the centre,” said Ncube.
Ncube said the likes of Gulam Jogee, Paul Pretorius and Premji Giga were very good on their day but at times tended to be influenced by crowds which would lead to bad decisions.
Apart from coaching Highlanders juniors Ncube also coached at Lobengula Primary School where among some of his players were the late Max Tshuma, Nhamo Shambira and Summer Ncube who is in Botswana.
“Hey, it’s just too many of them for me to remember. It’s been over 40 years with some and many kids have passed through these hands,” said the 69-year-old nicknamed Stina and known among his peers as Ntatheli.
Ncube’s coaching exploits saw him coach the likes of Peter Ndlovu, the late Adam Ndlovu and Benjamin Nkonjera at Mzilikazi High School.
“I was Peter Ndlovu’s Form Three and Four, English teacher. He was a gem. We had brilliant school teams at Mzilikazi but that crop stands out,” said Ncube with a sense of accomplishment.
Ncube was born in Mberengwa on the border with Filabusi and did his primary school education at Masase Mission and Msiningila.
He proceeded to Mzingwane High School up to Form Two (Junior Certificate) before landing at Hope Fountain for his Primary Teacher Higher Certificate 1 and another year at the next level at St Patrick’s in Chiwundura.
He said in his youth he liked athletics and football with the Mutize twins Clifton and Cliff and Chemist Siziba among the athletes of his generation he faced while they were at Matopo.
At Mzingwane he played cricket and made score lines with fours and sixes his daily bread leading to sports master, a Mr Taylor wanting him to move to Botswana.
“I was a victim of apartheid. I could have played cricket at a higher level but as a black person I could not take my talent to the next level. Mr Taylor wanted me to train at Queens then move to play in Botswana who were a British Protectorate not suffering from segregatory tendencies,” said Ncube.
He said that chance went up in smoke and Mr Taylor never explained why.
Ncube taught at Lozikeyi, Mzilikazi High School and had a stint at the Bulawayo City Council where he was a sports co-ordinator, a development that allowed him to write his O-levels as the hectic teaching schedule made it difficult. In later years he was to do his education degree and several other courses working for an insurance company before calling it a day to help out in the marketing department of the family’s River Valley Properties.
Ncube is married with four kids, two boys and two girls.
He is not happy with many former referees having been elbowed out of match commissioning and believes divisions within the folk have existed for far too long with fissures having emerged during the Nelson Chirwa era.