Where are they now?

He was one of the most-feared strikers in the PSL in his heyday and a thorn in the flesh for many an opposition defender. His burst of speed belied his beefy stature and the sight of him packing a powerful shot with either foot on the run still lingers in most fans’ minds.

Out of the game, but Ngqabutho Sibanda’s memory lives on.
Out of the game, but Ngqabutho Sibanda’s memory lives on.

Enter Ngqabutho “Ngqayeeeeeee” Sibanda, the former Railstars attacking midfielder who made scoring look easy just after the turn of the millennium.

The former youth international still recalls the 2002 ZIFA Unity Cup, in which he volleyed Njanji to the lead and set them up for 3-1 first round triumph over the Bulawayo giants.

“Whenever I played against Highlanders, I put in my best because they wanted to rule Bulawayo, but we knew that we played better than them. They only had vociferous fans who intimidated the opposition,” he told The Zimbabwean.

“In 2002, I was at the peak of my game and it came as no surprise that I scored the first goal as we thrashed them. I overshadowed their usually strong midfield as I played one of my best games.”

Sibanda made his debut for Njanji in 2000, at the tender age of 17. That team, which boasted the likes of Edward ‘Sporo’ Tembo, Patson Rungisa, Master Masiku, Calvin Maseko, Collins Nyambiya and Tirivavi Sithole, was a marvel to watch, making even big guns bite the dust at Emagumeni. Ngqabutho was the elder of the two Sibanda brothers, with his sibling, Nqobile, also a brilliant midfielder in his own right.

“I was very fortunate to be thrust into that team at such a young age. It was a dream come true to don that green and yellow jersey. It was a talented outfit, but I managed to shrug-off the competition for positions to settle for a regular slot behind the strikers.”

The country’s economic problems and lack of proper sponsorship for the game relegated soccer players to “casual worker” class salaries.

“Inflation was very high and we could not afford soccer boots, which cost three times our salaries. Not even the peanuts we earned at National Railways of Zimbabwe could better our financial positions and it was wise for us to quit an early age,” he added.

Like everybody in the Railstars class of 2002, Sibanda has the memory of having reached the only cup final in the club’s history – the ZIFA Unity Cup of that year, but also a bitter one of losing to Masvingo and getting relegated to the first division.

“Cosmas Tsano Zulu remains the greatest coach I ever worked with. He motivated us a lot in our season of return to the Premiership. When he took us, we had gone for five matches without a win, but under him, we managed to improve a lot and went on to escape relegation.”

Among the awards he won at Njanji was the Most Promising Player, Young Player of the Year and the ZIFA Unity Cup runner-up medal.

He also excelled at youth tournaments, where he won the developmental Peter Ndlovu Trophy four times and the regional Best of Africa five times.

Post published in: Football

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