Where are they now? Brian Njobvu

Most of his playing days were confined to the coal-mining town of Hwange, but Brian Njobvu was in a class of his own.

Brian Njobvu
Brian Njobvu

Gifted with tight marking, timely interceptions, good vision and great leadership qualities, it does not come as a surprise that the former Hwange defender and skipper has now been put in the unofficial local football “Hall of Fame”, alongside the likes of Francis Shonayi, Ephraim Chawanda, Alexander Maseko and John Phiri. All this, despite his promising career having been cut short by a horrific car accident in 2001 – when he was only 29.

Local football fans are polarised along club lines, but the talent that Ndlovu had triumphed over all that, bringing satisfaction to most football followers when he was included at various national team set-ups. Even his sudden retirement drew sympathy from those who did not care whether Hwange stayed at the top or got relegated.

Having begun his career at school, Njobvu made his big break into the top flight league with Air Force of Zimbabwe side, Chapungu, in 1995.

“After spending few years with a second division – Rusupuko, I joined the then ambitious Chapungu, which had many other young players already doing well,” said the former Warriors central defender.

“I suddenly became an integral part of their back line. I never feared anyone and this helped me get a call-up to the national Under-23 side in my debut season.”

It was not long before Njobvu’s brilliant showing got him a move to Hwange, for the continuation of what later became a glittering individual career.

Not even the country’s most feared strikers would dare the man who later became “Chipangano” captain, who shut out even the most feared sharp-shooters like Highlanders’ Zenzo Moyo, Amazulu’s Norman Nkomani, the Dynamos duo of Sandras Kumwenda and Makwinji-Soma Phiri as well as Shabanie Mine’s Asani Juma.

Under the steadiness and leadership qualities of Njobvu, the coalminers reached the Independence Cup final in 1999, in which they lost 6-7 on penalties to then expensively-assembled Amazulu.

“My father was a big influence in my football career. He was very passionate about football and would take me to Hwange matches when I was still a toddler. This spirit always motivated and made me develop enduring love for the club. We consistently ended the league in a respectable position and made it very difficult for even the big teams to come out with a point from the Colliery,” he added.

“I really enjoyed my time alongside teammates like Taboniswa Ncube, Shimani Mathe, Jabulani Ngwenya and Walter Chuma, most of whom also graduated to the Warriors fold.”

Njobvu was also full of praise for his Zambian-born former mentor, Jones Chilengi, who built an authoritative Hwange side that turned the Colliery into a “Monsters’ den” in 1997. “Chilengi helped establish a powerful side that feared no-one. There was also David Mwanza, who took over from him and continued with the good work. Mwanza was a great coach endowed with a good technical and tactical approach that made us prevail in most difficult situations.”

Despite the sad and early exit from football, Njobvu never gave up on the sport and is currently the man behind Hwange’s continued good run in the PSL for the past seasons, churning out excellent juniors season after season.

“I am still in football, albeit in a coaching capacity. I have not experienced much of life outside football after all. The Hwange junior team that I coach is competing in the first division and I am very happy with their performance.”

He also harbours bouncing back to the PSL as a coach of either his former club, or any other. “I know I will be back one day because I enjoy working with youngsters. I want them to work hard every day and remain focused on their game if they are to succeed,” he said.

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