Harare – Zimbabwe’s red-hot forwards are hogging the limelight on foreign soils with Tendai Ndoro joining that exclusive club with a sensational double strike, on the grand occasion of the Soweto Derby, to propel Orlando Pirates to victory over bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs last Saturday.
After a largely frustrating season, which has seen him get limited action at the Buccaneers, Ndoro has exploded in the past few weeks, after being thrown into the deep end by coach Eric Tinkler, following the departure of Kermit Erasmus to France.
Having arrived at Pirates carrying huge expectations following a successful spell at Mpumalanga Black Aces, Ndoro has struggled to make an impact, with the coach freezing him out of the team as he preferred other strikers in a largely poor domestic campaign for the Soweto giants.
But a double strike, when he was introduced as a substitute against his old club Black Aces, reminded Tinkler that the gangly Zimbabwe international could be the man who could provide the goals to turn around the season for Pirates.
However, he turned himself into the darling of the Pirates’ fans with his superb double against the team the Buccaneers really love to beat, as the Sea Robbers dumped Kaizer Chiefs out of the Nedbank Cup at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Four goals, in two matches, have thrust Ndoro into the spotlight and the striker’s exploits were the subject of discussion during SuperSport’s weekly magazine football show, Back Pages, with leading South African football writer, Jonty Mark, describing him as “fantastic.”
Mark, the football editor at the Citizen newspaper, said it was remarkable that Zimbabwe continues to produce strikers who make a huge impact in the South African Premiership, a trend that started when Wilfred Mugeyi arrived in Super Diski in the ‘90s, and turned himself into a superstar.
Questions have, inevitably been asked as to why Tinkler kept Ndoro in the shadows for long, given the striker’s goal-scoring rate and after the coach told the South African media that the striker was likely to score nine times out of the 10 shots that he takes on goal.
“We see Tendai’s ability to score in training. He knows that it’s also about more than just scoring. He is starting to defend well,” Tinkler told the South African media.
“I was particularly impressed with his work ethic (against Chiefs). He didn’t stop running and always looked for the ball. That is a sign of confidence and this is the confidence we hope we can build on to end the season on a good note.
“We have always known and respected Tendai’s abilities. Give him a chance in front of goal and he will bury it.
“I was particularly impressed with his work ethic, he didn’t stop running and always looked for the ball.
“That is a sign of confidence and this is the confidence we hope we can build on to end the season on a good note. We’re a team in which everybody needs to work, and we can see he is doing that now.
“Also, we know he has great ability in front of goals, and when he gets the opportunity he must shoot because we know that nine out of 10 times he will hit the back of the net.
“But the most important is his work-rate, which we are now seeing from him, and the way he expresses himself, which is also very important.”
Ndoro joins a club of Zimbabwean strikers who are making waves in international football in a season when Khama Billiat has propelled himself to superstardom in South Africa, where he has been the standout player, while Knowledge Musona and Matthew Rusike are also doing very well in Belgium and Sweden.
Musona, who has been Zimbabwe’s best player in the past five years, is in the race for the Golden Boot in Belgium where he has been starring for his club, KV Oostende, after a nightmarish stay in Germany where he failed to make a mark.
The Smiling Assassin has scored 11 goals in 25 games for Oostende, including three assists, and is two goals behind the leaders in the race for the Golden Boot with Jeremy Perbet of Charleroi, Gohi Bi Cyriac of Oostende and Frederick Gonnongbe, leading the charge on 13 goals.
For once, Musona has had to contend with all the limelight, in this country, going to someone else, his good friend Billiat, who has exploded in the South African Premiership with nine goals, while largely playing in wide positions, and a number of assists.
He trails Zambian international forward, Collins Mbesuma, who leads the Golden Boot race with 12 goals while Prince Nxumalo has scored 11 times in the league.
There have been calls in Zimbabwe that Billiat should move from the South African Premiership and battle with the best footballers in Europe but veteran coach Ted Dumitru believes that the diminutive forward isn’t ready for such a jump.
“I don’t think he is ready to move abroad,” Dumitru told Goal.com.
“I think he still needs more exposure, more quality football in South Africa before he makes a move abroad.
“There are things that leave a question mark when players leave for Europe.
“I think certain players should not leave South Africa until they get more exposure to consolidate their performances.
“I am not sure that a French or an English team is going to provide the optimum solution for a talented player coming from South Africa or from Africa in general.
“The African players that are doing well in Europe so far are because they managed to get some of the best coaching conditions.” (Reported by Robson Sharuko)