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The unprecedented coaching career of legendary ” Samuel Zoom” Ndhiovu

Filed under: Sports |

Picture source: Facebook

Samuel ” Zoom” Ndhlovu got involved in coaching at Wanderers from as early as 1966 when he became player coach replacing Harry McQuillan. From then on, he was involved as player-coach, coach or technical advisor.

Ndhlovu was first appointed national team trainer in 1967 for a trip to Tanzania in July but was unable to make the trip due to work commitments.

He however first handled the national team in December of the same year during the Jamhuri tournament against Kenya in Nairobi, at the age of 30 making him the youngest coach to take charge of Zambia in a full international match.

Zambia won the two match series 5–1 and 4–3. Ndhlovu also took charge of Zambia as player-coach for a trip to Uganda in October the following year.

He was appointed national player-coach again when a team was assembled to play Congo DR in Kinshasa. This invitation coincided with the visit of Russian team Leningrad Zeniths. FAZ officials accepted the Congolese offer and decided to send an under-strength team to Kinshasa. The result was Zambia’s heaviest defeat on 22 November 1969 with Congo romping to a 10-1 victory.

Ndhlovu said this was the worst game of his career and he was so shattered that he could not eat after the game.

During the seventies, he was Wanderers Technical Advisor as the coaching role changed from George Sikazwe to Makwaza and in 1982 he took over as coach after Makwaza resigned. He went on to nurture players like Ashols Melu, Efford Chabala, Kalusha Bwalya, Charles Musonda and Johnson Bwalya. He was also the assistant coach to Bill McGarry, Wieslaw Grawboski and Geoff Butler and when the Zambia Football Coaches Association (ZAFCA) was formed, he was elected chairman.

He succeeded Butler as Overseer for Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) sponsored club coaches in February 1987and did a lot to motivate many local coaches. He commanded a lot of respect from players and fellow coaches and was called ‘Sir Zoom.’

After Zambia performed disastrously at the CAN ‘86 and Coach Brightwell Banda was sidelined, Ndhlovu took over the reins. His first game was an All Africa Games qualifier against Malawi in April 1987 in Lusaka which Zambia won 3–1.

Ndhlovu guided Zambia to the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 after a 2–1 aggregate win over Ghana. At the games Zambia found itself in a group with Italy, Guatemala and Iraq, where they thought to have little chance of progressing. Zambia defied the odds by topping the group to make it to the quarter-finals after beating both Italy and Venezuela by 4–0 score-lines. They however lost in the quarter-finals to West Germany by the same margin.

Ndhlovu was a proponent of the attacking game and under him Zambia recorded impressive results. He had an exceptional home record but his Achilles’ heel was that he could never get a result away from home when it really mattered.

After the Olympic Games, many expected Zambia to qualify to Italia ‘90 but it was not to be as the team won all its home games but failed to collect a single point on the road. The disappointment of missing out on the World Cup was put behind them at CAN ‘90 in Algeria where Zambia finished third.

Ndhlovu won the SADCC Cup with Zambia, beating Zimbabwe 3–1 in Gaborone in August 1990 and he led Zambia to a CECAFA Cup victory in Uganda the following year.[20]

At the 1992 Cup of Nations Zambia disappointed yet again, losing in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Côte d’Ivoire and the team arrived home to a barrage of criticism with fans calling for his resignation.

One accusation levelled at him was that he favoured certain local players at the expense of one or two European based professionals. Ndhlovu appealed for calm and reminded fans that ’emotions never win a war.'”Fans must appreciate in football there are losses, wins and defeats. Even if you bring an angel Zambia will experience defeat one time or another.” He refused to step down saying he was the best man for the job and resisted calls for German coach Jochen Figge, who at the time was attached to the Ministry of Sport as a Development Officer, to join the squad. Ndhlovu later relented and said he was ready to work with Figge who politely declined.

The criticism against him continued until he suddenly announced his resignation in July 1992, citing criticism from the media and lack of appreciation from fans. He was particularly incensed by a popular radio programme which questioned his reluctance to step aside and give chance to others.

This left the FAZ in a quandary and when Zambia kicked off the 1994 Nations Cup qualifiers unconvincingly with Figge as Technical Advisor and Simutowe as coach, struggling to overcome Mauritius 2–1 at home and defeating newcomers South Africa 1–0 in Johannesburg, Ndhlovu bounced back into the saddle for the 1994 World Cup qualifiers with a convincing 2–0 home victory against Tanzania in Lusaka and a 4–0 win over Namibia in Windhoek.

He also led Zambia to third place at that year’s CECAFA tournament with an 8-0 thumping of Zanzibar along the way. However a 2–0 loss away to Madagascar in a World Cup qualifier in December 1992 spelt the end of his reign as coach, only finding out when the FAZ announced in the press that he had been sacked and replaced with a new coaching team of Simwala, Godfrey Chitalu and Alex Chola. He said he was not surprised with the move charging that his dismissal was a fulfilment of a campaign pledge by the newly elected FAZ executive.

Ndhlovu then packed his bags and headed for Lobatse in Botswana where he took charge of one of the country’s top clubs LCS Gunners. As a consequence, he was not with the Zambian squad during the fateful flight in April 1993 when the whole team was wiped out in the Gabon disaster. He heard of the plane crash in Botswana and reflected that he would have been on that aircraft had he not decided to come to Botswana after falling out with the FAZ officials. “I do not know whether I should say I am lucky, but because I had disagreements with those fellows, I decided to come here to take up an appointment as Lobatse Extension Gunners coach,” he said.

He went on to win the league with the Gunners in 1994 and returned home in 1996 when he decided not to renew his contract.

Ndhlovu, who worked as a Community Development Officer and then as Chief Community Development Officer for Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) in Mufulira was not for the idea of being employed as full-time coach and he rendered his services to the nation on secondment from ZCCM.

During his time as coach from 1987-1992 he was in charge of Zambia for more matches than any other coach, suffering only 1 home defeat in a 2–1 loss to Egypt in December 1988 in Kitwe and won all his competitive home games. Of the 22 home matches he won 19 drew 2 and lost 1. Of the 66 games played away from home, Zambia won 28 times, drew 16 and lost 22. He had a win rate of 53%.

However, he made another comeback but this time as Technical Advisor when in November 1996, the Government and the FAZ could not reach an agreement with Roald Poulsen over a new contract and Freddie Mwila was appointed coach. The duo’s reign was short-lived as they resigned on 11 April 1997 when Zambia failed to beat Zaire in a World Cup qualifier, drawing 2–2 in Harare.

George Mungwa took over as caretaker coach but he could not save Zambia’s campaign as South Africa grabbed the only ticket to France ‘98 in the group.

Ndhlovu then went back to Mufulira to help out at Wanderers and took a low profile until 2000 when he contested the FAZ presidency but lost to Evaristo Kasunga by a landslide margin.

He returned to Wanderers as coach and cleared out most of the old guard in preference for youth and paid the price when Wanderers were thrashed 5–0 at home by Zanaco in the first game of the season.

When Wanderers’ went 9 games without a win, he was relieved of his duties and replaced by George Lwandamina. At the end of the season, Wanderers were relegated from the Premier league but were saved by a boardroom decision when Rail Express FC, one of the teams that finished above them was disbanded so they continued in the top league.

In early 200s Ndhlovu first experienced poor health in February when he collapsed during a training session at Central Sports Stadium in Mufulira.

In February 2001, he underwent an operation to remove a tumour from his large intestine but his battle with cancer continued until he succumbed and died at Malcolm Watson Hospital in Mufulira on 10 October 2001.

Activities in Mufulira came to a standstill as several former and present Wanderers players were joined by other mourners in paying their last respects to the super footballer called “Zoom.” After a requiem mass at Shinde Stadium, he was put to rest at Chatulinga Cemetery next to his daughter with a burial befitting that of a hero.He was survived by a wife and two sons.

Then Sports Minister Peter Chintala said the country had lost one of its greatest sporting heroes and former teammate Makwaza said ‘Ever since I knew him he was just superb.’ Kalusha Bwalya described him as a great player and true legend who set him on his way to fame.

In 2002, the Zambian season-opening Charity Shield was renamed the Samuel “Zoom” Ndhlovu Charity Shield in his honour.


With Mufulira Wanderers as Coach or Technical Advisor
Zambian league title: 1966, 1967, 1976 and

Charity Shield: 1967, 1968, 1976 and 1977
Castle Cup/Independence Cup/Mosi Cup: 1966, 1968, 1971, 1975 and 1976

Zambian Challenge Cup: 1967, 1968, 1969, 1978, 1984

Heinrich Cup/Chibuku Cup/Heroes and Unity Cup: 1968, 1976, 1985

Champion of Champions: 1976, 1977 and 1978
With LCS Gunners

Botswana league title: 1994
Zambia National Team

Jamhuri Cup: 1967 in Kenya
Uganda Independence Cup: 1968
SADCC Cup: 1990
CECAFA Cup: 1991

-Zambian Football History


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