King Peter: The Mamelodi Sundowns unsung hero. Peter Ndlovu, who has won five league championships and an African crown as “The Brazilians” team manager in the past seven years, has been hailed as one of the most important appointments that the club made in the last decade.
Warriors legend Peter Ndlovu is one of the unsung heroes at South African Premiership football champions Mamelodi Sundowns who have transformed into a continental powerhouse in the last few years.
The 47-year-old first arrived at Sundowns as a player in 2004 and was recruited into the technical structures in 2013 where he teamed up with another former Sundowns player, Pitso Mosimane, to assemble a formidable outfit.
Sundowns have enjoyed their most successful decade in history where they won five league championships, two Nedbank Cup titles and two Telkom Cup successes. They also won the 2016 CAF Champions League and the CAF Super Cup in 2017.
Nldovu added another feather to his success with the Brazilians after the club completed a treble at the weekend by winning the Nedbank Cup, on top of the prized Absa Premiership title and the Telkom Cup.
Ex-Zimbabwe footballer Charlie Jones told The Herald that the arrival of Ndlovu in the Sundowns technical structures was one of the several game-changing decisions made by the club.
“No doubt he has the respect of the players because of where he came from. The club got it right with his appointment. I also feel he is doing it right in many other important aspects of his job as well.
“It’s very unfortunate that the team manager’s role is in the background. But those duties, unseen by the public in the day-to-day running of the team, are the most important roles. They win their games and titles.
“People are just used to seeing players on the field of play but what they see on the matchday is just the product of the work done during the week. Behind the scenes, there is someone working very hard to make sure the players are in the right spirits and ready to deliver.
“It’s not easy managing over 30 adults, most of whom are family men. You have to see to it that their welfare is catered for, that their mentality is in good shape and also helping them cope with various other social issues so that they do not lose focus.
“That is why it is important to have former players in those roles and I think as Zimbabwe we have to learn one or two things from Mamelodi Sundowns. “They have been successful because of that link. It’s unfortunate here in Zimbabwe it appears people go for loyalists who in turn act as spies on players. That is why we always have instability because there is no trust.
“But Peter Ndlovu is such a humble guy. I have never heard him make noise about his accomplishments in life,” said Jones. A prolific striker during his heydays, Ndlovu brought the vast experience to Sundowns. He was the first African player to feature in the modern-day English Premiership back in 1992 when he was snapped up by Coventry City from Bulawayo giants Highlanders.
He also played for Birmingham City and Sheffield United in the UK before finally taking the decision to end his career abroad. After leaving Sheffield United in 2004, Ndlovu was unveiled as a marquee signing at Sundowns. He remained there for four years and then finished his career in 2011 after a spell with Black Mambas in his native Zimbabwe.
Ndlovu made 100 appearances for Zimbabwe and scored 38 goals in an international career that spanned 16 years from 1991 to 2007. Veteran football journalist Charles “CNN” Mabika said it was difficult to ignore the presence of Peter Ndlovu in the making of the Sundowns’ success story.
“Peter has always been a humble and modest character off the pitch. But he is someone who loves his game, he loves nurturing players and he loves Zimbabwe a lot.
“I cannot really say Sundowns would not have won all their stars if Peter was not around but I have a strong conviction that his presence in the structures really played a part. His combination with coach Pitso (Mosimane) is exactly what the doctor ordered.
“Remember, he was also there as a player when he first arrived in South Africa. His influence as a player rubbed off immediately to some of the players that he was playing with at that time.
“I would like to commend the hierarchy at Mamelodi Sundowns for choosing someone like Peter for that role. He has imparted his experience and knowledge to the players and his colleague, including Pitso Mosimane who speaks highly of him.
“I think we should adopt this unique example in Zimbabwe if we want our teams to be successful,” said Mabika.
Ex-footballer Moore Moyo said it was not coincidence that Sundowns has been on the ascendancy in the past few years. He believes former players should be getting the roles of team managers because they understand players’ issues better.
“Obviously there is an aura of respect that he brings to the squad and when he speaks, the youngsters listen because he has been there before and he played at a higher level in Europe. I believe the experience that he brings from his playing days is priceless.
“It’s very important to bring on board former players in such roles because they know exactly what players feel. They experienced it all and they know exactly how to deal with players. I believe they handle player issues better than someone who never played the game,” said Moyo.
Ndlovu revealed the secret to success in a recent interview with the Sundowns website recently. “Sundowns has been my home for a long time, I have probably been here longer than everyone,” he said. “They looked after me as a player and I think it was easy to have a look at my future and decide to come into management.
“One of the things I used to do during my playing days was managed players, help them out and do things that help them. Myself, Brian (Baloyi) and other senior players used to try and do that.
“So, when I was asked to be the team manager, although it’s a different ball game, I took what I learnt. Of course, things change and so does management, and you have to upgrade and update every time.
“The challenge is that you must never use what’s in the past when there’s a new system, and by that I mean I should never speak about my achievements then. “It’s what I do now that’s important because you are not judged on what you’ve done, but what you are doing. It’s a big challenge.
You have to respect the players and be there for them and make sure that you manage and understand them. “When you have respect from the players then it becomes a two-way street. I also get help from a lot of people at the club, who are around me and make my job easier,” said Ndlovu.