Monday, 30 June 2014

Joel Ngodzo must fight the weight demons

Stanford Chiwanga

Still got the talent
BEING crowned the second best local footballer in 2010 will always be a special accolade for Joel Ngodzo. It came after a season in which he mesmerized and dazzled many with his ball artistry for Highlanders.
His performance in midfield garnered him praise from all corners of Zimbabwe.
Many were disappointed when he came second best to Charles Sibanda who was with Motor Action. In their eyes ‘Josta’ should have been the Soccer Star of the Year.

In 2011 all eyes were on him as he was expected to be thrown into world stardom in a Highlanders shirt. Zimbabwe’s top young player could help Highlanders win the league title which they last won in 2006. But that was not to be – he did the unexpected – FC Platinum came knocking on his door with a big cheque and he jumped ship.

Ignoring the controversy of leaving Bosso for FC Platinum, all the talk was on how FC Platinum, who were assembling a team of galacticos, could use him. Was he going to be the nerve centre of the team? The creative hub from where all FC Platinum attacks could be launched? Was he going to be able to wave his magic wand without backing of a full stadia? At Highlanders the cheers from the fans where the fuel to his fire.
Things did not work out well for Josta. What was supposed to be a dream move quickly turned into a nightmare. He failed to adapt to life in Zvishavane. Most tellingly he failed to reproduce the form that had made him the darling of the Highlanders’ fans. The coaches at FC Platinum seemed unsure how to use him. In a nutshell he was like a rabbit in the headlights. He was lost.

His performances garnered criticism with the FC Platinum fans accusing him of not being committed to the cause. Poor performance after poor performance saw the coaches losing patience and with time he found himself on the bench.

There were purple patches here and there but largely his performances were below par. There were more lows than highs and his performances during his spell at FC Platinum were anything but decisive.

2013 was the nadir of his FC Platinum stretch as he found himself more and more on the bench. Lloyd Mutasa, the FC Platinum gaffer told Josta that he should lose weight if he wanted to play for him – in other words Josta was too fat. Those closest to him say that he lost his way and took out his frustrations on junk food, alcohol and barbequed meat after it dawned on him that he did not have support of his coaches.
A regrettable move
As a player Josta had the huge scope to grow. He was the standout player at Highlanders in 2010. Surrounding by a better calibre players but in an unfamiliar environment, he failed to make the progression.

It is no wonder he lost the trust and support of Mutasa who put his faith in other less talented but committed and determined players. It was inevitable that he was going to want out, more money on the bank was no longer a factor to stay.

He wanted to be a footballer again. He wanted to regain lost status. He wanted to be the centre of attraction. He wanted to be among the best players. There was only one club he was going to join. The only club he believed could help him become the player he was. Highlanders.

But so far the script has not gone according to plan. He wants to be on the field of play, creating chances for his teammates, and scoring goals for Highlanders. But as far as the Highlanders coaches are concerned he is not ready yet. The word is that he needs to lose more weight in order to be at the same wavelength with other players.

Those who know him say he is determined to lose a few more kilos. They say he goes to the gym more often than not. They say he is fighting the demons that compel him to eat junk food. He is winning the fight, they say.

If he does win the fight, there is no doubt whatsoever that Josta will be the player he once was. JOEL NGODZO. THE WIZARD. THE CREATOR. Again he will learn to play within the lines. Not in midfield but not up front either. He will find spaces and gaps that will pull many an opposition defence into areas they do not want to go.

The prayer is that he does that sooner rather than later. If he does, Highlanders will not miss Kuda Mahachi who has for Mamelodi Sundowns. Like Mahachi, Josta has the trickery, the invention and the pace to be the poster boy of Highlanders’ attack. 
Mahachi, has left for South Africa

But he must prove that he wants it.

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