TWENTY years ago, a teenage Zimbabwean footballer introduced himself to the Kaizer Chiefs family when he made his debut for the Amakhosi against AmaZulu.
Little did they know that one of their finest partnerships, with a footballer from outside their borders, had just started.
His name is Tinashe Nengomasha.
It was a special relationship that would last a decade, only ending when the midfielder left, in 2012, to join Bidvest Wits, in the twilight of his career.
By the time he left, he had helped the Amakhosi win the league championship in 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, when he was the best player in Supa Diski.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of his arrival at Chiefs, Nengomasha has been featured in a number of programmes, including some television shows, and was on SuperSport yesterday, where he was discussing his time on the field.
It’s a programme, which was produced some time ago but, with the clock now counting down the days to the day he made his Chiefs debut, it was a timely screening of the recording.
There are many who believe Nengomasha is the best defensive midfielder to wear a Chiefs jersey, since the turn of the millennium.
In a way, he didn’t only transform himself at Chiefs but also helped other Zimbabweans, including Knowledge Musona, make the grade there.
Before the Smiling Assassin’s arrival at Naturena, Nengomasha told the Chiefs official website:
“I am already recommending players to the Club and, an example is Knowledge Musona, I invited our Football Manager, Bobby Motaung to Zimbabwe to watch Musona.
“I had known the boy for a long time as he comes from Black Aces Academy where I also come from.
“I knew that he had what it takes to play at Kaizer Chiefs.
“While Bobby was there he spotted Thomas Sweswe.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
His crowning moment in Supa Diski came during the 2003/2004 season, when he was named the PSL Player of the Year.
“That was not a fluke at all, I like to think I deserved the award and also because as the team we won almost everything that season,” he said.
“We had a great team, the likes of Brain Baloyi, Shoes Mosheou, Cyril Nzama and many others.
“Players who normally win the Player of the Year Award are normally coming from teams who win the league and we have been unlucky in the past couple of seasons.”
When he was asked who was the best player in Supa Diski, to emerge from Southern Africa, Nengomasha went for his fellow countryman.
“It has to be Benjani Mwaruwaru without a doubt! He has proven himself by playing in big leagues like in France and in England.”
He has had a couple of nicknames since bursting onto the scene, with some fans calling him Father while others called him the General.
Asked to name the one he preferred, he chose the General because, he said, it’s the nickname which resonated with the tough way he played and tried to control the midfield.