THIRTY NOT OUT. . . Before Salah, Mane, Drogba, there was Peter Ndlovu

05 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
THIRTY NOT OUT. . . Before Salah, Mane, Drogba, there was Peter Ndlovu Peter Ndlovu


Robson Sharuko


TONIGHT, at 9pm, a London Derby will signal the start of the latest edition of the English Premiership, the greatest annual football show in the world.

 At the last count, it’s a league that was shown in 188 of the world’s 195 countries, which are recognised by the United Nations.

It’s a league that has an average annual global audience of 4.7 billion people.

Thirty years ago, on August 15, 1992, the first matches of the newly-branded English Premiership, got underway in what was a journey into the unknown.

Four days later, on August 19, at 9.10pm, the Premiership welcomed its first African footballer to grace its fields.

His name is Peter Ndlovu.

On August 19, 1992, at 21.10hrs, the then 19-year-old Ndlovu walked into the history books as the first African footballer to play in the English Premiership.

The league had just been rebranded from the old First Division with the mission being to transform it into a commercial beast.

Since Ndlovu’s historic appearance, for Coventry City, on that August night in 1992, a number of Africa’s best footballers have since turned the Premiership into their playground of dreams.

Didier Drogba was a huge success story at Chelsea, Mohamed Salah has transformed himself into an icon at Liverpool while Jay Jay Okocha is a legend at Bolton Wanderers.

Ruyad Mahrez, Michael Essien, Yaya Toure, Sadio Mane, Samuel Eto’o, Nwanko Kanu and Emmanuel Adebayor are some of the African legends who played in the Premiership.

It’s a badge of honour, which Ndlovu wears on his sleeve, as the first African footballer to open the gates for all these legends to come and play in the English top-flight league.

Ahead of the start of the new Premiership campaign, Coventry City had appointed Bobby Gould as manager.

“I didn’t know much about him at all when I first got there. He was as quiet as a field mouse,” said Gould.

“But all of a sudden when I saw him in training I thought, ‘My goodness, what have we got here?’ He came under the radar really.

“Looking back now, the nearest person I can compare him with today is Eden Hazard. He was so hard to stop when he had that momentum.”

The contrast, for the league, between then, and now, is quite clear.

It shows how this league has transformed itself, in the past 30 years, from a wild experiment into this massive money-spinning beast.

In August 1992, when the first Premiership matches roared into life, the highest-paid player was Liverpool’s John Barnes on £10 000-per-week.

Peter Ndlovu was just on £800-per-week.

It took Dennis Bergkamp’s arrival for a footballer to earn £25 000-per-week in the Premiership.

The league had to wait for the 2005/06 season for it to celebrate its first player to earn £100 000-per-week.

Steve Gerrard, the Liverpool skipper, was the trailblazing footballer.

Carlos Tevez broke the £250 000-per-week mark while Ronaldo is now the highest paid footballer in the Premiership on £480 000-per-week.

From the humble beginnings of Ndlovu’s modest weekly salary of US$800, which was significantly improved after his heroics helped Coventry beat Arsenal at Highbury, Africa now has a footballer who is earning US$421 000-a-week.

His name is Salah.

While the likes of Salah and Mane are now household names, around the world, and will have earned millions of dollars, by the time they call time on their careers, history will always remember Peter Ndlovu.

If not for his trailblazing status, as the first African footballer to play in the Premiership, then for some of its most beautiful moments.

One such moment, in particular, unfolded at Anfield.

On March 14, 1995, he became the first visiting player to score a hat-trick at Anfield against mighty Liverpool, in 30 years.

Today, as the league celebrates the month which marks the 30th anniversary of the weekend when its first matches were held, Arsenal will get the ball rolling with a duel against Crystal Palace.

It’s as if the football gods are also celebrating given that the first game, of the championship, has to feature a Gunners side which, more than any team, has been synonymous with giving black players a chance to showcase their talents.

Sitting in the other dugout will be Patrick Vieira, one of the greatest African players to feature in the Premiership.

Born in Senegal, he chose to represent France, but never forgot his roots.

Just like scores of African players, who have excelled in the Premiership, in the last 30 years, the path to its green fields was first cleared by Peter Ndlovu.

Share This:

Sponsored Links