Mbabane: After watching video clips of Jerry ‘Mbazo’ Gamedze doing duty for senior national team Sihlangu, South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns put through a call to sign the hard tackling defender right away.
He was in his prime, enjoying a trophy-laden career at his boyhood club Manzini Wanderers and the ‘Weslians’ fans managed to convince him to turn down the once in a lifetime opportunity to play in the money spinning Premier Soccer League (PSL). He has little regrets though as he focused on his studies instead and is currently employed by Eswatini National Provident Fund.
‘Mbazo’ attributes his football success story to Mbuso ‘Banks’ Dlamini (now Tinyosi director) and Nyanga ‘Crooks’ Hlophe, Wanderers legends who coached and natured him to be the established defender he was.
“It all started from way back in the early eighties at Mkhaya area before Siphofaneni where I started kicking the ball for a club called Mkhaya United which was owned by my father. I was the youngest when I broke into the first eleven as I was about 14 years old. I was brave and the senior players convinced my father that I can play,” Mbazo said when asked where his career kick started.
He goes on to say he played with plenty great players during his illustrations career, but names the late Dikiza Ndzabandzaba and Adam ‘Malume’ Dlamini at Wanderers as top of the list.
“In the national team, there is none other than my brother Mlungisi Proffesor Ngubane.
Interestingly, ‘Madzala’ as Ngubane was fondly called revealed he used to idolise ‘Mbazo’.
After joining Wanderers in 1989, he names Boy ‘Bizzah’ Mkhonta as the other unsung hero who made an impact in his playing career.
“Bizzah was introduced to coaching by Mbuso Banks Dlamini. The only challenge with Bizzah during that time was that he was competing with foreign coaches but he was a cut above the rest but players of that time never believed in a local coach,” he continues.
During ‘Mbazo’s time, it was difficult to break into the first eleven both at club and national team level but he feels Isaac Mandlazi (Mathews Chaka-Chaka younger brother) didn’t reach his full potential due to the fact that Chaka-chaka switched camps to Sundowns during that time according to the skipper.
He goes on to name Nduku Mabuza as the funniest character in their team.
“He (Nduku) was always making funny comments and cracked jokes, but before check up, he will not go into the playing ground without going to relieve himself in the toilet (bekakhipha luvalo everytime we play even if it was a friendly game).
‘Mbazo’ then explains why he turned down Mamelodi Sundowns.
” Sundowns approached me and I was told I will not even do trials as they had watched video clips of my games at the national team, but I was naive and scared because I had not lived outside the country and lot’s of Manzini Wanderes fans convinced me to stay and I realised late that, it was because they didn’t want to lose me,” he explains.
With Wanderers struggling to bag trophies in recent years, he says he always shed a tear to see such a big brand losing its footing and playing second fiddle to the other great clubs like Highlanders and Swallows.
“A lot of factors are contributing to the fall of the once great Eswatini giant in the soccer field. We have lost it on our recruitment as players whom I feel do not make the cut to play for that club are now recruited. Also, power struggle is another factor. Financial deficiency is another factor and there is a serious lack of leadership both in administration and in the playing ground.
Generally, speaking on Eswatini football on if it was improving or not, he admitted difficulty because there is no instrument that we can use to measure whether the standard of play has declined or improved.
“One thing I know is that yesteryear players had passion, love and respect for the game which is no longer the same with the current crop of players. Today’s game is now centred around what to be gained by individual players yet yesteryears players gain was based on the overall achievement of the club as a whole.”
‘Mbazo’ also had advice for local stars, saying “The game of football is a short time career and the players need to invest in education so that they can have something to fall to after their playing days are over.”