ONE cannot talk about the life of the late Partson Ndabambi without mentioning Amavevane Social Club. As he was finally laid to rest at his rural home in Gokwe on Wednesday, his colleagues could not help but share anecdotes about the young man who wore football on his sleeve like a badge.
If it wasn’t the commitment he put into anything that was thrown his way, it must be the level of excitement he generated so naturally. To all of us, he was everybody’s mfana. One who if you wanted anything done, he would gladly take it up without complaining. And do it so well.
At some point, someone asked him if he ever got tired of doing other people’s errands and he would curtly reply that if one was sent by a brother, would you question him why? He always had a plan where none existed. His energy boundless.
Not that we all took advantage of his age as we were all older than him, it was the very fact that he was reliable. It’s a quality that is lacking in the youth today.
But there is another thing that was unique about him. He was just mature for his age. Which explains why he fitted in so easily with us, doing ‘adult things’. Apart from that, he was adept in the art of the repartee or what we call ‘icele’ in IsiNdebele. Something that we doled out liberally among ourselves but would get one beaten up if you were not part of the circle of friends.
My enduring memory of Partson was when he was ‘assigned’ to look after our then toddler sons, a situation another late Vevane, Douglas Macebo aptly called ball and chain, and the late gaffer would be on hand to look after them. Kicking around a ball at the Highlanders Club house while daddy quaffed one or two.
He just loved the kids and if I had allowed him, would surely have made soccer stars out of them. The good thing about it was that after a session with Uncle Partson, the boys would just collapse into a deep slumber.
The connection with Amavevane is very deep. Apart from the fact that he effectively was one of our most trusted speed merchants on the wing, he was instrumental in setting up our juniors. In his never ending quest to be part of the Bosso coaching team, a dream that was shattered at every turn by selfish mandarins at the club, he managed to convince us to sponsor talented players that had been ejected by the Highlanders bureaucracy.
One of the founding fathers of Amavevane, Mduduzi Mpande, remembers vividly Ndabambi’s role in setting up the all-conquering juniors policy that sent established teams quacking in their boots.
“He was chief scout and assistant coach for our junior team while playing for the under 19s. He then was assistant player/coach for the Division Two side and kept our junior programme together at its infancy,” Mduduzi says.
He like others, is devastated at his sad passing. As we shared the many anecdotes, one comes to mind. We were playing at a social soccer tournament at Archers. After several forays on the left wing by Partson while Daylight Ncube tormented the right, an exasperated Willard ‘Mashinkila’ Khumalo came to the coach’s bench complaining in his classic jocular fashion.
“Selifuna sibuye lomdududu siwufake ku touchline ukuze simake okungabantu kwenu lapha yini? Kanti bacatshwa enyaweni?” MaWii wailed. (Now you want us to bring motorbikes to the touchline in order to mark these people of yours!) I hope this is not lost in translation. We almost died laughing.
But that was the Partson we knew. Very talented at the game, and yet also very good as a coach and motivator for players. He was at one time a stand in coach at AmaZulu when that team beat Dynamos once upon a time. He was coaching the likes of Ronald Sibanda, Isaac Riyano, Herbert Dick and others much older than him.
His last foray in coaching was with ZPC Kariba, where he was constantly overlooked for the main coaching post despite him being a qualified CAF coach. One of those nearly – nearly men. He detested disorder in the game and was very vocal in his remonstrations. Perhaps, one of the reasons why the powers that be constantly sidelined him.
At one point when Sunday Chidzambwa was shown the door at ZPC, I said to him that at last his chance had come. He shook his head and said that sadly, they would pass him by. And they did!
A young man with a passion for the game that was unsurpassed by anyone among us has gone. We will miss him dearly and so will the soccer fraternity in Zimbabwe. Hamba kahle Vevane lenkosi.