SOON after he was unveiled as the new Chicken Inn coach on December 15, 2011, legendary former Warriors striker Adam Ndlovu made a promise to his new employers.
“I will do my best to pay back the honour,” assured Ndlovu. Ndlovu had taken over from 2008 Coach of the Year Philani Ncube, who guided a then newly promoted Gamecocks to eighth position in the Premiership.
Within a year, Ndlovu transformed Chicken Inn into a force as the Bulawayo-based side finished third in only their second season in the top-flight. Unfortunately, Ndlovu could not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his sweat, especially Chicken Inn’s stunning capture of the 2015 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title, as he died in a horrific car crash in Victoria Falls on December 16, 2012.
The accident also claimed the life of a woman and left his young brother and former Zimbabwe skipper Peter injured. The Gamecocks are now among the giants of local football, having finished in the top four for the past five seasons. As they celebrate their 10th anniversary in the top flight, Adam Ndlovu’s name keeps ringing in their corridors. In fact, the Gamecocks have never finished outside the top-eight since their promotion into the top-flight league. Chicken Inn also won the 2013 NetOne Charity Cup and the 2016 Independence Cup.
“We have always believed in consistency and continuity at Chicken Inn. But the Chicken Inn story would not be complete without mentioning Adam Ndlovu, the man who laid the foundation of what we are enjoying today,” Chicken Inn secretary Tavengwa Hara told The Sunday Mail Sport last week. “The team now has a solid junior development system which runs from the Under-13s to Under-20s and is taken care of by Charles Dhliwayo and Nkosana “Sancho” Gumbo. “As we celebrate 10 years in the PSL, we are also preparing for the future,” Hara said. Chicken Inn has also been a consistent exporter of players, with 10 having crossed the borders in the last decade. Strikers Tendai “Fire 7” Ndoro, Edmore Chirambadare, Michelle Katsvairo, defender Teenage Hadebe and midfielders Kuda Mahachi, and Danny “Deco” Phiri left the club to join teams outside the country. The list also includes Devine Lunga, Raphael Kutinyu, Elvis Chipezeze and Clive Augusto.
Ndoro was the 2013 Castle Lager Golden Boot winner with 18 goals while Phiri was crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 2015. “Apart from our desire to win trophies, our thrust is on promoting players. We try to export players to better leagues so that they can in turn uplift their own communities,” Chicken Inn president Lifa Ncube said. Ncube has been at the helm since 2005 when the club assumed the name Chicken Inn. “The team used to be called Baker’s Inn and was run by our sister company, Lennard Bread. We took it over during the 2004 season and changed the team to Chicken Inn FC in 2005. The burly Ncube, a financial expert with Simbisa Brands, who are the main sponsors of Chicken Inn, supervises a five-member board that is chaired by Juta Tshuma. Trevor Jakachira (marketing), Makanyiso Moyo (finance), Andrew Nyanhongo (Development) and Hara (secretary), form the Chicken Inn board. ln line with the consistency at Chicken Inn, this board has remained intact since the club’s promotion, save for Jakachira who was co-opted in 2018. To their credit, Chicken Inn have also been patient with coaches, with the pair of Rahman Gumbo and Joey Antipas having been in charge over the last seven years. “You cannot fix what’s not broken,” Ncube said. As the Gamecocks brace for the 2020 season, which will be preceded by a tour to Malawi, Antipas’ charges will certainly be inspired by a decent first decade in the elite league. Knowing that the team is 10 years old in the PSL and that it is progressing well motivates us a lot as we approach the 2020 season,” said Antipas.
Chicken Inn will play in a four-team tournament, featuring Kalisto Pasuwa’s Malawian champions Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers as well as Mozambican outfit USD Songo at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre from February 28 to March 1. Antipas is fine-tuning his side, which lost steam during the 2019 season before recovering to finish second behind FC Platinum. Warriors’ right back Ian Nekati, former Mushowani Stars captain Clive Dzingayi, ex-Ngezi Platinum Stars forward Nelson Ketala and the unheralded Paddington Nyamakura lured from Yadah Stars, are some of the new faces at Chicken Inn. However, the Gamecocks have lost 2018 Soccer Star of the Year finalist Innocent Mucheneka to CAPS United. They have managed to retain key player Tichaona Chipunza. Malvin Gaki, Brett Amidu, Pakhamani Dube, goalkeeper Donovan Bernard and the experienced trio of Moses Jackson, Clement Matawu and Guide Goddard are still on their books while the signature of Highlanders’ roving wing back McClive Phiri is still being pursued. They have also roped in former Warriors gloveman Energy Murambadoro as goalkeepers’ coach. Antipas reserved some praise for the ex-CAPS United goalminder who also played professional football in Israel and South Africa. “What a great addition to our technical set-up,” Antipas said. “He has played at the highest level and he will be a massive boost to our goalkeepers’ department. Our keepers will learn a lot from his vast knowledge.”