HARARE – Legendary former Zimbabwe and Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Esrom Nyandoro says it was the late coach Rahman Gumbo who fine-tuned his craft as a player to be the household name he became in his homeland and South Africa.

Gumbo – an icon of Zimbabwean club giants Highlanders as well as the national side – died suddenly at the age of 59 in Francistown, Botswana, on Friday. The ex-midfielder suffered a heart-attack few days after being fired by Morupule Wanderers, a top-flight club in that country.

Several past and present players have eulogised the affable Gumbo following his demise, crediting him with the successes of their careers.

This included the 43-year-old Nyandoro, who was a key member of the Zimbabwean team that qualified for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations finals, a first in the nation’s history.

Gumbo – himself a former Zimbabwe star player – was an assistant coach to Sunday Chidzambwa in the history-making Warriors side that went to the historic tournament in Tunisia in 2004.

“He changed the way I played, he made me a complete player,” Nyandoro told SportsCast on Monday. “He knew me well from my junior days in Bulawayo, our hometown. And it was important that he had been one of the legends we looked up to whilst growing up. I was a holding midfielder then, and when I joined the national team, he said ‘gone are the days when the number 6 just sits in front, and mark’. These days, coaches like Pep Guardiola also use their anchor-men as playmakers, effectively. But this didn’t start with them. It started way back. I don’t think people give enough credit to guys like Rahman Gumbo, for they were way ahead of time. Condolences to the Gumbo family, and I hope they find strength during this difficult time. I knew his family members well, in particular his young brother Nkosana Gumbo, who we nicknamed Sancho. When we won the Zimbabwean league title in 2003 with Amazulu, Rush (Rahman’s nickname), would have felt split a bit because Sancho and me were competing for the holding midfield role at Amazulu. But Rush never felt that way because he also treated me as a young brother. Sancho, however, would later move to left-back, and sometimes left-wing, and did well in those positions.”

The late Rahman Gumbo.

Nyandoro believes, to this day, that Gumbo’s tactician acumen helped Zimbabwe’s 2004 Afcon qualification, because the Highlanders and Warriors great was able to influence how key players were used.

 “We went to Mali for an important qualifier and drew nil all, and I believe this was the game that qualified us for that Afcon tournament,” Nyandoro said.

“Of course, it was a team effort, through the head coach Mhofu (Sunday Chidzambwa) and others. But Rush had a big say. In that match, I played as the offensive midfielder. Johannes Ngodzo, who was our natural playmaker, played the anchor-man role! The idea was for me to play freely, not to play our normal game, as we were playing away. So I was supposed to stay upfront with the lone striker, then go back to support Ngodzo defensively, but without putting much pressure on myself. That way, it appeared like we had an extra man in our team, and it worked well. It was strategic. Then, of course, in the second half we swapped roles with Johannes, when we believed we had achieved what we wanted to achieve.”

Nyandoro, now the chief scout at South African club giants Mamelodi Sundowns, isn’t the only Bulawayo folk hero who became a celebrity footballer in that city because of his versatility and charm.

All thanks to Gumbo.

“When Highlanders were busy winning the Zimbabwean league (titles) between 1999 and 2002, Richard Choruma had started off as a defensive midfielder,” Nyandoro said to SportsCast. “It was Rahman who made Richard a beast, a menace in attack.”


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