|THE THREE-HOUR HAIRCUT: Tendai|
Ndoro shows off the style... and the Man
of the match Nedbank Green Jacket
TENDAI NDORO. Talk of the town. Two goals to win Saturday's Soweto Derby. Did it come as a surprise? Hope not, I've been talking about him for months.
Right at the start of the season, when the 27-year-old Zimbabwean striker appeared in Orlando Pirates gear for the first time, you could see the exuberance in the man from Harare, his natural knack of challenging defenders, finding the target.
It wasn’t surprising. Ndoro scored seven for Mpumalanga’s Black Aces in his first six months in 2014, I remember one night wishing out loud on Twitter that he would somehow stumble across a South African passport and help solve the Bafana Bafana striker crisis.
When Mamelodi Sundowns and Pirates showed interest, Tendai - full name Takudzwa - might have been bewildered by his agent claiming English Premier League club Crystal Palace were interested. But he really did look that good.
A deal with Pirates finally emerged at the start of the season - Aces claimed he had another year to run on his contract but he found himself training with the Buccaneers by the time the season got underway.
Yet Ndoro found himself low down in the pecking order under Eric Tinkler. For months he watched as Kermit Erasmus, Thami Gabuza and Lehlohonolo Majoro took their places up front with varying levels of mediocrity.
At the time, with Pirates struggling in the lower half of the PSL, Ndoro said: “Talking about leaving Pirates in search of game time is something that is not in my vocabulary.” But you knew, in your heart, it wasn’t right.
I mentioned Ndoro’s life in limbo several times on Twitter. Nobody said much. But when Erasmus, claiming he was off to see the in-laws in Holland, signed for Rennes in France, Ndoro finally found himself taking a quick-step up the ladder.
Tinkler had little choice but to pick him as Gabuza self-destructed in front of goal and suddenly the cushion was discarded for the scoring boots. The games - and the goals - began to flow.
In the build-up to the Nedbank Cup Soweto Derby clash on Saturday, many were debating who should start up front. I said Ndoro was the obvious choice, though many felt Gabuza and Majoro were more likely.
Then God - the beardy guy who sometimes still brings out the old leather football boots - took a hand. Majoro did his hamstring in training and Ndoro secured his place.
He had a half-chance early on, then Kaizer Chiefs took over and hope began to fade. For 77 minutes, we suffered out way through the usual Soweto Derby boredom with an unusually sparse crowd.
Until the 77th minute. Mpho Makola put through a lovely ball which split the AmaKhosi’s makeshift defence. Good ball, but bouncing awkwardly. Ndoro brought it down in an instant, and to general hysteria, lashed the first goal past Reyaad Pieterse.
Five minutes later, he was at it again, banging in a laid-off free-kick low past Pieterse, bouncing in to the far corner. GAME OVER, though Ndoro produced a final curling shot just beyond the angle as he chased the fabled Soweto Derby hat-trick.
Afterwards, crowned Man of the Match with a hair-style he admits takes three hours to compose, Ndoro oozed: “That was my first Soweto Derby and I got two goals. That’s something you have to admire! I want to continue doing that, and not just in the derbies.
“Second half we wanted that one goal and we got it. That goal boosted us and helped us to get another one. I was pleased with it. Control, shoot, score.”
Tinkler explained Ndoro’s long-term exclusion by saying: “Tendai’s work-rate needed to increase. We’re a team in which everybody needs to work, and we can see he is doing that now.”
Then: “The way he expresses himself is important. We know Tendai has great ability in front of goal, when he gets the opportunity he must shoot because we know that nine out of 10 times he will hit the back of the net.”
Which rather begs the question: why didn’t we see more of him earlier in the season?