How Cyril Nzama shunned glitz and glam to secure a peaceful future

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Training was over at Naturena, home to 2021 Caf Champions League finalists Kaizer Chiefs, and it was time to go home for the players!

As expected, shamelessly flashy cars that provide that extra jolt of visual appeal for any onlooker lined up at the Chiefs Village.

It was all cars that go right up to the line—and perhaps a little bit over—in regards to stunning exterior style, as if to match the status and high earnings of the diski princes who owned them.

In the early 2000s, you spoke of the Audi A4, the Mercedes Benz C-Class, the BMW 5 Series, Golf 4 and the majestic Porsche.

They all lined up in the Naturena parking lot as if on exhibit. The few fans that had an opportunity to watch training that particular day were obviously eager to see who owned which car.

Later on, when conversing with fellow supporters, they would reveal the exact high-grade machines driven by their idols commandingly.

So, while the Amakhosi faithful were casting their eyes over the eye-catching fleet, Tinashe Nengomasha eavesdropped as one of the fans pointed at a Toyota Corolla sandwiched by a sparkly BMW and an exquisite Porsche.

“This one must be for the security guy,” the fan said.

As they witnessed their heroes getting into their cars, they got the shock of their lives. The Corolla belonged to a man who had a dance at the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup, Cyril Nzama. It was certainly not borrowed.

For many years, ‘Skhokho’ was comfortable parking the Corolla in between a Porsche and BMW owned by his teammates.

“He had that car for the longest time. I remember the number plates started with DYR and so he called it Dali,” Nengomasha tells FARPost from his Harare, Zimbabwe base.

It didn’t matter that he had come back from the 2002 global soccer showpiece, the utmost dream of every player.

What mattered was his goal – to secure a good shelter for his family! “I drove the Corolla for a long time because I had a plan,” Nzama tells FARPost as he harks back to that Naturena moment.

“When they saw me jumping into the car they asked me why I was driving such a small car. It didn’t make sense to the fans. So I said it was very comfortable for me,” Nzama adds.

Interestingly, Nengomasha speaks non-stop for almost 45 minutes when asked about that particular moment as he zooms into the life and journey Nzama had.

FARPost reached out to the former midfield maestro on Saturday morning but he couldn’t talk because he was at a car wash.

And so, just about 12:45 he calls back. At the time, I’m waiting for a dear friend and colleague in the industry – Robinson Nqola – to pick me up so we could go and play social soccer with a team made up of Newzroom Africa journalists against their SuperSport counterparts.

Robinson finds me on the phone and I quickly jump into his car unwilling to disrupt Nengomasha. As we drive from my place in the greater Randburg area to the Diggers Rugby Sports Club, some 6.4km distance, I’m still on the phone with the man who marshalled Chiefs’ midfield for a good 10 years. He has Cyril Nzama memories for days.

“I slept (in the same room) with Cyril more than his wife during those days,” he says with the pun intended. “We shared a room in camp throughout his stay at Chiefs.”

Even after we arrive at the match venue, I miss out on the pre-match talk. ‘The General’ still has a lot to say about the way Nzama lived as a football star.

But in a nutshell, the message is: “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” Of course, Nzama didn’t have little. He was just content to use little from everything he had to save for the future.

“Ah, ah, Skhokho never even wanted to part with R10. You’d call him and he’d tell you he’s at home washing his car. I’d ask him why he doesn’t take it to the carwash and he’d say, ‘ayiyindawo imali yam’,” recalls the former Zimbabwe international.

The Soweto-born Nzama knows too well of the stinginess accusations. “They used to say I was stingy but I argued that I knew how to use money. I don’t buy anything without negotiating. If you want to buy something at a cut price, take me along and I’ll negotiate for you.”

In the grand scheme of things, there’s a reason why the former Bafana Bafana fullback did what he did. After having his first child at 21, he never wanted his boy and his partner to be anyone else’s responsibility.

“I had to make sure I provided for them. I needed to get a home for them and that meant denying myself certain things that looked nice to the eye to attain my goals,” says Nzama, who turned 47 on Saturday.

It meant there were no designer clothes for him. Not even expensive perfumes. In fact, Nengomasha says the man sometimes came to training in a Bafana shirt or ‘no name’ clothes. Deodorant was the common Axe that now costs R21 at Clicks. And he was pretty content with that.

Interestingly, Nengomasha recalls how Nzama introduced him to magwinya [fat cakes]. “I remember he took me to Soweto and we bought magwinya and enjoyed ourselves without even caring about our celebrity status,” says the former Warriors anchorman.

Countless times, the former Amakhosi captain, Nzama, reiterates how he was never influenced by peer pressure.

“I don’t live my life to please anyone. I go to places where people never think they’d see me. I’ll buy maotwana [chicken feet] and mogodu [tripe] and enjoy myself. I live my life very simple. I don’t have pressure at all,” he stresses.

Just after the turn of the millennium, about a year after making his Amakhosi debut [on 29 November 2000 against Orlando Pirates], the 2001 African Cup Winners Cup champion took out a mortgage to purchase a home for his young family in Naturena.

For the next 18 months, everything was about making sure that house soon belonged to him. “I was lucky because at that time I had started getting national team call ups. So all the national team bonuses I got I just threw them towards the bond. In a year and a half I was done paying for the house. I got my title deed,” he says with joy.

To him, it has never made sense to buy a R3-million house and add a R2-million vehicle knowing how unpredictable a career football can be.

“Why not put your hefty signing-on fee towards the bond and drive a reasonably small car? Wherever you go you’ll know you’ve got your home and peace of mind.”

The former Rabali Blackpool and Bush Bucks defender acknowledges though that he was lucky in his early days to grow up under a stable home in Pimville, a section of Soweto named after Howard Pim, a man who dedicated a large part of his life to the ‘upliftment’ of blacks in Johannesburg.

Occasionally, he would get jobs as a caddy at the Soweto Country Club, something that taught him the value of hard work and managing finances.

“I grew up next to a golf course so from time to time I’d work as a caddy. They’d pay R30 and it was decent money in 1991. Bread was about 15c. I would split it and give my mother half of it to cover up a few things at home.

“It taught me to be responsible and when I had a family of my own I just had to continue,” says the father of two.

He jokingly adds that people say he looks like the Toyota Run X he’s been driving for 10 years. “I drive a Run X and people say it looks like me.”

Nengomasha also has a word about the Runx: “I know it, his wife used to drive it. Skhokho is very economical.”

The two-time PSL title winner and three other ex-professionals – Teboho Moloi, William Shongwe and Abel Shongwe – have taken their expertise to the boardroom.

The quartet are part of CoachTime, a programme that seeks to create a platform for graduates to apply their learning in a collaborative Research and Development Project while giving them exposure to key pillars of a commercial enterprise.

The 100 mentees are graduates in disciplines including Computer Science, Information Technology, Marketing, Journalism, Public Relations and Multimedia Design.

“The Graduates will take part in developing future versions of the CoachTime App including devising new marketing strategies to ensure the App succeeds as a commercial product.

“The App will allow fans to see what happens in the dressing room at half time,” CoachTime CEO Tebogo Mokgobi tells FARPost.

Nzama and the other ex-professionals, as well as CoachTime chairman Melusi Ntumba, a prominent Chartered Accountant who founded Ntumba Inc, will mentor the young graduates.

The company will be piloting the project in the DStv Diski Challenge this coming season following an induction that took place on Friday in Johannesburg.

“Our biggest challenge as a country is unemployment and it’s exciting that we can give an opportunity to 100 young people,” Nzama adds.

As he mentors the next generation, ‘Skhokho’ looks to teach them that contentment is natural wealth while luxury, at times, tends to be artificial poverty.

RELATED STORY: How Kaizer Chiefs hijacked Tinashe Nengomasha from Jomo Sono

By Mthokozisi Dube