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The Gentle Giant won’t be forgotten
Friday, November 25, 2016

Kito Petrus ‘Ten-Ten’ Nzimande was one of the best players Kaizer Chiefs ever had. He could play as a defensive midfielder or as a centre-back. He joined Kaizer’s XI in late 1969 and continued to play for Kaizer Chiefs, founded on 7 January 1970, until 1978.

Nzimande was born in Cato Manor, KwaZulu-Natal, but grew up in Mooi River. He started playing soccer as a youngster for the local side, Mooi River Hungry Vultures, joining African Wanderers at an early age in the beginning of the sixties.

When the Kaizer XI was set-up in late 1969, the late Alfred ‘Bomber’ Chamane felt that the side lacked a ‘number 4’. “Do you know somebody?”, Kaizer Motaug asked the striker. He did, suggesting Ten-Ten.

Chamane, who came from Maritzburg City, was a good friend of Nzimande. Soon thereafter Ten-Ten joined Kaizer’s XI, first on a temporary basis, then later fulltime.

Nzimande, became part of the hugely successful Kaizer Chiefs team in the seventies which included Ace Ntsoelengoe, Computer Lamola, Banks Sethlodi, Shaka Ngcobo, Ryder Mofokeng, Pelé Blaschke and Bizzah Dlamini.

That side won numerous trophies. “The one we enjoyed most was winning the first league title in 1974 and beating Hellenic in the second leg of the Chevrolet Champion of Champions final,” Nzimande once reflected, “because that was the first time a black team beat a white team.”

“We are all standing on the shoulders of players like Ten-Ten,” Amakhosi Chairman Kaizer Motaung reflects. “They are the founding fathers. If Chiefs didn’t have the success we had in those early years, I don’t know where we would be today.”

Nzimande also played in the first Soweto Derby on 24 January 1970, 17 days after Chiefs’ foundation. He scored a goal, even though the game was lost 6-4.

Another fond memory of the midfielder was playing with the Brazilian 1970 World Cup winner, Jairzinho. “It was special to play with a teammate of the great Pelé,” Nzimande commented.

“Ten-Ten was a bit like the Brazilian player David Luiz,” reflects his former teammate and friend, Bizzah Dlamini. “He was as strong as an ox and he was the kind of player a team needs when the chips are down. Ten-Ten was a good header of the ball, scoring regularly.”

‘Gentle Giant’, as Nzimande was also nicknamed, was built like a heavyweight, physically strong and tall. He was highly intelligent, often intercepting passes by being in the right position at the right time. This also meant that the midfielder didn’t need to tackle much.

He was also a clever distributor of the ball. Nzimande would often ask Bizzah Dlamini, “Where do you want to have the ball?” The striker would answer, “Anywhere behind the opponent’s defence.” Accordingly, Ten-Ten would deliver a clean through-ball for the speedy striker to finish.

“Ten-Ten was not a big talker,” Motaung remembers, “and on the field he led with his actions. He was very strong and a player everybody looked up to. He was not only a great teammate at Chiefs, we became good friends too.”

After arriving at Kaizer’s XI, Nzimande stayed for a while with the Motaung family in their house Phefeni, before moving to Diepkloof.

He got his nickname already during his days at African Wanderers, because he was as strong as ‘ten opponents’, as if it was ten (Nzimande) against one, hence the nickname ‘Ten-Ten’.

Nzimande took over Chiefs’ captain’s armband from Pro Kgongoane in the mid-seventies. And even though he was not a big talker, Ten-Ten was a real Glamour Boy being popular with the girls. He also followed Kaizer Motaung in having an Afro.

He never smoked or drank alcohol. Ten-Ten loved to play cards and at times formed a nearly unbeatable partnership with Banks Sethlodi. His roommate while on camp before a match would often be the late Pelé Blaschke.

“That wasn’t easy in the beginning,” the midfielder said. “As Pelé came from Namibia and in the beginning only spoke Afrikaans, a language I didn’t speak. However, he quickly learnt to speak English and even Zulu, becoming good friends.”

“Ten-Ten was a humble person,” comments Amakhosi’s former right-back Ryder Mofokeng, who took over the captaincy armband from Nzimande, “very quiet also, only talking to people he knew. However, when you had a (personal) problem, he would be the first to assist, always being very supportive.”

After leaving Chiefs, Ten-Ten went on to coach, for example, Bloemfontein Celtic and African Wanderers. Later on, he loved working with kids, teaching them the basics of football. “Soccer teaches discipline and obedience,” he used to say, “aspects that can help a person to succeed in life, even if it’s not as a footballer.”

Nzimande suffered a stroke in September which was followed by a second a month later. He never recovered.

The Gentle Giant was born on 26 May 1947 and passed away on Tuesday afternoon, 22 November 2016.

He leaves behind his partner Dudu and four children.

May his soul rest in eternal peace!

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