Ndlovu: Griezmann thought I was Brazilian

SA Players Abroad

Dino Ndlovu has recalled his experience of playing in the UEFA Champions League and a particular exchange he shared with Atlético Madrid star Antoine Griezmann.

Ndlovu played an instrumental role in Azerbaijani giants Qarabağ reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in the club's history during the 2017/18 campaign after scoring the all-important goal in the club's play-off round win over FC Copenhagen.

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Qarabağ recorded a 1-0 win over their Danish opponents in the first leg and progressed to the tournament proper despite going down 2-1 in the reverse fixture, with a second-half goal from Ndlovu firing his side through on the away goals rule.

"I framed the shirt I played in during that game," the 32-year-old tells KICK OFF. "All of the players signed it and I framed it. It was a great feeling and after that goal, I developed an iconic status in Azerbaijan and with the people of Qarabağ."

Ndlovu's heroics earned Qarabağ a spot in the proverbial Group of Death where the club was pitted against formidable opposition in the form of Serie A side AS Roma, Premier League giants Chelsea, and LaLiga's Atlético Madrid.

"I remember in the first game, I was star-struck in the tunnel against Chelsea," he reveals, reflecting on a match in which Qarabağ suffered a heavy 6-0 defeat.

"You're playing against Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso, César Azpilicueta, Cesc Fàbregas, N’Golo Kanté, Michy Batshuayi, Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro – these are players that you play with on the PlayStation! God gave me an opportunity to play against these guys."

"These are players that you play with on the PlayStation!"

He and his teammates suffered a 2-1 defeat to Roma in their subsequent encounter before famously holding Atlético Madrid to a goalless draw in Baku, during an encounter in which Ndlovu enjoyed a memorable exchange with France international Antoine Griezmann.

"Against Atlético I exchanged shirts with Griezmann, and he asked me where I was from," he concludes. "He thought I was Brazilian! He said to me, 'Bro, you're a good player!' For a player of his stature to say that to me, it tells me that I was doing something right."

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Ndlovu parted ways with Qarabağ mid-way through the campaign following a transfer to Chinese side Zhejiang Greentown and recently returned to China, via a brief stint in Turkey, to join Super League outfit Changchun United.

This article is adapted from the full interview with Dino Ndlovu in the June edition of KICK OFF Magazine. The latest copy can be purchased online or in stores for R27 and includes more great content on his journeyman career, weighing up football against finance and his decision to return to China despite interest from elsewhere.