23 October 2011

Zimbabwe: Zulu - 11- Time Soccer Star Finalist

JOSEPH Zulu holds a unique record in domestic football: he has graced the Soccer Star of the Year calendar 11 times.

Not only that, Zulu attained this feat while playing for one club only Rio Tinto.

The Soccer Star of the Year awards, established in 1969, have a special place in local football. Dynamos legend George Shaya holds the record of having won the award a record five times (1969, 1972, 1975, 1976 and 1977), but Zulu has his own unique record.

Zulu graced the national soccer stars calendar 11 times in his 24-year football career that started in 1973 and ended in 1983 ironically the same year that Rio Tinto's Ephert Lungu was voted the country's football king.

Zulu, the talented attacking midfielder, was so loyal to Rio Tinto (his employers to date) that he resisted lucrative offers from Highlanders, Dynamos and CAPS United.

Born on September 2 1952 in Mazowe, Zulu grew up in Mutorashanga where he started his football in 1966 at Mutorashanga Primary School before moving to St Phillips in Guruve for his secondary education.

While in form two, Zulu joined the then Third Division side African Chrome Mine where he played as an attacking left-winger. Zulu played for Chrome for a season.

In 1972, Zulu and three other players: Amos Chiseko, Foster Mawaini and Ignatius Phiri, were transferred from Seoch to Rio Tinto Football Club as the two teams were owned by the same company.

"We were transferred to beef up the team that was already in the top flight league," Zulu said.

Rio Tinto boasted of greats such as Lungu, Robert Godoka and Wonder Phiri. Zulu attributed this success to hard work and determination.

"I used to work hard in training. Every Thursday I would run from Chegutu to Rio Tinto which is about 33km, come Sunday I would play 90 minutes without feeling tired.

"Being selected among the Soccer Star of the Year finalists for a record time was a result of sheer dedication. I almost scooped the big award as I was selected second runner up three times and first runner up three times," Zulu said.

Zulu said he would score in every match that he played for Rio Tinto.

"If I scored two goals I would not have done my best. I used to score three goals and above, that was my target in every match that I played.

"In one match I scored three goals against CAPS United. They had beaten us 2-1 in the first match, but when we played the reverse fixture I told Shacky Tauro that I was going to score four goals that day. He was not in agreement until such a time that we beat them 5-0 and I had hit the target three times. Tauro had a misunderstanding with his defenders that included Salid Twaliki (late)," Zulu said.

The 59-year-old Zulu still has scars from his battles in football: he has three front teeth missing.

"In 1980 when I was playing for Zimbabwe against Malawi (in Harare) I tried to head the ball and a defender kicked me in the mouth in a bid to clear the ball.

"I was rushed to the hospital where they wanted to remove all the front teeth but I refused forcing them to put some braces.

"But with time, all the teeth have since gone; I have three front teeth missing with the other two from the sides also missing," Zulu said.

Asked about his national team caps, Zulu said he had lost count of the number of times he donned the national team jersey.

"I started playing for the national team in Rhodesia in 1974. When Shepherd Murape and Ashton Papa Nyazika took over as national team coaches in 1978 to 1980, that is when I was appointed the team captain. I then retired from the national team in 1983 to concentrate on club football," Zulu said.

Zulu had a glittering career with Rio Tinto winning the Chibuku Trophy twice and the BAT Trophy twice.

He stopped playing for Rio Tinto in 1990. He also played for Lulu Rovers in 1991 and 1992 before quitting. Zulu is presently employed by Rio Tinto and is married with one daughter.

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