JAPHET "Shortcat" Mparutsa, the first goalkeeper to win the Soccer Star of the Year award, has dedicated his special award to one of domestic football's unsung heroes -- Joseph Zulu.
Mparutsa was one of those honoured by the Premier Soccer League as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Harare on Friday night.
Yesterday, he told The Herald from his base in East Sussex, England, he was grateful to be part of domestic football's history and has decided, through his foundation, to honour one of the unsung heroes of the domestic game.
"The Japhet Mparutsa Short Cat Foundation, and myself, would like to congratulate Delta Beverages for the recent Soccer Star Awards and also responding to our call to recognise the sterling efforts of the yesteryear legends who highly illuminated our football in the past," he said.
"The idea to encourage Delta Beverages to look back on its history when they sponsored local footballers who showed great sportsmanship, competence and ability on the pitch, came from a wide discussion involving some former players, administrators, fans and the Japhet Mparutsa Short Cat Foundation.
"We feel greatly honoured by Delta Beverages. We are humbled to receive this award again after an illustrious career that filled cabinets with many trophies.
"But we strongly feel that the omission of Joseph Zulu and some yesteryear greats like Stanford "Stix" Mtizwa and deceased legends like Archieford Chimutanda is unfortunate and deserves a due diligence of soberly thoughts that should give precedence to their prowess by awarding their existing families such equivalent honours.
"The Japhet Mparutsa ShortCat Foundation would like to pass on their award to Joseph Zulu whom they view as one deserving the most when he colourfully represented the Zimbabwean fraternity 10 times as one of the runners-up of the Soccer Stars," said Mparutsa. Zulu holds a unique record in domestic football of having graced the Soccer Star of the Year calendar 10 times.
Sadly, he never managed to land the top gong during an illustrious career with Rio Tinto and the national team, which earned him an invitation for trials at English giants Manchester United.
Zulu, who is now a pensioner based in Kadoma, was spotted by the Manchester United scouts during a friendly match between the then Rhodesia national team and South Africa in 1979.
Unfortunately, he could not take up the offer.
"I started watching Joseph Zulu as a youngster and was highly impressed with his skills and abilities," said Mparutsa.
"His stardom ignited our football stadiums since he started donning the national colours from the days of colonial era under Rhodesia and later as Zimbabwe.
"I had a great opportunity to play against him when I began my career at Dynamos, and later when I moved to Black Rhinos.
"His service to the game is second to none. During my first national call-up for the senior Zimbabwe squad, Joseph Zulu was an extraordinary player who gave everything for football.
"As teammates in the Zimbabwe senior national team, he was a joy to play with and such rarity of great players should not be missed by error of administration or loss of memories.
"Joseph Zulu deserves the award more than me.
"As a foundation we also noted the discrepancy in the handling out of awards.
"In future, we feel that family members of the players should be sole representatives of receiving any honours so that such rare moments of personal individual dedication, commitment and hard work are best shared by close family members who bore the brunt of such extreme difficulties during the early stages of preparing for football careers that are highly risky in terms of serious injuries or failing to rise to the top."
The previous award winners, led by the legendary George "Mastermind" Shaya, were on Friday night handed shields by Delta Beverages, through the PSL, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Soccer Star of the Year event which began in 1969.
PSL chairman Farai Jere was excited by the success of the Golden Jubilee awards.
"This is a historic night because we are not celebrating what has happened this season but a journey which started 50 years ago when the inaugural Soccer Stars of the Year were recognised in this country with five-time winner George Shaya fittingly winning this award. "Very few countries on this continent can lay claim to such great history, in terms of honouring their outstanding footballers and match officials, as we have done in this country.
"For that let's give a moment to salute the grand efforts of everyone who has played a role to sustain these awards," said Jere.