Legend of the Week: Sibusiso ‘Rhee’ Zuma

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Born in 1975 in Durban Sibusiso Zuma would go on to become one of South Africa’s top strikers who went on to fly the flag high in the world.

From Durban to Copenhagen to Germany, FARPost looks at Zuma’s rise to stardom.

The attacker started his professional football in the early 90s with his local club Mighty Pa before making a career chanting move to African Wanderers – ‘Abaqulisi’ – which is where the whole South Africa started noticing him.

Zuma was part of the famous attacking trio that tormented teams in South Africa’s second division with fellow attackers Siyabonga Nomvete and Phumlani Mkhize playing alongside him – they were unstoppable.

‘Rhee’ helped Wanderers gain promotion into the Premier Soccer League featuring 71 times for them while scoring 29 goals between 1995-1998.

His performances did not go unnoticed as one of South Africa’s biggest clubs Orlando Pirates came knocking for his signature in 1998 and scooping the man from Durban and bringing him to Soweto to play in Mzansi’s biggest stage of them all, the Premier Soccer League.

The attacker became an instant success in the famous the black and white kit of Pirates playing 70 times while scoring 37 goals in the two-year spell he had with them. He helped the team win the MTN8 in 2000 and the 1999 Vodacom Challenge during his time at the club.

With his performances in South Africa’s top tier Zuma attracted Danish giants FC Copenhagen who signed him from the Buccaneers in June 2000.

In Copenhagen, ‘Rhee’ reached probably the best period of his career becoming an instant hit in the famous white and blue kit of the Danish giants. In 2001 Zuma helped Copenhagen to their second ever league title in spectacular fashion scoring that famous bicycle kick that helped them defeat local rivals Brondby IF 2-0 on the last day of the league a moment which would later be voted as one of the club’s greatest ever moments in history.

Zuma finished as the 29th best player in the world in the 2001 season and with his continued great contributions in Copenhagen colours between 2000 up to 2005 was voted into the club’s prestigious hall of fame. He was later also voted as one of the best figures to have ever played for Copenhagen with the striker also admitting on a number of times that Copenhagen is the highlight of his career having enjoyed his best football there and the love he received there.

DURING THIS PERIOD ZUMA WOULD FEATURE FOR SOUTH AFRICA IN THE 2002 FIFA WORLD CUP AND 2004 AFCON.

The curtain would be closed off with a statue of Zuma scoring that famous title deciding bicycle kick against Brondby being put outside the Copenhagen Stadium.

A failed move to Arsenal due to work permit issues would also be a moment that Zuma wouldn’t forget as that would have been a great move which offered him an opportunity to be part of the greatest Arsenal team of all times the famous invincibles which had the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Denis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Kolo Toure under Arsene Wenger who was a big admirer of Zuma at the time.

In 2005 Zuma closed the Copenhagen chapter and moved to German Bundesliga side Arminia Bielefeld joining for one million Euros.

Zuma would go on to spend three seasons in the German top division playing 69 games and scoring 8 times before deciding to come back to his native South Africa joining Mamelodi Sundowns in the 2008/09 season making 12 appearances scoring only once.

BETWEEN 2005 AND 2006 ZUMA CONTINUED TO BE PART OF THE NATIONAL TEAM SET UP EVEN CAPTAINING BAFANA BAFANA IN THE 2006 AFCON WHERE BAFANA WERE ELIMINATED IN THE GROUP STAGE.

In 2009 ‘Rhee’ went back to Denmark joining FC Nodjaeland where he spend another season struggling for game time playing only 13 times scoring yet another one goal in the entire season. A year later in the 2010-11 campaign the striker would return to South Africa joining second division side Vasco Da Gama trying to get them promoted for the 2011/12 season playing 27 games scoring 11 times for them in his time there .

The career of one of Mzansi’s greatest exports would come to an end in the colours of Pretoria based Absa Premiership side Supersport United whom he joined in 2011 until 2015 scoring 6 goals in his 39 appearances there.

WHERE IS HE NOW?

‘Rhee’ is now involved in development programmes including opening up his own tournament in KZN called the Rheeloaded Schools Cup which is supported by the South African Football Association and plays every year from province to province.

Overall a successful career for a man who defied all the odds at each step of his career and earned himself the right of being called a true South African legend.

By Prince Sobayeni

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