Mbabane: A goal John ‘Junior Shisa’ Mdluli scored, while playing for Hapoel Jerusalem against Kiryat Atta in 2001 was voted for the goal of the decade by Hapoel Jerusalem supporters in Israel.
After a blossoming career at hub giants Manzini Wanderers, ‘Junior Shisa’ caught the attention of Hapoel in the Israel top division after winning three Castle Lager League titles on the trot with his beloved ‘Weslians’ in the 1996/97, 1997/98/ and 1998/99 seasons.
“I started a move from our half, passed the ball wide and then finished off with a bicycle kick. I received an award with 5000 Shekels (E10 000),” the former Sihlangu striker explains as Independent News Sports got in touch with him.
In Israel he faced talented players who went on to make big impressions in the English Premiership like Yossi Benayoun (former Liverpool) and Idan Tal (former Everton) among others.
“I’m so much honored to be one of the few players to have ever played overseas. I enjoyed my stay in Israel and also gained a lot of experience playing against high profile teams and players. I played against teams like Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Beta Jerusalem just to name a few. I played against players such as Idan Tal (former Everton), Yakubu Ayegbeni (former Portsmouth), and Yossi Benayoun (former Liverpool). I can say l gained a lot of experience in football and the fact that l was being coached by very good coaches,” he said.
‘Shisa Junior’ was massively talented. He was a striker to behold and it is no surprising that he comes from a family of football stars, his brothers in the late Sipho ‘Shisa Mateki’ Mdluli and Clement ‘King Clay’ Mdluli, all of whom dazzled in the famed maroon and white of Wanderers were great talent.
At Wanderers, where he joined from the Rueben ‘Skwaya’ Gwebu’s Midas City ‘player unearthing machine’, ‘Shisa Junior’ was surrounded with even massive talent in the likes of Dennis ‘Yuki’ Masina, Doctor ‘16V’ Nxumalo, Maxwell ‘King Dunga’ Zikalala and Mxolisi ‘Stopper’ Mthethwa among others.
“I still believe Eswatini football lost when Reuben ‘Skwaya’ Gwebu passed on and may his soul rest in peace. A lot of players were groomed by him, including myself. That man used to be a coach, a father and a mentor. He used to put a lot of discipline in a player, something which is lacking in nowadays football,” he explains fondly as he speak about Gwebu.
After his successful stint in Israel, he joined Jomo Cosmos in neighbouring South Africa before stints with Tembisa Classic and Dynamos.
He reckons scoring three goals in seven minutes against Eleven Men in Flight in the 1996 Trade Fair Cup is one his memorable moment in football.
“But the best one is when I scored a last minute penalty against Zimbabwe in front of the King and thousands of EmaSwati.”
He mentions that he has played with a lot of good players, including his brothers ‘King Clay’ (Clement Mdluli) and ‘Shisa Mateki’ (Sipho Mdluli), Mbazo (Jerry Gamedze), Yuki (Dennis Masina) and a whole lot more.
“With all of them mentioned, l played alongside a football maestro in Tholeni ‘Schuster’ Nkambule whom I still believe we haven’t found his replacement in Eswatini football.”
‘Shisa Junior’ insists his national team strike partner Mfanzile ‘Fash’ Dlamini never reached his potential. He describes the bulky former Mhlambanyatsi Rovers and Royal Leopard target man as a prolific goal scoring machine who was let down by injuries.
‘Fash’ had all the potential to play overseas with his strength and height though he did play in the PSL in South Africa for Tembisa Classic.
Having been born in a Wanderers family, it is no surprise that he still support the hub giants to this day.
He describes Siza ‘King Pele’ Dlamini as his naughtiest teammate ever.
“Siza always had funny stories to tell when we were in camp with the national team. You could tell he grew up in the village where they would listen to granny’s stories before they slept,” he said as he laughs his lungs out.
Royal Leopard’s midfield maestro Fanelo Tsabedze is his favourite player currently.
“He plays simple and matured football. He doesn’t do a lot of things with the ball or run with it.”