DURBAN - Sibusiso “Rhee” Zuma displayed some of his best football in Denmark but the former Bafana Bafana skipper will forever cherish the moment of playing in the German Bundesliga.
The 43-year-old spent three seasons in Germany where he represented Arminia Bielefeld. His spell in Germany contributed to his meteoric rise for Bafana. Chatting with Independent Media, Zuma revealed that the Bundesliga is one of his favourite leagues in Europe.
“Germany league is one of my favourite. That was the reason I went to play there. When I was still playing for Copenhagen (in Denmark), one of the players who was playing in Germany told me upon his return that I mustn’t think about going to Germany. He told me that they train hard. This guy was a legend in Denmark. I said to myself this is exactly what I want,” Zuma said.
The Hammarsdale-born former international joined Bielefeld in 2005 after his successful spell in Denmark. “I had spent five years in Denmark. I said to myself maybe I need to play in a league like Germany," he said.
"My fitness was starting to fade away. I then decided to go to Germany and recharge my battery. If you look at my career after I left Copenhagen, you will notice that my performances improved for Bafana. I scored more goals for Bafana when I was playing in Germany. It was purely because of their fitness,” he added.
Zuma enjoyed a glittering career. He represented his country with flying colours for 10 years. During his time with Bafana, Zuma made 68 appearances and netted 13 goals. He captained Bafana in the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in 2006. In South Africa, Zuma played for African Wanderers, Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns, Vasco Da Gama and SuperSport United.
During his tenure in Germany, he came up against Jurgen Klopp when the incumbent manager at Liverpool was still at the helm for Borussia Dortmund. “I told my friends a year ago when Klopp joined Liverpool that they will win the league soon," Zuma said.
"We started to see the likes of Mohamed Salah coming into the picture. Liverpool will be the English Premier League champions soon. Liverpool is the fittest team in England. You can’t compete with them in terms of the level of fitness. They attack and defend as a team. They run in Germany my friend, that much I can tell you. You run until you vomit in Germany,” Zuma said with a huge smile on his face.
Zuma has no doubt that South African football can learn plenty about the philosophy of German football: “The level of fitness in Germany is something that I would love to see in South African football.
"We need that kind of training. Our style of football is top class. Our style is even better than Brazil. We only need that intense training. When I came back to the Premier Soccer League, I was sure that no one was going to be able to stop me once I get into that field of play. I knew the level of fitness I was in at that time," Zuma further elaborated.
Bayern Munich has been dominant for many years in Germany. According to Zuma the array of talent that they boast in their squad is what set them apart from other teams in Germany.
He said: “German football is so simple. From their lower leagues to their top flight, they use the very same methods of training. Even if you are playing the team from the lower league, the game model is the same. The pool of talent that you possess is what makes the difference on the day. That’s where Bayern Munich dominate other teams. They possess top talent in their set up. Once there are three players who are performing well in other clubs, Bayern don’t hesitate but they sign them."
Bayern will open their title defence against Hoffenheim at Allianz Arena on Friday at 8.30pm. “Bayern can still be dethroned. It can happen. The other teams are also improving," Zuma added. "There was a time where Stuttgart was one of the best teams in Germany. They were competing toe to toe with Bayern. Stuttgart was more like Chiefs and Pirates here in South Africa. So, Bayern can also be challenged.”