JOHANNESBURG - The soft-spoken Augustine Mulenga wants to follow in the footsteps of a great Zambian striker who lit up the South African football scene.
There’s more than one Zambian forward who fits that description. At the top of the list is Collins Mbesuma whose 25 goals for Kaizer Chiefs in the league earned him the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot in the 2004/05 season and a place in the record books. It’s the most goals any striker has scored in the PSL-era. Mbesuma finished with 35 goals in all competitions during that brilliant season.
Chris Katongo and James Chamanga also took the Golden Boot to Zambia for their exploits at Jomo Cosmos and Moroka Swallows respectively. Dennis Lota was the first of his countrymen to win that prize. Zambia has produced more Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot winners than any other foreign country.
“When a Zambian comes to South Africa, we know that this isn’t our country,” Orlando Pirates’ striker, Mulenga said. “We come here to work. I think that the focus and discipline that we have, helps us to deliver. We know that we aren’t here for vacation but we came here to work. That’s the most important thing that we always have in our minds. My favourite Zambian striker of all time is Dennis Lota. He scored goals and carried the national team. I would like to follow in his footsteps.”
Mulenga has made a bright start to his career at Pirates. His stunning strike against Bloemfontein Celtic in April opened his account for the Soweto giants in style and earned him the club’s Goal of the Season award. He is confident that more goals will come now that he and his teammates understand each other better.
“Pirates have quality players,” Mulenga said. “If I properly settle, I can start putting the ball in the back of the net consistently because at Pirates we have quality players who can find you anywhere on the field. They can find you in tight situations because they are intelligent. I just have to continue working hard because we push each other to perform. I think that things will be easier for us as a team this season.”
The Buccaneers host Premier Division returnees Highlands Park at Orlando Stadium on Saturday in their opening Absa Premiership match. Mulenga and his countryman Justin Shonga could light up the season for the Soweto giants. Shonga argued that he won’t stray now that he is receiving more attention because of his discipline as a policeman. Mulenga, on the other hand, practically grew up on a football field.
“I grew up in a compound (Chibolya) where we had a team, so most of the time I was at the stadium watching that team or playing. That’s where the interest for football started. I think that’s the best thing that could have happened to me and my career because I started playing at a very young age,” Mulenga said.
That compound produced the 2017 Zambian Footballer of the Year. Mulenga was a hit in his return home with Pirates for their pre-season camp in Zambia. “It was a good feeling because I thought that I would only go home in December. But I managed to do that sooner than I thought. It was a good surprise," he said. "It was great being back home, seeing familiar faces and being greeted warmly everywhere I went. But now it’s time to work.”