Football legend ‘Sugar Ray’ Xulu during the launch of the Sugar Ray Xulu Legacy Programme at Durban ICC. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix
Football legend ‘Sugar Ray’ Xulu during the launch of the Sugar Ray Xulu Legacy Programme at Durban ICC. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Sugar Ray - Farewell to a true gentleman of the game

By Minenhle Mkhize Time of article published May 6, 2020

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DURBAN – Cedric “Sugar Ray” Xulu could have played anywhere in the world and became a global icon had it not been for South Africa’s isolation from international competition.

That’s the view of former Bafana Bafana coach Clive Barker, who worked with the fallen hero in his heyday. Xulu died on Monday at the age of 81 after a long battle with cancer.

Barker, who was paying tribute to one of the greatest footballers to have emerged from KwaZulu-Natal, said he ranked Xulu as one of the best players he has ever worked with in his glittering coaching career.

The retired coach recalled when the left-footer made his name during his time with AmaZulu.

“Certainly the most elegant left-footed player that I’ve worked with. He was an absolute gentleman,” Barker said with admiration.

Clive Barker during the launch of the Sugar Ray Xulu Legacy Programme at Durban ICC. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

The ball juggler also became a friend to Barker during the dark days of apartheid.

“Sugar taught me what was going on in the townships in the 1970s. He made the game look so easy. He wasn’t as flamboyant as Doctor Khumalo but he is in the top five on the list of most talented footballers that I have worked with. An absolute gentleman and I’m sorry that he is no more. I knew that he was not well for quite some time and I’m sure he is now resting in peace. It is a great loss to South African football fraternity,” Barker said.

Xulu was a quiet and unassuming character and those who played with him say he did most of the talking when he had a ball at his feet.

Five decades after he hung up his boots, Barker still believes there are very few players that have emerged to match his skills and attitude.

The Province of KwaZulu-Natal and the eThekwini Metro have honoured the legend with many accolades. A football facility that was built in Clermont, the township where he grew up, was named after him. The stadium is now known as Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium and is currently the home ground for PSL outfit Lamontville Golden Arrows and GladAfrica Championship side Uthongathi FC.

Added Barker: “Sugar would have easily played for Bafana. He could have played anywhere in the world. Sugar was skilful and had the ability to win matches on his own with his individual brilliance. It was terrific working with him.”

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Since the announcement of his passing, football fans have taken to social media platforms with condolences. AmaZulu, the club he played for, also paid their respects through their general manager.

“We are devastated by this sad news,” said Lunga Sokhela.

“The legendary Xulu was the soul of the club if we are referring back to history. AmaZulu are well respected because of people like him. People like Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Jomo Sono respected Mr Xulu. For a legend like Jomo Sono to say he looked up to Sugar Ray Xulu is something else. You then realise that this man was something great. Unfortunately, in our time we never got to see people like that and we don’t have archives. As you hear stories, you realise that this was a great man. We are sad.”

Stories are told of Xulu giving visiting Johannesburg teams a hard time. Many legends who played against him agree he was a menace during his days with Usuthu in the 1960s. He is one of the few players that did not follow fame to join big Soweto Clubs such as Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows.

The details of his funeral had not been confirmed at the time of going to press last night.

“Sadly this happened during this time of the lockdown,” Sokhela said.

“I’m hoping that we will be part of the 50 people category (limit on social gatherings). As a club, we will pay our tribute to him. Let us celebrate his life and may his soul rest in eternal peace.”

@Minenhlecr7


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