‘Sugar Ray’ Xulu did his talking on the field

Cedric ‘Sugar Ray’ Xulu was a gentleman, always polite and willing to listen. On the field of play, however, he was ruthless. Using his dribbling technique and speed, he would mesmerize opposing defenders.

The former Usuthu legend passed away on Monday at the age of 80 and Kaizer Chiefs Chairman, Kaizer Motaung, has joined the myriads paying warm tribute to Xulu.

“Sugar Ray was left-footed, just like me,” remembers Motaung. “He was fast and knew how to score. He was a brilliant player, a true legend of the game of football.”

The two giants of South African football always had mutual respect and admiration for each other. Xulu would always generously point out that “Kaizer was the best player in South Africa in the 1960s.”

Sugar Ray, as he was known, went to school in his home city of Clermont and started to play for the local amateur side, Clermont Home Defenders.

The central midfielder went on to play for a variety of clubs, from Durban’s Avalon Athletic FC, Swaziland’s Mbabane Swallows, Hammanskraal United to Zulu Royals/AmaZulu, where he had his best years as a player.

“Sugar Ray was quiet off the field, but on the field of play he spoke with his feet,” Chiefs’ former goalkeeper Joseph ‘Banks’ Setlhodi reflects. “He was quick, physically strong and could attack as well as defend. He was one of the best we had in the country. What a player!” exclaims Setlhodi.

“He had football in his genes and was really brainy. I recall one particular occasion when he came rushing across the wing. I liked to anticipate situations and I was moving forward to intercept a cross. However, he already seemed to know what I was going to do before I had decided myself and he drove the ball from outside the box straight into the corner. It was such a clever goal and brilliantly executed too,” Setlhodi adds.

‘Sugar Ray’ was also a true sportsman, who, as far as Setlhodi remembers, never got a yellow card during his career.

“He was loved by his teammates and opponents alike, also because of his fair play. He would never do something malicious. We once played in the rain and Sugar Ray slipped and fouled his opponent. The referee was about to give him a yellow card when I intervened.

“I told the referee, ‘It was not intentional. He’s a gentle footballer. It was clearly an accident as the pitch is so slippery.’ The referee was surprised to hear my comments and decided to withdraw the yellow card. We have lost a true giant.”

Xulu was born on 19 December 1939 and died on 4 May 2020. He leaves behind three sons.