The South Africa international narrates how the Ivory Coast Icon shaped his career
The Ivorian is considered one of the greatest Africans to grace the game, with multiple trophies in his cabinet including the Premier League, La Liga, Champions League and Africa Cup of Nations. The 37-year-old – who was recently spotted training with League Two side Leyton Orient – is also a four-time recipient of the African Footballer of Year.
His legacy is now being felt among the generation who follow him, with Zungu paying tribute to his fellow midfielder.
“Growing up, I looked up to Yaya Toure. I used to watch a lot of his games,” Zungu told Daily Record. “I watched him at Barcelona back in the day, and then when he was at Manchester City, even when I became a professional football player because I’m the type of player that invests a lot of time in football.
“I watch what top midfielders do, or if they have books or documentaries or anything like that. So, I can say Yaya Toure was the biggest influence. He was very influential in terms of when he was on the pitch and the things he did.”
Zungu started his career in South Africa with the University of Pretoria, before joining record Premier Soccer League title holders Mamelodi Sundowns. He then moved to Europe to play for Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal during the 2016-17 season.
“When I was younger, I basically played in every position,” he added. “When I made my debut in the South African second division for Dynamos, I was a No.10 and then I went to the Premier League and played in the same position for Tuks.
“It was only when I was at Mamelodi Sundowns, that they moved me to a holding midfielder role.
“There are a lot of players whose manager decides what position they play in. Perhaps I will see myself as an attacking midfielder, but he wants me as a defensive midfielder.
“So I read about Yaya because that was what happened to him and learned all about how it impacted him as a player because it’s difficult to make that change.”
Zungu went on to narrate how he was almost killed in a shooting incident that occurred in his family home in the city of Duduza. The 29-time capped Bafana Bafana star stressed that playing football presents a distraction from many of society’s problems such as the near-death experience he encountered.
“What happened was I was driving…and the funny thing is this happened right in front of my parents’ house, like at the gate,” he continued. “I was taking my young brother home and two guys in a car came and they started shooting. I told my younger brother to open the door and run. He ran, and I had to come out. It was just a crazy moment.
“Fortunately, I just told them to take the car and leave, so that’s what happened. That’s where I come from, these things happen a lot, but that situation also helped me mentally, because now I’m more careful when I’m driving.
“You need to be sure, you need to check what’s going on and stuff. So after all that, I picked myself up, I said to myself, ‘Okay, the positive thing is that nothing bad really happened, they just took the car.’ It taught me how to be careful.
“I guess it’s important to take lessons from all of these difficulties. I can’t even imagine experiencing something like that and taking it in your stride.
“So football kind of helps me. Like, I switch off from the problems of the world and what’s happening when I play football, despite all that has happened. Every time when I’m training or I’m on the pitch, I know how to adjust and perform.”