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New signing Emmanuel Mayuka will bring star quality to Southampton
“I just wanted to finish what they failed to finished,” said an emotional Emmanuel Mayuka.
It is a mark of the young man that in his greatest moment of triumph and glory, the significance of what he and his teammates had achieved was not lost on him.
Zambia – nicknamed ‘The Copper Bullets’ – had just stunned the footballing world by beating the megastar Ivory Coast team to win the African Cup of Nations for the first time ever earlier this year.
They returned home to a hero’s welcome, jet fighters screaming overhead, army trucks waiting to transport the players to huge public events and thousands upon thousands of fans there to greet them.
Some had walked for as long as 15 hours to pay tribute to their idols.
But, in amongst all that joy, was an outpouring of emotion expressed by Mayuka.
It was back in 1993 that a Zambian military plane crashed into the ocean, killing 25 players and officials on board.
This achievement was for them, a tribute, as Mayuka put it, to something they were robbed of the chance of doing themselves.
Mayuka was the undisputed Zambian star of the tournament, taking the Golden Boot as joint top scorer with three goals and also netting in the nerve-wracking penalty shootout that settled the final.
Manchester City defender Kolo Toure and Arsenal forward Gervinho both missed their penalties for Ivory Coast.
Mayuka started his footballing career by joining the Lusaka Academy in Zambia aged 11 before joining one of the country’s biggest club sides, Kabwe Warriors.
It didn’t take long for his goalscoring prowess to attract attention from elsewhere and he switched to Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2008.
After two seasons there he moved to Swiss side Young Boys, where he really made his name as a prolific, pacy striker.
In two campaigns in Switzerland he plundered 32 league and cup goals which brought him to the attention of numerous clubs around Europe, including Saints, who tied up a £3.5m deal to bring him to England.
Mayuka, pictured, shouldn’t be short of match fitness as he has already played seven Swiss League games in 2012/13, their season having started back in mid-July.
He netted twice in his first three games, but did not score in his last four prior to joining Saints.
Last season he netted eight league goals for Young Boys, who finished third in the Swiss League.
In 2010/11, he had Europa League experience, netting three goals for Young Boys.
Having travelled so much at just 21- years-old, moving to England holds no fears for Mayuka.
He has already said: “No matter where you move as a player, you always have to adapt to different cultures.
“It’s part and parcel of being a footballer.”
With a work permit secured and a five-year contract agreed, there is speculation he could even figure for Saints against Manchester United this Sunday.