A star is born at the COSAFA Castle Cup – Cuthbert Malajila

Scoring in a major cup final is the dream of every player but to do so to make up for some past disappointments is extra special.

That is the story of Zimbabwe striker Cuthbert Malajila, the hero of his side’s march to the 2009 COSAFA Castle Cup title, which would later lead to a move to South Africa’s Premier Soccer League and more trophy success.

The COSAFA Castle Cup has been the launchpad for many a career down the years and Malajila is one of those who can point to the competition as truly being a tournament of discovery.

Malajila’s first brush with the COSAFA Castle Cup came in 2008 but did not end happily.

He lined-up for Zimbabwe in their quarterfinal against rivals Zambia in Secunda, South Africa, a game that would end in a 0-0 draw. It went to penalties, with Zambia winning 5-4 and the all-important spot-kick being missed by Malajila as Chipolopolo goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, now a teammate at Mamelodi Sundowns, saved his effort.

It meant Zimbabwe would have to wait another year for regional glory and as hosts of the 2009 COSAFA Castle Cup, their time, and that of Malajila, had come.

He was magnificent in the tournament, scoring a brace in Zimbabwe’s opening 3-0 win over Mauritius and adding another as they played to a 2-2 draw with Lesotho in their second pool game, a result that was enough to see them advance to the quarterfinals.

He led the line superbly as they defeated Botswana 1-0 in the Last 8 and then ousted South Africa on penalties in the semifinals following a 1-1 draw.

It set up a colossal clash with Zambia in the final and a chance for Malajila to exorcise the demons of the year before.

He put in another superb display, scoring the final goal in a 3-1 victory for Zimbabwe that earned them a fourth COSAFA Castle Cup title.

After the tournament he was hot property and earned a move to North African giants Club Africain.

Things did not quite work out in Tunisia, but his reputation was made and he joined South African side Maritzburg United in January 2012, where he had a superb 18 months.

That prompted Sundowns to make him a big-money signing ahead of the 2013/14 and he played a major role in them winning the league championship in his first season.

He followed that up with the 2015 Nedbank Cup and Telkom Knockout titles, before adding a second league championship to his CV in the current campaign.