A FLYING, HARD TACKLING DEFENDER
Birth and roots
John Soko was born on May 5, 1968 in the small mining town of Kalulushi, of the Copperbelt Province of Zambia.
Soko launched his early football career by playing for Kalulushi Secondary School main team in the back four between 1986 and 1991. During the same period, he would train for the town’s biggest team, Kalulushi Modern Stars where he undoubted defensive skills and qualities were unveiled and noticed. Soon, the up-and-coming defender became an integral part of the main team around 1997.
Style of play
A defender who regarded to be beaten to the ball as something of a taboo or espionage of a kind, Soko, more often than not, was viewed as being a little overzealous at times with his lunging, flying tackles in some sections of the media and the Zambian faithful generally.
A schooled right-back who almost made the position more like personal-to-holder, Soko, of slender frame, was surprisingly strong than his frail appearance suggested – a terrier of a defender in the truest sense of the word.
He was not just a hard tackler of enormous proportion, but a power header of the ball who always gave his all total and complete commitment to the cause of his teams – both at club and national level.
Elsewhere, John delighted in his overlapping excursions and was pretty quick to recover once he lost possession of the ball – bringing about sweet memories of the playing fashion of his predecessors, Milton Muke (Green Buffaloes), Peter Mwanza (Nchanga Rangers) and Bernard “Tools & Hardware” Mutale of Red Arrows.
At Kalulushi Modern Stars, Soko soon cemented his place in the flat four at right back between 1987 and 1991. During this period, the highest finish for his team was 4th in 1991, his last season before he crossed over to Kitwe’s Power Dynamos the following term. In that season, Soko’s Kalulushi Modern Stars, from 26 matches played, won 11 (the 4th highest number of wins in the league), drew 9 and lost 5 times (the least number of losses).
The Stars of Kalulushi scored 28 goals and conceded 22 and garnered 42 points in a 2-point-for-a-win awarding system.
Elsewhere, Soko’s brightest spot on his curriculum vitae with Kalulushi, is that he collected a runners-up medal in the 1990 Mosi Cup final when his side narrowly lost 1-0 to his future team, Dynamos, whose winning goal was scored by Linos Makwaza in the October 21, 1990 grand-finale played at Independence Stadium.
Despite the short spell Soko spent at Kalulushi’s Independence Stadium, he is often mentioned in the same breath alongside some of the biggest names to have graced the team over the years. The likes of Abel Nonde, (the team’s all-time record goal-scorer in a single season, with 80 goals netted in the 1969 season, when the team were in the old second Division when they were relegated from the top-flight in 1968 as the basement side alongside Kabwe United), Chris Mwango-Musonda, Dave Chimfupeni, Joseph Chiyungi, Mwelwa Mupeta and the Mofya brothers – John and Danny among others.
Come 1992, Soko had crossed over to Arthur Davies Stadium, as a Power Dynamos player, where his new team had an indifferent season.
In the season opener, better known as the Charity Shield, Dynamos were soundly beaten 3-0 by Kabwe Warriors in a final played at Lusaka’s Woodlands.
The men who gave Soko a rude awakening in the final that year were the trinity goal-scorers in the names of Maybin M’gaiwa, Timothy Mwitwa and Whiteson Changwe – the last two mentioned with whom he perished in the Gabon plane crash of 1993. All the three goals were scored inside 50 minutes of the match.
Dynamos starting 11 on the afternoon of February 28, 1992, were Derrick Katongo Soko himself, Winter Mumba, Jacob Tembo, Edwin Katongo, Robert Watiyakeni, Aggrey Chiyangi, Linos Makwaza, Richard Sikanyika, Kenani Simambe and Wisdom Chansa.
As fate would have it, a year and two months later, Mumba, Watiyakeni, Simambe and Chansa would together perish in the Gabon plane crash together with Soko, him, a Nkana property then.
In the league, Soko had a season he would have quickly wanted to put behind his memory as Dynamos finished in an unfamiliar 5th position on 54 points. Champions Nkana garnered 66 points from the same number of games played – 30.TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW