June 10, 1954
Raphael Phiri is a former Zimbabwean footballer who was part of the first national football in an independent Zimbabwe in 1980 under John Rugg. He made his name turning out for Rio Tinto.
Raphael Phiri was born on 10 June 1954 and married to Alice his childhood sweetheart. The couple has five children.
As a sprightly teenager Phiri made a name for himself turning out for lower division sides Hunyani Paper Mills and Marondera's Proton Stars before injury came knocking in 1975. A mysterious injury condemned Raphael Phiri to bird slinging before a chance to join Rio Tinto ignited a career that would scale from the mining town of Kadoma right through the glitzy avenues of the State House. He assumed all was lost but unbeknown to him, he would one day get back between the sticks for the pioneering Zimbabwe national football team and bask in the company of then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe in 1980.
Whilst he was at Proton Stars he played against Rio Tinto who were coached by John Rugg (late) in a Castle Cup match which they lost 4-2 but he was outstanding in goals. Rugg pursued him after the match but he didn't want to leave Marondera and that was the same time he was injured. He hung his boots in 1976 after being frustrated by that injury since the X-rays showed that he was okay but he could neither seat nor run but there is a gentleman that kept encouraging him to return and he made up his mind to return. Rugg kept sending him telegrams to join Rio Tinto.
At the end of 1976 he made up his mind and started light training and joined Rio Tinto the same year that Ephert Lungu arrived at the club. It was a stiff competition for the number spot because Laban Kandi was also in top form and because of his experience, him being a former Dynamos Football Club player and Phiri had joined from Division One. It took him six months to get a starting berth and said to himself if he was to get the chance he won't let go.
Though impressing at training many players wondered why he was not getting a chance and the coach decided to hand him the opportunity in a way to prove a point that he was not ready. His first game in goals for Rio was against Zisco Steel who were not a small team. It was a tough game but he played well and they won 1-0 and that was the beginning and from then he never sat on the bench.
Phiri would play in the national team at first sharing the goalkeeping responsibilities with Mike Muhlanga (late) and Frank Mukanga. He would later share the number one spot with Bruce Grobbelaar and then rising star Japhet Mparutsa. He also played with stars of that time like Shackman 'Mr Goals' Tauro, David Mandigora, Douglas Mloyi amongst others.
He took charge of Rio Tinto who by then were christened Eiffel Flats after the mining company pulled the plug on sponsoring the team. He followed that up with a stint with Lancashire Steel and Shabanie Mine. He took his coaching badges to Botswana, leading the likes of Botswana Union, Flamingo, Santos and Ecco City Green. Some of the players that came through his hands are Isaac Masame, Herbert Dick, Daniel Zokoto, Tafadzwa Mombeshora and Saidi Saidi.
- Won Chibuku Trophy in 1977
- , The Daily News, Published: 1 November, 2014, Accessed: 21 April, 2020