Z is for Zakuani
Gabriel Zakuani’s career began at Leyton Orient after he moved to London from his home city of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire.
After three years in Orient’s youth system, Zakuani made nearly 100 outings for the first team and helped produce a shock FA Cup victory against Premier League side Fulham in 2006. Zakuani was then signed by the Cottagers but spent most of his time at the club out on loan.
The defender played 19 league matches in Stoke City’s promotion season of 2007/08, returning the Potters to the top flight for the first time in over two decades. This was followed by another loan spell, at Peterborough United, which was made permanent in 2009.
In total, Zakuani played more than seven seasons with Posh (split by a short period in Greece with Kalloni), making more than 250 appearances before signing for League One rivals Northampton Town in 2016.
Zakuani played 25 times in 2016/17 and netted twice, helping the Cobblers record a 16th-place finish on the back of promotion to the third tier. He also ran out against the likes of Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimović when Manchester United visited Northampton in the League Cup.
By impressing in his sole season at Sixfields, Zakuani retained his captaincy of the DR Congo national team. He represented his country on several occasions during his time in claret and white, leading the Leopards in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
He was nicknamed ‘The Wall’ by some of his international team-mates having proved steadfast in the Leopards’ back-line. He made his DR Congo debut in 2013 and earned 29 caps, featuring in three AFCON tournaments and finishing third in the 2015 event.
After the Cobblers, Zakuani went on to represent Gillingham, Swindon Town, and Dagenham & Redbridge before hanging up his boots during the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue coaching and media opportunities, recently becoming the manager of non-league side Spalding United.