By Chibulu "Ba Muzo" Musonda
MY ZAMBIA BEST 11 @ 50!
When "Ucar" Godfrey Chitalu leapt off the bench to score twice to defeat Uganda 4-2 in February 1977, my pregnant mother was in the stands at Dag Hammerskjoeld Stadium. I was still an embryo. So from her womb, I must have celebrated that brace. Seven months later I was born at the Central Hospital in Ndola.
Ever since football has been a part of my life.
Even when I die, I would love to be remembered as simply 'one who loved football'. I consider "Ucar" Zambia's greatest soccer player ever. Records don't lie. He was the first known Zambian Footballer of the Year four years after this country was birthed. Chitalu holds the record of winning that accolade four times. Apart from 1968 he won it in 1970, 1978 and 1979.
I got involved in Zambian football because I believe this blessed country has talent such as that of ''Ucar" to win the World Cup! Today I celebrate 11 individuals, among the many others who have graced the game in Zambia, to continue a tradition established this month on this page as to commemorate 50 years of our existence as a sovereign state. Independent Zambia has many tribes and languages but football has been one major unifying factor in this half a century.
Long live United Zambia! Happy 50th birthday mother Zambia! God bless our Great Zambia! As a ball boy at Independence Stadium, I was privileged to see some of my selections at close quarters in my formative years.
Here now I pick my best 11. [Efford Chabala, John Soko, Kaiser Kalambo, Dickson Makwaza, Stoppila Sunzu, Jericho Shinde, Johnson Bwalya, Charles Musonda, Ucar Godfrey Chitalu, Cris Katongo and Kalusha Bwalya]
#1. Efford Chabala
One of his finest moment was when stopping a penalty against Ghana in helping Zambia reach the Seoul Olympics in 1988 2-1 on aggregate.
Famously reported to have said: " Kuiposakofye" when asked to recount his Accra heroics. That was 5 years after emerging on the scene as a 23-year-old to become Zambia's number one until his death in the Gabon disaster on duty for this country. The country's first East and Central Challenge Cup was won with the Mufulira Wanderers man who also occasionally played as a number 9 for club (1988 season scored five goals in a few matches for Mighty including in the Independence Cup 3-0 triumph over Roan Utd while Peter Chilufya kept goal), saving three penalties in 1984 in a shoot out win over Malawi. A year later Efford was named Sportsman of the Year.
Edges out Emmanuel Mwape but Kennedy Mweene has an opportunity to draw closer. Vincent Chileshe, James Phiri and Ghost Mulenga were good goalkeepers too. Chabala, the country's most capped goalkeeper with 108 appearances, also played professional football in Argentina for Argentinos Juniors.
#2. John Soko:
When legendary Dennis Liwewe introduced him as a new find from Kalulushi Modern Stars against Zaire in 1989 Independence Stadium went dead silent.
Can the lanky number 2 cope with the dreaded Leopards led by Kabongo Ngoyi? After the match, his name was on the lips of the fans. A tough marker man. He kept wingers in the pocket. Great cover defensively and overlapped with purpose. He may have played only two Africa Cup of Nations in 1990 and 1992 but I have seen no number two better. We are never to know Soko's complete greatness due to the cold hand of death. Peter Mhango, Edwin Mbaso, Bernard "Tools and Hardware" Mutale Laban Chishala, Mordon Malitoli and the versatile Joseph Musonda, the 2012 AFCON winner, deserve mention but Soko surpasses them all.
#3. Kaiser Kalambo
Played for Zambia from 1973 to 1982. Kalambo was diminutive but hard in the tackle. He captained Zambia at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Dean Mwiinde introduced the late Kalambo to me about two years ago at Sunset Stadium and his recollections of the game were as vivid as yesterday. He was replaced in 1982 at the Africa Cup in Libya whilst recuperating from injury by Nkana left back John Kalusa. In fact, Kalusa played so well at the finals he got the nickname "Libya".
Kapambwe "Imbambwe" "Pebros" ''Gentile" Mulenga who could also operate in midfield like Kalambo, Edward Musonda, from whom Kalambo took the number 3 mantle, and Whiteson Changwe would stake a claim for this spot as would Ackim Musenge. But a player named the "Kaiser" after some Germany great gets the nod.
#4. Dickson Kenneth Makwaza
Zambia's 1974 captain first played for this country a year after its birth. He represented the country for a decade and wore the armband first in 1967 taking over from Howard Mwikuta.
Mwikuta was handed the captaincy briefly from Samuel "Zoom" Ndhlovu who is the first black captain of the Zambia national team taking over from Jackie Sewell. Zoom played for the Northern Rhodesia team from 1956. Sewell was the first captain of independent Zambia. The prolific forward was the most expensive footballer in English football when he transferred to Sheffield Wednesday from Notts County for £34, 500 in March 1951. He played for England and later represented this country after coming to the British colony of Northern Rhodesia to play for Woodlands Stadium outfit City of Lusaka in 1961 after moving from Aston Villa to Hull City. Mwikuta is the first Zambian alongside Fred Mwila Senior and Emment Kapungwe to play professional football abroad at Atalanta Chiefs in 1967.
Back to Makwaza after that background then. The "Barbed wire" retired a decade later with the distinction of being the only central defender never to be shown a yellow card or red card in his club and country career. The likes of Dick Chama, Harrison "WaWa" Chongo, Robert Watyakeni, Michael Musonda, Jones Chilengi, Fighton Simukonda, Ben Pabili Bamfuchile and Estone "King Yellow Man" Mulenga all were central defenders of substance.
The discipline of Makwaza stands out. The hero and his wife Hilda celebrated their Golden Jubilee in marriage on October 13 and in those 50 years have produced seven children-2 girls and 5 boys including the famous Linos Makwaza, the former Nkana coach and Power Dynamos legend, who represented Zambia at 3 Africa Cup finals from 1992 through to 1996.
#5. Stopilla Sunzu
Born in Chingola of a Congolose migrant footballer Felix Sunzu Senior who played for Konkola Blades as a goalkeeper, Sto wrote himself in Zambia's football folklore scoring the penalty that won his country's first major international piece of silverware-the Africa Cup of Nations that had eluded Zambia for 48 years. Converted from midfield into a defender by Frenchman Herve Renard, Sunzu was the saviour. Singing a Christian song "Munjikate ukuboko" Sunzu stepped up to slot home the decisive spot kick that sent Zambia into joyous raptures until now unknown.
Zambia had conquered it's demons. The talent of 2012 may not have been better than some from previous generations but God's favour was on Chipolopolo. It was crucial that the deliverer of that fatal blow to Ivory Coast in the 8-7 post match penalties win was one who acknowledged Jehovah God Almighty as his helper when taking the spot kicker.
The nation was spell bound. Rainford Kalaba had been presented with a similar chance but scuffed it. Sunzu, as his teammates sung " Kalombo Mwane" whilst offering supplications in reverence to the Almighty Deity in scenes reminiscent of a Pentecostal prayer meeting miraculously made history.
Ashios Melu, the two time Zambian footballer of the year, is another of my all time favourites. Either for Mighty or Zambia, the crowd would chorus " Meluuuuu, Meluuuuu, Meluuuuu" calling on the central defender of hot shots to unleash a cracker from range whenever a free-kick presented itself on the pitch. Few of the present generation actually know Melu played as a centre forward first before converting into the centre back role for Zambia.
He was a number 9 for Wanderers in 1983 scoring 43 goals before capturing his First Zambia Footballer of the Year accolade. By 1987 when he bagged the second, Melu was a great commander of the of the Zambia back line battalion. Legend, unverified, has it Melu's deadly shot killed a player in Greece where he played for Olympiakos.
At Independence Stadium though in a 3-0 win over Gabon I saw Melu's shot flatten Da Costa; the son of the Gabonese coach who was in the human wall. Costa missed the return after being hospitalised in Libreville suffering chest pains from the shock of the scorching shot. Elijah Litana was carried around in Arabic planes for matches because he was a defence pillar.
But Sunzu is the man.
#6. Jericho Shinde
I was about 8 years when I witnessed Zambia beat Cameroun 4-1 at Independence Stadium with "Big" Michael Chabala grabbing a first half hat-trick but the star was a midfield man from Nkana Red Devils Shinde.
His four league titles with Nkana attests his subtlety in the middle of the park either as holding midfielder or in the more advanced role. Nicknamed "Tanker" the man who may represent a modern day archetypal anchorman in the mode of Manchester City's Yaya Toure was a cut above the rest.
Derby Mankinka who made his niche at Profund Warriors and later graced Europe for a Polish club and a Soviet Union side comes close here. Older folk talk of Richard Stephenson or Jani Simulambo. Aaron Njobvu, Andrew Sinkala of German giants Bayern Munich and his sublime sibling Nathan are acknowledged.
#7. Johnson "One Man Commando" Bwalya
I understand he is now a lawyer in Switzerland. Mighty Mufulira Wanderers has always produced gems. Bwalya, the youngest Zambian footballer of the year at 19 was quick and had an eye for goal from distance.
He took on men using shear strength reducing them to shreds. Watch YouTube video of Zambia 4-0 Italy to see Bwalya's long range trademark cracker. Here, I think Lucky Msiska of the "Muchofe" fame deserves recognition too. John Zyambo as well. Moses Simwala, who was later to become one of the most successful coaches in Zambia winning 8 Super Division titles as Nkana coach, would not be out of place too in this role. Peter Kaumba, who I did not watch, would certainly be a more than a worth replacement for Bwalya. You don't get voted Africa's best winger for nothing-1982.
So proponents of 'don't pick a player you didn't watch must note the great injustice in my choice here.
#8. Charles Musonda
Easily the best ever number 8 this country has ever produced. By now, with previous selections by other contributors, we know that Charly Cool had no competition in this role. Great vision and defence splitting passes were his hall mark plus those '360 degrees turns to elude a marker' as Liwewe would say.
With only one Africa Cup to his name in 1986 where Musonda got injured in the 3-2 loss to Cameroun, Zambia's midfield machine's most defining moment was at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Musonda was the conductor of the Zambia orchestra that swept the world off its feet; first African country ever to reach the quarter-finals of the Olympics then featuring full strength national teams. Casualties? Guatemala and Italy both suffering 4-0 defeats.
Injuries meant Musonda did not play as much for Zambia as we would all have loved. Hence the mistaken belief and accompanying smear campaign that he was not patriotic.
Far from it. In 1993, Musonda, despite not being match fit due to injury, returned to the Zambia team in this country's quest for a maiden place at the World Cup and nearly helped Chipolopolo reach the 1994 World Cup in the USA with a late effort that would secure a point to ensure qualification at the expense of Morocco in Casablanca. Sadly, Musonda was booted in the face and lost a tooth but penalty appeals were waved away by the infamous Gabon referee Jean Fidel Diramba. No one unpatriotic can be honoured for his services to Zambia by a Patriotic Front government.
At his best some old pundits saw similar styles in Musonda's play to compare the former Anderlecht man to Brazilian great Pele. His starring role in the 1991 European Cup Winners Cup final won 2-0 through goals by Gianluca Vialli in extra time by Sampdoria forced the Italians to want to sign Musonda but injury prevented the swoop. He won many titles in Belgium with Anderlecht where he played with former Nigeria boss Stephen Keshi. But watch out for Charles Musonda junior the advanced version of Charles.
I would give the world to have that boy and his two brothers: Tika and Lamisha play for the country of their mom Angela Mushimba Musonda and their legendary dad-and not adopted Belgium. We can talk of Willie Phiri, the magical Nchanga Rangers link man. His status is legendary. Alex Chola would be a sober choice too. Named among the best 200 footballers by CAF in the last half century the Zaire born Chola was excellent.
I watched his last match for Power Dynamos-a 3-2 loss to Kabwe Warriors in the 1987 Independence Cup final. It was his come-back from injury match cut short by a Whiteson Changwe tackle in front of the Grand Stand near the South Open Wing. Boniface Simutowe, the youngest Footballer of the Year in winning it in1968 is highly regarded by history too and records. Even Rainford Kalaba can claim something here that will not be viewed as absurd.
#9. "Ucar" Godfrey Chitalu
When the world talked about Lionel Messi's goal-scoring record, Jerry Muchimba, a football historian and statistician, and I quickly presented evidence of Chitalu having scored 116 goals in a calendar year .
FIFA's position as a result is that football's mother body does not recognise such records but are a creation of the media. Well, great. We know that most goals in a calendar year were not scored by a German Gerd Muller or the little magician from Argentina who weaves his trade at Catalonia club Barcelona but a Zambian: Ucar Godfrey Chitalu in 1972!
Ante Buselic, the Zambia boss, tried to undermine Chitalu by preferring Bernard "Bomber" Chanda at the 1974 finals the Nkana forward netted thrice while Chitalu came back with a goal. But to be named Zambia's best footballer on two occasions after that only twice played final in the history of the Africa Cup won by Zaire 2-0 in the replay after an initial 2-2 draw underlined Chitalu's unparalleled mental strength.
Chanda deserves mention. So does Jack 'The African Pele' Chanda. Fanny Hangunyu, he who embarrassed legendary Bruce Grobbelaar when the Zimbabwe international goalkeeper was at his prime in the dominant years of Liverpool in the 1980s. Kelvin "Malaza" Mutale was stopped in his tracks by death. See his hat-trick against Mauritius. I spoke with him face to face on the day the team left to meet its fate in Libreville. They were at Masiye Motel in Emmasdale prior to departure.
"Ikaba shani bola Ku Senegal?" I asked. This was a few days after his Mauritius super single soul show.
"Tukamona" (We shall see) he responded. Sadly, we were never meant to see.
What I had seen the year before when the Nitrogen Stars of Kafue made caused Efford Chabala to be substituted after putting three goals past the international goalkeeper to help Nkana win the Independence Cup 3-2 after coming from a 2-0 deficit against Mighty Mufulira Wanderers was enough to convince me "Malaza" would have put the likes of Samuel Eto'o in the goal scoring shed.
Stone Nyirenda, Dennis Lota and Collins Mbesuma were feared forwards too in their prime.
#10 Chris Katongo
2012 BBC African Footballer of the Year. 2012 Africa Cup most valuable player. This was a tournament where even Chelsea legend Didier Drogba reached the final. First Zambia national team captain to win the Africa Cup.
Gibby Mbasela, Wisdom "Whizzzzz" or "Summerby" Chansa, Sunday Kaposa,Kenneth ''Bubble'' Malitoli, Michael Chabala, Simon Kaushi Kaodi, Maybin Mgaiwa and Patrick Phiri are mentionables.
#11 Kalusha Bwalya
The greatest Zambian footballer I have ever seen. Attempting to describe Kalusha as a footballer is like trying to climb Mount Everest with no legs. "Lusha" as the crowd affectionately referred to the man with one of the deadliest left in African football ever announced his arrival on the big time in Zambia by being named the 1984 Zambia Footballer of the Year.
Less than half a decade later in 1988, he was Africa's finest footballer. No one else in Southern Africa had achieved that feat or has ever equalled it. After the Gabon disaster of 1993 that claimed the 18 creme de la creme generation of Zambian footballers, Kalusha carried the nation on his shoulders! Give me any player who has played more than two decades for the national team? He deserved the name Great Kalu or even King Kalu.
He scored free kicks that would make David Beckham go green with envy. At Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, where he was club mates with Brazilian great Romario, Kalu won two Eredivisie titles between 1990 and 1992. Before moving to Holland, at his first club Circle Brugge, the Mufulira Blackpool product was top scorer for consecutive seasons: 1987 and 1988 and was by streets the club's best player in that period which prompted the move to the Netherlands.
Zambia's most inspirational football captain. What I have left out we can fill in. This man is a book on its own. First FAZ president to conquer Africa.
So there you have it, Chibulu Musonda's top 11 all time best Zambian Footballers in the last 50 years of Independence. Many great and honorable mentions are here as well. They are within the article but in case you are one of those that literally jumped all the article and just read the numbers directly, here is a list below of honorable mentions.
#1: Emmanuel Mwape, Kennedy Mweene, Vincent Chileshe, James Phiri and Ghost Mulenga
#2: Peter Mhango, Edwin Mbaso, Bernard "Tools and Hardware" Mutale Laban Chishala, Mordon Malitoli and the versatile Joseph Musonda
#3: Kapambwe "Imbambwe" "Pebros" ''Gentile" Mulenga, Edward Musonda, Whiteson Changwe and Ackim Musenge
#4: Howard Mwikuta, Samuel "Zoom" Ndhlovu, Jackie Sewell, Fred Mwila Snr, Emment Kapungwe, Dick Chama, Harrison "WaWa" Chongo, Robert Watyakeni, Michael Musonda, Jones Chilengi, Fighton Simukonda, Ben Pabili Bamfuchile and Estone "King Yellow Man" Mulenga
#5: Ashios Melu
#6: Derby Mankinka, Richard Stephenson, Jani Simulambo, Aaron Njobvu, Andrew and Nathan Sinkala.
#7: Lucky Msiska, John Zyambo and Moses Simwala
#8: Tika and Lamisha Musonda, Willie Phiri, Alex Chola, Whiteson Changwe, Boniface Simutowe and Rainford Kalaba
#9: Jack 'The African Pele' Chanda. Fanny Hangunyu, Kelvin "Malaza" Mutale, Stone Nyirenda, Dennis Lota and Collins Mbesuma
#10: Gibby Mbasela, Wisdom "Whizzzzz" or "Summerby" Chansa, Sunday Kaposa,Kenneth ''Bubble'' Malitoli, Michael Chabala, Simon Kaushi Kaodi, Maybin Mgaiwa and Patrick Phiri
#11: None mentioned...
Rev Walter Mwambazi
Author of "The 7 Principles for Financial Prosperity", Life Coach, Facilitator, Peak Performance Coach, Digital Marketing Professional, Network Marketer, Health & Wellness Consultant, Pastor, Copy Writer, Motivation Speaker & Writer.