Ponga Liwewe: Ten Players who Shaped Zambian Football

Ponga Liwewe

Ten Players who Shaped Zambian Football

By Ponga Liwewe

These are ten players who, in their careers, were part of pivotal moments and periods that were instrumental in Zambia’s football’s sucess.

It is NOT a list of Zambia’s greatest players and is NOT in chronological order

1. Godfrey Chitalu

Nicknamed ‘Ucar’ after a popular battery brand manufactured by Union Carbide, Godfrey Chitalu broke barriers that no Zambian player would ever match. He was named Zambian Footballer of the Year on five occasions, holds the record for the highest number of goals scored in a single season, 107, and is ranks 5th on the FIFA list of scorers in international football with 79 goals. He first exploded on the scene for Kitwe United earning a reputation as the ‘bad’ boy of Zambian football, while scoring prolifically for the Kitwe side. He later moved to Kabwe Warriors where he became a national hero who would etch his name in Zambian football history forever.

2. Christopher Katongo

Led Zambia to victory in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, scoring three goals to share the top scorers award. His exemplary leadership drove a group of players rated far below their opponents to an unexpected cup win that ranks as the greatest shock in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations. He finished the 2007 season in the South African PSL as top scorer with 15 goals despite leaving for Denmark halfway through. In the Zambia national team his leadership was inspiration and he drove a team of average players to greater heights with the guidance of his coach Herve Renard. His drive and determination took him to Denmark, Germany, Greece, China and back to South Africa. But for him, Zambia would not have reached the heights they did in 2012.

3. Kalusha Bwalya

He became the most recognized player in Zambian football history by becoming the only player from Southern Africa to win the prestigious African Footballer of the Year Award in 1988 after Zambia’s outstanding performance at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He scored six goals in four matches at the tournament, coming second to Brazil’s Romario who scored seven, but played two more matches. His six goals at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations makes him the highest Zambian scorer at a single tournament. On the pitch, he was a marvel to watch, leading a talented team to constant Africa Cup appearances in 1986, 1990, 1992,1994,1996,1998,2000, and 2002. His career took him to Belgium, Holland, and Mexico.

4. Wisdom Chansa

He became the only Zambian player to lead his team to a continental title when Power Dynamos beat Nigeria’s BBC Lions to win the African Cup Winners Cup in 1991, and was instrumental in the team that won its first league title in 1984. He captained the Power Dynamos team to their second ever league title in 1991, the year of their African success. The previous season, 1990, he led them to win three cup competitions in one season. A natural leader, his tireless work rate and influence on his team-mates made Power Dynamos one of Zambia’s most successful club sides in the country’s football history. Fans chanted his name for both club and country, one of the few players to win such an acclaim.

5. Freddie Mwila

He was one of the first Zambian players to play in England for Aston Villa alongside Emment Kapengwe. His goalscoring prowess made him one of the best strikers of his era. Though Zambian players would vanish from European football for over a decade until the eighties, he is recognized as a pacesetter in breaking a barrier by playing in England after having earlier made his mark at Atlanta Chiefs in the USA in the National Soccer League, NSL. Before his departure overseas he had been a key player for Rhokana United, scoring freely and it was this that would grab the attention of the former West Ham player Phil Woosnam who would take him to an unprecedented move overseas.

6. Dickson Makwaza

Dickson Makwaza is recognized for leading Zambia to the final of the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations where against all expectation he captained Zambia against the powerful Zaire Leopards, Africa’s dominant team at that time. The young Zambian side took a highly experienced Zaire team to a replay, making history in the process in the only final that has gone to a second match in CAF history with the first a 2-2 draw and Zambia losing the replay, 2-0. As a pillar at the back for both Mufulira Wanderers and Zambia, Makwaza led by example as a defensive stalwart and rallied his team-mates behind the cause at the time, taking Zambia to the highest levels of the African game where they would stay for many decades.

7. Kapambwe Mulenga

When Nkana FC became the most dominant club side in Zambian football history, no other player epitomised what the club stood for more than’Gents Power’ Kapambwe Mulenga. Robust at the back and renowned for his aggressive tacking, he also had a delicate touch that allowed him to play creatively in midfield. By far the most popular player in the team, he always gave 100% and Nkana’s nine titles in twelve years between the eighties and nineties stand out as testament to a team that totally dominated the local scene. His smooth transition to the national team equally endeared him in the hearts of fans countrywide.

8. Peter Kaumba

A rampaging winger down the left flank who devastated defences for both club and country, between 1980 and 1994, Peter Kaumba was the most dominant player in Zambian football. In 1982 he was the dominant figure in a Power Dynamos team that reached the final of the 1982 Africa Cup Winners Cup against Egypt’s Arab Contractors, becoming the first Zambian team to reach an African final. That year he was the league’s top scorer, Footballer of the Year and Sportsman of the Year. Alongside the great Alex Chola, he played a pivotal role in taking Power Dynamos to the summit of Zambian club football. Revered by the Power Dnamos faithful, his entrance into the pitch brought the crowd to its feet as he jogged majestically around the perimeter. He was voted Africa’s best left winger at the 1982 Africa Cup in Libya. He had a spell with top African side Africa Sport in Cote d’Ivoire between 1983 and 1984.

9. Alex Chola

Zambia’s most skillful player ever, Alex Chola left his indelible mark on Zambian football with his unbelievable array of football skills that mesmerised football fans across the country and in African football. The ‘Master Dribbler’ tore defences to shreds with immense dribbling ability and was equally adept at scoring goals, qualities that made him valuable equally as a centre-forward or second striker. His move from Mufulira Blackpool to Power Dynamos transformed the Kitwe side, drawing thousands of fans to the fast-rising team and making them a household name in Zambian football. Across Africa, his was the first name on lips of rival fans who longed to see his unmatched ability on the ball. Thousands poured through the turnstiles to see him weave his magic and they never left disappointed. He played over 100 times for Zambia and won the 1976 Footballer of the Year award.

10. Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu

As Zambia’s football growth accelerated in the sixties, Zambia’s first football superstar. Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndlovu, emerged from Mufulira, thrilling crowds across the country with skills that were nothing short of amazing. Grounds around the country were filled, and the Copperbelt became the launch pad for the start of an era that would see Zambia begin to become competitive against Africa’s best at continental football. He led Mufulira Wanderers to five league titles between 1963 and 1969. Clad in the green and white stripes of Mufulira Wanderers, Zoom took Zambian football to the start of a new era as the popularity of the game propelled its players to new highs. Improved international performances and open, attacking football thrived across the Copperbelt igniting the flames that would lead to a golden era for Zambian football.

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