“It is true that you will do best in a business which you like and which is congenial to you. And if you have certain talents which are well developed, you will do best in a business which calls for the exercise of those talents.” – Wallace D Wattles
However you call it, FOOTBALL is the name of the game! It is a game that carries with it a unifying factor and it cuts across all cultures of a nation.
One cannot deny the great ecstasy associated with the beautiful game!
I can’t remember exactly when I became a football fan, but my memory takes me back to the year 1996. This was the year the Zambia National Football Team, nicknamed Chipolopolo, and formerly called KK 11 after independence, had a really good run in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament. Zambia emerged 3rd place winners and this was to be their best performance in this highly competitive biennial tournament, at least for the next 16 years.
Two years earlier, in 1994, Zambia had a really good run in AFCON, falling only at the final hurdle to Nigeria. This was Zambia’s second experience of an AFCON final, the first having been in 1974 when they lost to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was then called Zaire.
The 1994 success came in the aftermath of a national footballing tragedy just months earlier which claimed the lives of almost the entire national team.
On the fateful day of 27th April 1993, the ill-fated Zambia Air force plane carrying 18 members of the Zambia National Team and enroute to Senegal for a world cup qualification match, crashed into the atlantic off the coast of Libreville Gabon killing all on board. This was believed to be the greatest football team Zambia ever had.
A new team was soon formed with the inspirational skipper Kalusha Bwalya leading the pack in search of football glory. Kalusha and other players who were playing professional football abroad such as Charles Musonda escaped the tragedy as they were expected to fly directly from their bases using commercial flights and link up with their team mates whenever called up for national duty. Kalusha fondly called by fans as the great Kalu, would later be the main miracle man behind Zambia Football.
The year was 1996. I was 10 years old, a sixth grader and was just beginning to develop a strong fervour for the beautiful game. In those days, Zambia was a strong force to be reckoned with in African Football. They were deemed to be one of the giants of African football.
The 1996 AFCON was hosted by the new Republic of South Africa. South Africa was just 2 years old then, having gained independence just 2 years before. Zambia performed very well at the tournament, with such great scorelines as 5-1, 4-0, 3-1 on Burkina
Faso, Sierra Leone and Egypt respectively. With such impressive results, It was no coincidence therefore that almost all citizens were football fans, young and old alike, and young me was equally not left out of the chipolopolo hype.
Whenever Zambia was playing, it was ecstatic scenes everywhere with fans clad in national colours and engulfed in soccer mad and crazy behaviours. People would either watch the games live on T. V. or listen to live and direct commentaries from the Zambian veteran commentator Dennis Liwewe on national broadcast ZNBC radio 2. I always looked forward to the games, and when in school i would impatiently wait for the bell to ring so I could rush home and watch the matches live on T. V.
The likes of Kalusha Bwalya the free kick genius, Harrison ‘wawa’ Chongo, Dennis Lota, the clever and pacy Johnson Bwalya, Elijah Litana, Hilary Makasa, the Malitolis, Joel Bwalya, the excellent goalie James Phiri, and the entire team coached by the cool and soft-spoken great dane Roald Poulsen were a marvel to watch. Such great heroes! Kalusha Bwalya scored the most goals for the team, 5 which also earned him the golden boot. The humble, calm and prolific skipper was steadily gaining a lifetime iconic status in young me.
Zambia’s impressive run in the tournament however sadly came to an end when they lost 2-4 to Tunisia in the semi-finals. I didn’t watch the match as it was played earlier in the afternoon while I was still at school. As soon as I left classroom to go home, just seeing the atmosphere outside, it was clearly evident that Zambia had lost. I was so sad as I had so much gotten used to winning by now. Whatever happened! There was controversy as some Zambian fans claimed our players had been poisoned through food prior to the semi-final match and this affected their performance. They claimed it was a conspiracy by the South Africans to make Zambia lose as they were wary of Zambia’s football prowess and preferred to play Tunisia instead, who they deemed to be the weaker team in the final. Whether this’s true, I don’t know. Nevertheless South Africa went on to win that year’s AFCON tourney and Zambia brought home bronze after beating Ghana.
Zambia’s game slowly began to dwindle and the standards of Zambia football drastically continued to deteriorate in the following years. The heroics of 1996 were never to be seen again in a very long time to come. Zambia went from being a football giant to minions. They became the whipping boys of the Afcon tournaments and the term ‘underdog’ became synonymous with the Chipololpolo. Although they were consistent in qualification for the tourney, missing only once, it made very little impact as they were not competitive enough and always dropped out in the first round.
In the meantime, I developed an interest in European football, particularly the English Premier League. I just fell in love with Sir Alex’s Manchester United in the late nineties. David Beckham was my main man then. Oh yes the free-kick master man, and he remains my all-time favourite Man United player to date!
Zambia dominated the Cosafa cup tourney in the early 2000s. Cosafa is the Southern African regional tourney. Despite Zambia’s success in this lowly tourney, I, like many other Zambia fans were not satisfied and still craved and hoped for continental glory.
Kalusha Bwalya who has a heart and passion for Zambia football, and whom I regard as Zambian football itself never for once deserted the Chipololopolo during their ‘sleeping’ era. He served as player-coach and later served as Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) vice president. He worked hard and was finally elected FAZ president in 2008. Kalusha Bwalya’s first term in office as president has been intensely marred with disputes and controversies. But who cares? I don’t. To err is after all human. He’s still my icon, the same great Kalu who made me love the beautiful game 16 years ago, at the age of 10 and a girl for that matter.
In 2010, Zambia coached by french man Herve Renard surprisingly made it into the afcon quarter finals for the first time in 14 years. Zambia had a fairly good tournament and this raised a beckon of hope and sign of redemption for Zambia football. Zambia lost to Nigeria in the quarters on penalties. It was a painful loss as Chipolopolo had clearly outplayed their opponents.
2012 was the destined year for Zambia football. Zambia qualified for the Equatorial Guinea/ Gabon 2012 tourney late 2011 and Kalusha was at it again! This time he fired the man who qualified Chipolopolo to this year’s afcon, Italian Dario Bonetti in unexplained circumstances. He then re-appointed Herve Renard to lead the Chipolopolo. This is the man many fans considered a ‘traitor’ for dumping Chipolopolo earlier in 2010 for neighbouring Angola in search of what he perceived ‘greener pastures’. Of course this action did not go without receiving wide spread criticism and condemnation from the masses including the government. Kalusha however lent a deaf ear to the public outcry. He was later to prove he knew what he was doing. Good sound judgment is a trait of a good leader indeed!
I did not really follow Zambia’s qualification route to this year’s afcon tourney, either because I was busy or I just didn’t care much because I had gotten used to their frequent losing ways by now. Who’s keen on supporting a forever losing team anyways!
Rated underdogs and considered downright outsiders by football pundits, they finally made it on 12th february 2012. Zambia won their first ever AFCON tournament!
This did not come by chance or sheer luck as Zambia had beaten all three pre-tournament favourites; Senegal, Ghana, and now Ivory Coast in classy fashion. Zambia triumphed in the same country where we lost our beloved soccer heroes.
The ghosts of 1993 have now been laid to rest and Gabon is no longer a country of sorrowful memories and tears, but a haven of joy, extreme happiness and friendship.
What a better way to end a story and begin a new chapter! Now looking and hoping for a new football experience, which is a maiden appearance at the FIFA world cup.
I’m so glad to have lived through this amazing football story. Once again my passion for Zambia football has been re-ignited just like in 1996! Thanks be to God for the heroics of Chris Katongo, Mweene, Kalaba, Sunzu, Mayuka, Chisamba, Nkausu, Himoonde, Chansa…and the list goes on, the entire team and coaching staff. And of course my real all-time Zambia football icon, King Kalu or Lwisha. Oh I love Chipolopolo!
Here are some suggestions for your first post.
- You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
- Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting page you read on the web.
- Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.