I remember the year 1994 very well. I was in Junior Secondary School at the time dreaming of greatness. It was also the year Nigeria made her very first appearance at the World Cup – the memorable USA 94 World Cup. Earlier that year, on a very cool April 10 evening in the beautiful city of Tunis, the Super Eagles of Nigeria defeated the Zambian National Team (also known as the Chipolopolo) by two goals to one to win her second African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Title.
That Zambian Team had some history. On April 27, 1993, almost a year before that final match with the Super Eagles, an airplane carrying 18 members of the Zambian National Team, 8 Team Officials and 5 Cabin crew crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, just about 500metres offshore of Liberville Gabon, killing everyone onboard. They were on their way to Senegal to honour a FIFA World Cup Qualifier. Sad! Sad! Sad! It was a very sad time for African football.
However, one of Zambia’s finest players wasn’t on the ill-fated plane. He was in far away Netherlands where He featured for his Club, PSV Eindhoven. He had missed the flight because He had made seperate arrangements to fly into Senegal for the big match. After the disaster, He was to form the nucleus of the new Zambian National team. His name, Kalusha Bwalya.
Kalusha, (born August 16, 1963 in Mufulira) is the most successful Zambian footballer ever. He announced his entry on the global stage when Zambia featured in the 1988 Olympics Football event. They upset Italy in the group stage, humiliating them in a 4-0 victory, with Kalusha scoring a hat trick. Zambia was eventually knocked out in the Quarter Finals but Kalusha’s heroics had caught the eyes of the European Cup winners of that year, PSV Eindhoven. They quickly snapped him up and he was with the club for the next six years winning the Dutch League in the 1990-91 &1991-92 seasons. He also won the Dutch Cup in 1989-90 season and the Dutch Super Cup in 1991-92 Season. Before PSV, He was with the Belgian Club, Cercle Brugge where he twice finished as the Club’s top scorer and was twice voted Supporters’ Player of the Year in his first two seasons .
After the air disaster, Kalusha spearheaded the building of a new Zambian National Team that went on to qualify for the 1994 Africa Nations Cup in Tunis. In the final round of the tournament, Kenneth Malitoli’s goal was not enough as the Chipolopolo were narrowly edged out by Nigeria in a 2-1 defeat. In the next edition of the African Cup of Nations in South Africa (1996), Kalusha Bwalya jointly won the Golden Boot Award as the top goal scorer while the Zambian national side finished in 3rd place.
His resume is impressive. He is Zambia’s most capped player because from 1983 to 2004, he played 147 International Matches for Zambia, scoring 100 goals. He was named the 1988 African Footballer of the Year by the magazine France Football and was nominated for the 1996 FIFA World Player of the Year where he was voted the 12th-best player in the world, the first to be nominated after playing the entire year for a non-European club.
He featured in 6 editions of the African Cup of Nations. He became a player coach for the Zambians in 2004. Even in his twilight years of his career, He was still a huge force to be reckoned with in Zambian football. One of the things that Zambians will not forget in a hurry is what happened on September 5, 2004. In a match against Liberia, Kalusha, Africa’s most famous “Number 11” then aged 41 and also a player-coach at the time, came off the bench during the second half to score his 100th goal for his country, scoring a direct free kick to give Zambia a 1-0 victory. However, Zambia failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. After a first round exit in the 2006 African Cup of Nations, Kalusha Bwalya resigned from the post.
His dream of winning the AFCON trophy finally came in 2012 when the Zambia National Football Team, which wasn’t given a chance by many, caused a big upset by defeating the star-studded Ivory Coast National side, to win the final match of the 2012 tournament. In the very country where his former teammates perished in an air disaster, Kalusha Bwalya as the President of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), heartily lifted the trophy and rejoiced with his players.
He is still contributing his own quota to World Football as he currently serves as a standing committee member at FIFA and the Confederation of African Football.
I feel hugely motivated by this African legend. To think Zambia is in the same group as Nigeria in next January’s AFCON tournament should send some shivers down the spines of the Super Chickens, sorry, Super Eagles of Nigeria as well as soccer-loving Nigerians.
Konnect Africa wishes Kalusha Bwayla the very best as he steers the Zambian National Team to greater heights.
We will leave you with what Kalusha Bwalya wrote on his blog after Zambia won the Nations cup earlier this year – “We came to the Cup of Nations incredibly motivated and with great aspirations. Before the competition, none would have given us a chance. But we did it.”
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© 2012 – 2017, Arise Arizechi. All rights reserved.