Two times in a row, Zambia failed to qualify to the Africa Cup of Nations. The country’s once-upon-a-time birth-right was unceremoniously taken away from the millions of the game’s adoring fans by an administration that could not make a successful plan to qualify the team. The country went on failure after failure: Chipolopolo failed to qualify for the World Cup; then the shame of being kicked out of an age-group championship in Mauritius; the failure to qualify age-group teams to all junior African championships let alone the embarrassment of the Cosafa Cup.
The humiliation of home losses, even to minnows had become Zambians daily bread. And sponsors disappeared too, shrinking possible revenue streams. The only one sponsor being a school which brought just about K1million (ZAR 1, 018, 143. 00 – U$ 68, 172.29) for a year which money was even less than the allowances the outgoing president Andrew Kamanga and his executive apportioned themselves for sitting in meetings. As if that was not enough, the national teams are dressed from clothing put together in some back-street tailoring shops on the market-streets of Bangkok and other Far East sewing vendors.
Kopa, Chikolopo, takataka jersey, nylon & crimplene, call it what you may, it falls far short of anything renowned and thriving football nations do. Not even the most successful countries and FAs have gone the route of engaging tailors to make a national team kit.
For the road to AFCON 2021, Zambia is already rock-bottom with no point, the latest national team result being a sad 0-5 devastating loss at the hands of Algeria; a clear sign that the outgoing president and corporate guru Andrew Kamanga, including his equally outgoing executive have no clue as to how to get to the Africa Cup. Evidence of their being clueless about how to go to AFCON is in abundance.
Is the free-fall of Zambia and both ramshackle administration and awful results a result of anything unfortunate or a mere accident? Not at all! Before football, what was Kamanga’s football record? That record speaks volumes: he is renowned for forming a doomed parallel national football league. He got the shine off Magnificent Kabwe Warriors by getting them relegated to division one. Then there were those small clubs in Central province and a not so good stint at Power Dynamos and the rest is recorded in the annals of football anarchy and brewing of confusion in the game. Sadly, when he became FAZ president, he even pulled down all AFCON 2012 pictures from the displays and walls of Football House. Such a dreadful thing to do! Those 2012 pictures are however still on display on the walls of CAF headquarters in Cairo. Then bailiffs returned to football house, workers made headlines for going without pay, national team players went without allowances, no traveling and casual equipment, not forgetting the infamous and Chipolopolo bond; the failure of provincial cups and offices which remain on the lips. So much failed!
Most regrettably for the now suffering fans, quality and high-profile international friendlies vanished. There is no more Zambia vs Brazil, no more Japan, Chile, Korea, Norway, Saudi Arabia……Kalusha Bwalya really made the list long. Instead the last four years, Zambian football lovers got introduced to traveling on pontoons and reading about unconfirmed friendlies against Namibia and others.…sad.
What more evidence was needed to confirm that football in Zambia was on a terrible football sick bed, in the ICU of football surgery, requiring urgent expert attention? What more evidence was needed to confirm that Zambian football heritage had been battered. Do Zambians need to tabulate the depressing record of the outgoing FAZ executive? It can only depress them further. We spare them! FAZ previous regime was the weakest link hampering Zambian football revival.
As was then in the dying minutes of a crucial qualifier, an inspirational skipper and legend has risen up today! And what an opportune time for the great son of the soil King Kalu to step up. Just like he did numerous times with his magic left, he is here again to deliver for mother Zambia even when it seemed all hope was lost. As it called to mind when after 28 April 1993 the country grieved the loss of an entire team off the coast of Gabon, the 1988 African Ballon d’Or, King has risen up again to steer Zambian football ship out of the pit of failure and take it to greater heights as he knows better. When the soccer-loving people are mourning the loss of their proud heritage as a great soccer nation; when the country is mourning the terrible tragedies of not going to the Africa Cup of Nations (in the voice of Dennis Liwewe), when the country is mourning the terrible looks of the Chipolopolo, Kalusha Bwalya comes to lower the heavy burden again – to rescue the country’s beloved sport from total collapse caused by blatant administrative failures seen over the last four years. As he did back then, he will rely on the hard work and dedication of the whole team – the councilors and other men and women with him running for office next month! Ban lifted in a corruption case by FIFA last year, the former Mufulira Wanderers, Cercle Brugges, PSV Eindhoven and America player, Great Kalu, the prodigal son is back in the light.
Football is not just a sport. It is the way of life for Zambia and sub Saharan Africa. Football’s positive results and the darling performances of the Chipolopolo unite Zambians. Like all Africans in the south of the Sahara, they bring them joy, give them hope, courage and motivate them to work hard. Who doesn’t remember the joys among miners when Chipolopolo won and copper production increased? Who doesn’t remember the charm of Kalu’s magic left, the enchanting Alex Computer Chola, the exploits of Sir Zoom, Charlie Cool, Wizzzz, Malaza, the defensive pillars of Elijah Litana and Wawa, the rock solid Stoppila Sunzu, captain fantastic Chris Katongo, ba Mupa, Herve and Mayuuukaaaa and the heights of the legends AFCON 2012 over which Kalu presided, provided leadership and inspiration….. Who doesn’t know how football cuts across political divide, religious groupings and trashes tribalism and makes people all stand tall and proud as one Zambia and one nation to celebrate Chipolopolo winning……who can forget chants of Zambia, Zambia, Zambia and let’s go Zambia, let’s go, Kalu Kalu Kalu!!! Those can only be brought back with a leadership whose eyes are fully focused on football, has a proper football pedigree and an unrivalled and unparalleled football record. A leadership whose DNA is all football.
As FAZ goes to the polls next month, is Kalusha already in the pole position? An integrity check provision inserted in ZAF statutes could hinder Kalu prospects. Pundits have also voiced their appraisal that if Kalusha Bwalya has qualified for CAF appointment, who is ZAF? The onus is on councilors to entrust with their vote and responsibility should they believe in turning around and transform Zambia’s football fortunes: Kalusha Bwalya pedigreed credentials speak for themselves during his eight (8) years tenure at the helm of FAZ (2008-2016) compared to the outgoing executive. African Football legend and recently appointed Zambia Tourism Ambassador by Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts Ronand Chitotela, Kalusha Bwalya is at it again.
He couldn’t have put it any better. “My entire life I have dedicated to football and feel that I still have a lot more to offer the game. I have presided over many committees and organizations both in football and outside of football and gained even more experience. Therefore, I have decided to throw my hat back in the ring for FAZ presidency. In the game of football, you need to be prepared to win and to lose. I believe it is worth a try to come and help Mother Zambia reclaim its former footballing glory,” Kalu said in an inspiring posting after successfully filing in his nomination at Football House.