KALUSHA: A LEGEND OF AFRICAN FOOTBALL
Posted: Jan 14, 2013
Zambia’s FA boss, Kalusha Bwalya, remains one of the African legends whose names will forever be remembered following his exploits as a player, coach and administrator
There have been many heroes of the African football and Kalusha Bwalya ranks among the greats because his contribution to the development of the game on the continent was immense. He was a great leader as a player and still doing marvelous job as an administrator. The history of the Africa Cup of Nations will be incomplete without a page laden with adorable statements devoted to the Zambia legend.
On April 27, 1993, almost a year before the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, an airplane carrying 18 members of former Zambian national team, eight officials and five Cabin crew crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, just about 500metres offshore of Libreville Gabon, killing everyone onboard. The team was on their way to Senegal to honour a FIFA World Cup qualifier. It was a very sad time for African football.
However, Kalusha was not on the ill-fated plane. He was in far away Netherlands where he featured for his Dutch club, PSV Eindhoven. He missed the flight because he had made separate arrangement to fly into Senegal for the big match. After the disaster, ‘the lucky one’ was to form the nucleus of the new Zambian national team.
Born on August 16, 1963 in Mufulira town in Zambia, he was the face of his country’s football after achieving some milestones in the game and in the process wrote his name in gold in the history of African football.
After the air disaster, Kalusha spearheaded the re-building of a new Zambian national team that went on to qualify for the 1994 Africa Nations Cup in Tunisia. In the final of the tournament, Kenneth Malitoli’s goal against the Super Eagles of Nigeria 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 scorer while the Zambian national side finished in the 3rd place.
His resume is very impressive. He is Zambia’s most capped player because from 1983 to 2004, he played about 147 international matches for Zambia scoring 100 goals. He was named the 1988 African Footballer of the Year by 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.
Kalusha announced his entry on the global stage when Zambia featured in the 1988 Olympic 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.
Bwalya featured in six editions of the African Cup of Nations. He became a player/coach for the Zambians in 2004. Even in the twilight of his career, he was still a force to be reckoned with. 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, a direct free kick to give Zambia a 1-0 victory. Though, Zambia failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. After a first round exit in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations, Kalusha Bwalya resigned from the post. His dream of lifting the Africa Cup of Nations however came alive during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, not as a coach though but as an administrator.
Bwalya was the FA boss of the Zambia Football Association when the Chipolopolo caused a big upset by defeating the star-studded Ivory Coast national side, to win the final match of the 28th edition of the Nations Cup. He heartily lifted the trophy and rejoiced with his players.
The man who sometimes works as a football analyst for some international channels 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.
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