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1968: GODFREY Chitalu rips through the Leicester City defence and is about to shoot past goalkeeper Peter Shilton.

Chitalu: Unbeaten Zambian soccer icon

SOCCER stars of Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu’s pedigree come only once in a life time. It is for this reason that their memory has to be appropriately shared through biographical works like Jerry Muchimba’s latest paperback novel and e-book.
It is a definite huge plus for the author – as said in journalism circles– to scoop the Godfrey Ucar Chitalu story. It has been long overdue but for sure never too late. The name Ucar refuses to die from the Zambian soccer scene and this book cements its enigmatic position.
The late Chitalu, a 1993 Gabon disaster victim, ripped defences and scored fantastic goals in numerous classical performances. He cheered fans and was a man foes simply loved to hate.
He was always a target of tight marking and strong tackling from opponents but often gave defenders a taste of their own medicine. In the process, he attracted more disciplinary charges leading to the local media giving him the “Bad Boy of Zambian Soccer” tag.
Godfrey Kangwa Chitalu was born from Lucian and Emeriah Chitalu in 1947. The book traces his early childhood in Luanshya, where he was born and started his football career in Roan Mine Township’s notorious Section 10.
From kicking ifimpombwa – those famous plastic and rags footballs – he was by the age of 10 already featuring in the Makoma Primary School team.
And then Mr. Bennie Evans – that well known sports and recreation officer at Roan Antelope Copper Mines – spotted and recruited him at the Fisansa Youth Centre, where he played soccer and boxing. Though Chitalu made it into the under-15 district team that toured Southern Rhodesia in 1958, he went as a boxer and reserve soccer player.
Fisansa and others such as Chaisa, Mutambe and Chilimira were used as nurseries for Roan United FC. Unfortunately for Chitalu, family issues hindered his progression into the Roan senior team as did others like Emmanuel Mwape, Godfrey Mpula, Fordson Kabole, Sunday Kaposa and Boniface Simutowe.
His father retired from the mines and went back home, which left Chitalu in the custody of his elder brother in Kitwe, where he continued with his boxing and soccer at Kwacha One Youth Centre.
Boxing had the better of him and it took Kitwe United official Jethro Ngwane to convince him into taking soccer seriously after he was recruited by the club. He was a burly 17-year-old youth when he debuted for Kitwe United at the end of the 1965 season, scoring a goal in a 2 – 1 win over Rhokana United in a grudge local derby.
Chitalu cemented his place in the first team and barely a year in the Zambian National Football League (NFL), he was named in one of the two squads selected to play in a Congo invitational tournament in 1966.
After two years of action in the Zambia NFL, Chitalu was crowned ‘Footballer of the Year’ and the season’s ‘Top Scorer’ for 1968 after he netted 81 goals for club and country. However, the Footballer of the Year Award caused public debate as some quarters of society felt his disciplinary record did not merit it.
For three consecutive years, he continued scoring an average of 40 goals a season until in 1972 he struck the big one –107 goals! They were actually 116. Nine were not considered because they were netted before the season kicked off in March, so the book reveals.
The Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu book candidly unveils Chitalu’s true character and his thoughts as recorded by the media, which always gave him a chance to rebut the many charges and allegations he received both on and off the pitch. He had this to say about his hyped (out of proportion?) ‘Bad Boy’ image:
“I believe some of the disciplinary action has been very unfair. Some of the referees tend to favour certain teams and blow their whistle whenever I do hard tackling. They don’t know what hard tackling is in football and one thing they must know is that I am not a weakling when I am playing… I always play hard tackling. When they blow their whistles and I try to find out why they are against me… I am painted as a trouble-maker.”
On his goal scoring prowess and tactics, Chitalu said:
“A good-player has to know how to control the ball. He has to know how to use his chest, head and both legs. He has to be tricky and speedy. Also, he must be a good dribbler. Myself, I don’t wait for others to pass the ball in order to score.
“I try to engineer passes to my fellow forwards and in this way, we open up defences. When defenders are fooled by our passes, they leave me unchecked. The ball comes straight to me and all I have to do is kick it into the net. It is the combination that counts.”
This book documents some of the great soccer matches Chitalu played both for club and country. Here, well dug up archival material is used to bring back alive the glorious days of great sports reporting. Enjoyable and nostalgic are reports from journalism icons like Lennie Katulushi, Sam Kamphodza, Sam Sikazwe, Humphrey Lombe, Danstan Chapema and others who did justice to their stories.
Highlighted are the bitter and titanic local clashes of the 1960s/70s. Kabwe Warriors matches against Rhokana United, Mufulira Wanderers, Roan United and Kitwe United were ever dicey with lots of sparks. It is evident that Chitalu enjoyed meting heavy punishment on Roan and Kitwe, the two clubs that were linked to his childhood.
Notably, Chitalu rivaled and stood shoulder-high above other great strikers of the day such as Willie ‘Orlando’ Kunda (Wanderers); Robertson Zulu (Wanderers); Bernard ‘Bomber’ Chanda (Rhokana), Obby Kapita (Green Buffaloes), Simon Kaushi Kaodi (Mufulira Blackpool) and not to forget team-mates like Simutowe and Sunday Kaposa.
Also noticeable is the ‘striker versus goalkeeper’ rivalry with the “Goalkeeping King” – Emmanuel Mwape. This rivalry started back in their youth and school days. On about two occasions, Mwape was rushed to the hospital after saving Chitalu’s hot shots or in one-on-one collisions. Interestingly, the two players were best of friends off the pitch and shared rooms at national team camp.
On the international scene, the 1977 Zambia versus Uganda clash remains epic as does the 1980 Olympics, where Chitalu netted two great goals one of which remained a talk of the tournament and would only be equaled by Kalusha Bwalya’s free-kick at the Seoul Olympics eight years later.
Chitalu’s career was embroiled in numerous other controversies. Like in October 1969, he absconded from national team camp when the squad was preparing for an away friendly match against Congo Kinshasa. He was fined K20, ordered to repay K32 in training allowances and suspended for six months from all football activities.
Early in November, his brother Sidney disclosed that Chitalu left camp because he was unwell and had been seeking treatment from a herbalist named Dr. Chikange in Luanshya.
It was further revealed that Chitalu was suffering from pain in the joints and other illnesses, and suspected that his Kitwe house had been ‘bewitched’. In social circles, the Chitalu/Chikange relationship left a trail of gossip that he used ‘juju’ to excel.
The issue not only briefly affected his playing but his work as the Kitwe City Council initially refused to recognise “Dr” Chikange’s medical report but they eventually succumbed and cleared him.
The incident saw Chitalu being stuck on 45 goals for club and country, eventually surrendering both his trophies to top scorer, Kantanshi school-boy Robertson Zulu of Mufulira Wanderers and new Footballer of the Year, old pal, Boniface Simutowe.
Chitalu’s move from Kitwe to Kabwe Warriors was equally controversial. He again absented himself from the club and the town only to be spotted in Kabwe, where it was learnt that he was now working for Zambia Railways.
Warriors distanced themselves from him as Kitwe accused them of having poached him. Press wrangles ensued over the matter and it took the intervention of the NFL to have the transfer finally processed. But then, Kitwe United, who demanded K3, 500 as transfer fee, failed to pay him his 10 percent share up to this day.
The main trigger for this book, the author reveals, was to prove that Chitalu did score the hundred plus goals that brought his name back to life in 2012 when Lionel Messi was about to break Germany’s Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals netted in 1972. Here the goals and matches are well tabulated.
With this book now on the market, the world should be able to envision why Chitalu’s name is not that easily erasable on the world soccer scene. He may have played in a third world national league with very little video evidence to show his greatness but the recorded word and photographic evidence provided in this book is enough to raise his bar.
Many have accused FIFA of favouritism saying if ‘Ucar’ had scored his goals in a first world league, his record would have been recognised and he would have been honoured by the organisation. However, FIFA excused themselves from the debate saying it is not their responsibility to honour local league achievements.
Fortunately enough, Chitalu has won more decors on the local scene than any other sportsperson in Zambia. His individual achievements tell it all:
• Zambian Footballer of the Year – 1968, 1970, 1972, 1978, 1979
• Zambian League top scorer – 1968, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1980
• Zambia’s highest career goal scorer – 490 goals
•Africa’s top goal scorer in international matches – 79 goals.
• CECAFA Cup top scorer – 1978
• Zambian Sportsman of the Year – 1977
• Zambian Insignia of Honour – 1981
• Fair Play Award from the International Committee for Fair Play- 1988
• Coach of the Year – 1991
• CAF’s Top 200 Players – 2006

Author: Jerry Muchimba
Publisher: Matador (2015)