THE father of football in Zambia, President Edgar Lungu sat to savour some “swashbuckling” soccer on Saturday at Nkana Stadium in Kitwe.
His Excellency was among the capacity crowd captivated and united in spirit inside the arena and millions watching via television across the nation.
I was at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka to watch Red Arrows take on Kabwe Warriors but my body and soul was transposed to Kitwe. At home, I left specific instructions to record the Kopala derby for my viewing pleasure later.
I had already planned to pick the best eleven of a match that had captured the imagination of the entire nation for the purposes of this column.
With several repeats, I now pick the stars who entertained a crowd packed like potatoes in a sack â€˜pa Chilataâ€™.
Allan Chibwe: Intriguingly, Chibwe has now relegated Joshua Titima to the bench. We do not need rocket science to decipher why evicted Tenant Chilumba and now caretaker coach Anderson Phiri prefers Chibwe to Titima.
Titima is a top drawer goalkeeper. But Chibwe is rising above the shelf. The lad who left Zanaco after playing second fiddle to Racha Kola for most of his time spent with the bankers, has grown not only in physical stature but performances too. His handling particularly of aerial balls was superb. He was off the line quickly too to show his good timing.
As early as the eighth minute Chibwe had denied the whites, Nkana who wore this majestic Mafro (Mafro? Yes) away strip as opposed to the usual red, by thwarting Walter Bwalyaâ€™s effort. There was little he could do on the exquisite equaliser by Jacob Ngulube. It was a world class header. I have replayed the goal several times. I can bet my last ngwee not even Gordon Banks could have saved that!
Mcduff Chungu: Committed to the Nkana causes. Who thought a brother could recreate the Cain versus Abel Biblical drama in a football match? This was the passion of the Kopala derby at its zenith. McDuff, perhaps with a rush of blood to the head, in the second half hacked Lawrence Chungu. The spindly Lawrence winced in agony on the floor. What was the family going to say if Lawrence- the Power Dynamos left back- was scarred for life by the brute tackle from his own flesh and blood? This was McDuff in an uncompromising mood trying to weave into the Nkana box. Lawrence was in the way. He cleaned his own brother out. It was blood and thunder!
Probably, the words of Luka Lungu in pre-match interviews on national television had visited the ears of McDuff and stayed there for the course of the match. Lungu had provocatively said, â€˜â€™No player in the Nkana squad could make the Power first eleven.â€™â€™
Govenda Simwala: When his father Moses Simawala won Nkana the first of its now record 12 league titles in the Zambia top flight in 1982 with an unbeaten run, Govenda was not yet born. But last Saturday, the full back, who can operate either on the left or right, gave a manly performance; full of energy bombing forward. He provided the pin-point cross that brought Kennedy Mudendaâ€™s goal.
His father, a winger of frightening pace in his days at Nkana Stadium, would have been proud of that delivery. â€˜â€™Chairmanâ€™â€™ Simwala knew football well winning eight titles for Nkana. Well, it should have been nine really. In 1981, then Nkana Red Devils with Simwala only appointed a year earlier as coach, went into the final day fixtures level on 46 points with Green Buffaloes but with a superior goal difference.
The Army side secured the league title-the last ever to date-with a convenient 6-0 bashing of â€˜â€™sisterâ€™â€™ club Ndola United. Simwalaâ€™s Red Devils were left with a herculean task of bagging the Kopala derby by 10 unanswered goals. Nkana only beat Power 3-1 to hand Buffaloes the title. Govenda may have slowed the march to the thirteenth title for his dadâ€™s club.
Joseph Musonda: At 39-years-old in a fortnight, â€˜â€™Ba Jozeâ€™â€™ is in the evening of his career but the oldest player on the pitch was the best defender on the afternoon. The man with the most caps for Zambia ever might even have a few more appearances in the Chipolopolo colours on the back of this performance.
Musonda was commanding and exuded excellent organisational abilities. Sometimes, his defending was dogged. Partnered at the heart of the defence by Christopher Munthali nobody could imagine, the Africa Cup winner in the flanks in the dawn of his career.
Francis Kasonde: The Power Dynamos skipper is coolness personified. The experience he came back with from his travels as a professional abroad is telling. No longer the quickest of defenders but Kasonde showed a sharp mind in keeping the dangerous Nkana frontline of Bwalya, Freddy Tshimenga and Giuly Manziba quiet.
Donashano Malama edges out Benson Sakala for the holding role for his all action display in the middle of the park. He fought for lost causes like his own life. Malama was full of industry and created little room for the likes for Larry Bwalya and Kelvin Mubanga to exploit in the engine room.
Jacob Ngulube: man of the match. When the late Gabon disaster hero Numba Mwila arrived at Nkana, he was said to be the â€˜small man with big ideasâ€™â€™.
On a day when Mwilaâ€™s brother Matthews, the former Konkola Blades star was being put to rest, another star was being born reminding me of Numba. The contrast is that Numba Mwila was a wing wizard but the former Mufulira Wanderers midfielder is deployed in the centre of midfield. The intelligence and stature is identical. The movement is strikingly similar too. Nifty touches here and there.
Ngulubeâ€™s headed equaliser was textbook stuff. Substitute Shadreck Musonda whipped a wicked cross and Ngulube applied the finishing gloss contorting his neck muscles backwards in an Olympics style limp to plant the ball expertly into the top corner. In fact, Ngulube could have had not one goal but two on the day. His chipped effort beat the advancing Chibwe but not the bar.
Shadreck Musonda: Rarely do substitutes make an eleven at the expense of others who complete 90 minutes. But this was a cameo that saved Nkana the embarrassment of a home defeat. Coming on to replace Simon Bwalya, Shadreckâ€™s engine had barely warmed before baking the assist that rescued a point. When Shadreck gets on his bike, few defenders in the league can catch his shadow. That poignant moment in the match is what wingers are born to do.
Walter Bwalya: Nkanaâ€™s number 10 did not add to his goal scoring tally here. But heâ€™s a gem to watch. With dual citizenship signed into law by President Lungu, the questions lingering on Bwalyaâ€™s nationality should be cast into the dust bin. George Lwandamina must call the lad to the Zambia fold despite his half-Congolese heritage.
Patson Daka: What? Somebody might ask. Check his movement in this match. Anderson Phiri might have slept like a baby before the derby in the comfort of the future being bright with young players like Daka. Munthali was pulled out of position a few times for his liking as Daka played with the ease that belies his teenage years. Preferred ahead of former Democratic Republic of Congo-based Lungu to partner Martin Phiri, Daka did his future prospects for a consistent run no harm at all.
Kennedy Mudenda: This is a player getting better with age like a vintage wine. The maturity with which he took his goal shows that Mudenda was made for the big stage. The ball was laid in his path by Simwala. Mudenda, without ado, swept it to the left of Mwansa into the yawning net. He then wheeled away in ecstasy.
The derby was well and truly alive!
President Lungu, in the aftermath of the highly anticipated match said we must support local football in order for it to grow.
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