Africa’s football legends: Zambia’s Kalusha Bwalya

By Alexis Billebault

Posted on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 07:46

The king of the Chipolopolos scored three of the four goals that saw Zambia defeat Italy in the 1988 Olympics.

Without Kalusha Bwalya, the Chipolopolos (the Zambian national team’s nickname) would perhaps have a more sombre international profile they now have following the tragic air crash en route to Senegal in 1993. But fortunately there is Kalusha Bwalya.

Winner of the African Ballon d’Or in 1988, he remains deeply involved in southern-African football as the chairman of the ?Zambian Football Federation.

It was Cercle Bruges, a small Belgian club, that first grabbed him, aged 22, from Mufulira Wanderers for a handful of dollars in 1995. After three seasons and some 30 goals in the Belgian first division, the striker with the powerful left foot caught the attention of the powerful Dutch club, PSV Eindhoven. He spent six years with them before launching into a surprising tour of clubs in Mexican league football. At the Seoul Olympics, he scored three of the four goals that saw a gloriously rampant Zambia defeat a goalless Italy.?

Bwalya, who was capped more than 100 times, played in six African Cups of Nations, including the emotional 1994 final in Tunis – just a year after the entire Zambian squad had been wiped out in an air crash off Gabon. He only escaped death because he was flying to Senegal from Europe, not Zambia. At the end of his career he coached the national team, eventually becoming president of the national federation.

This article was first published in The Africa Report’s World Cup 2010 special edition in May.

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