Zambia’s Greatest Eleven

By: Ponga Liwewe
My first football memories go back to the early seventies when flared trousers, wide collared shirts and afros defined the fashion of the day.
My most vivid flashback is of the 1975 Shell and BP Cup Final between Green Buffaloes and Mufulira Wanderers in which Dick Chama’s overhead kick clearance of a goal-bound shot is as clear in my mind today as it was 45 years ago.
My more recent, equally enthralling moments, are of Enock Mwepu’s Messi-like third goal against Algeria in 2017 when Zambia comprehensively beat the Desert Warriors 3-1 with 51,000 ravenous fans ecstatically celebrating.
Equally memorable is the Zambia U20 African Champions devastating their opponents en route to the successful crowning of the team as the best youth team in African football.
During the period spanning all these wonderful, memorable and glorious moments, I have seen thousands of players begin, enjoy, and eventually end their playing careers. Five, six different generations of stars have come and gone, giving us many unforgettable and lifelong memories that still cling to mind.
I am constantly asked by football fans from many generations, past and present, to select my best-ever eleven Zambia national team and it is never an easy task because of the many different criteria that could be applied and, of course, the many years between the careers of players from five decades of football.
I make my selection based in individual performances and not on whether that generation won trophies collectively or individual titles.
The most important criteria for me is form in the national team colours above all.
As always, these lists generate differing opinions and those who feel aggrieved or unhappy are free to list their own selection and reasons.
This is mine, based on those I watched, and that I feel merit a place in my own best-ever eleven
1. Effort Chabala His cat-like reflexes and consistency over a decade at the top mark him out as my first choice goalkeeper. For both Mufulira Wanderers and Zambia he excelled, imposing on himself a tireless training regime that, coupled with his immense talent, set him apart.
2. John Soko Ever-consistent and dependable, Soko was a thorn in any defenders flesh and rarely put a foot wrong in the right back role. Only once did I ever see him troubled by a winger and that was in the 1990 Africa Cup semi-final by Nigeria’s Friday Elahor, only once in more than a hundred plus times I watched him.
3. Whiteson Changwe A defender who rarely was seen throwing himself about in the tackle, Changwe’s keen sense of positioning and anticipation allowed him to defend ‘cleanly.’ After he slotted into the right-back position for Kabwe Warriors in1987, he never looked back and cemented his place in the national team, making the position his own.
4. Dick Chama Tall, majestic, and powerful in the air, Chama was unnaturally calm on the ball for a man of his size. His skill allowed him to glide forward into the middle, bringing the ball forward from the back with aplomb. No wonder he was named in the best eleven line-up for the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations.
5. Dickson Makwaza For his leadership on the field, Dickson Makwaza stands out as Zambia’s general on the pitch, implementing the vision of his coach Ante Buselic and turning it into practicality when Zambia stood at the summit of African football alongside Zaire in the early nineties.
6. Jericho Shinde The ‘Russian tank’ ran the defensive midfield role with his assured performances in front of the back four. He was equally dextrous in the role for Nkana FC where he was the fulcrum of the midfield as they became the dominant Zambian club side of the eighties.
7. Jack Chanda Not for nothing was he nicknamed ‘The African Pele.’ In full flight, with the ball seemingly glued to his right foot, he was a marvel to watch. His destruction of Cameroon stands out as one of the most unforgettable moments in Zambian football history and his reinvention after a career-threatening injury when he showed a previously-unknown dimension to his game marks him out as a true star.
8. Charles Musonda His unmatched vision and passing ability were key to Zambia’s standing s one of the best teams in African football in the late eighties and early nineties. But for a career-threatening injury, he would surely have become a bigger legend than he did in both Zambian and world football.

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