Zambia’s five most capped players

Zambia’s five most capped players

By Jerry Muchimba

Countries with well organised Football Associations have official records of all matches played by their national team and record holders for appearances and goals scored can be easily identified.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Zambia. No official record of all national team matches has ever been made public so people can only guess as to who the record holders are.

At first I was under the impression the football authorities or some soccer analyst would publish a detailed list of official Zambia national team games but as time went on I realised that such a list may not be produced and we would never know for sure.

Although I had a fair idea which players were contenders for both records, research needed to be carried out to back up any claims and bring to light the exploits of Zambia’s most celebrated players.

The absence of information prompted me to embark on research which involved combing through newspaper reports of Zambian games from 1964 to the present time, as well as getting some details not found in newspapers from a variety of sources.

Though some match reports of recent games are available on the internet, these are only a fraction of the games played by Zambia. From the same source, I found excellent lists of Zambian games from the FIFA website, The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF) and other websites although these were not exhaustive.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Zambia played a number of games against club sides from Europe and South America, as well as several other sides which do not count as national teams. This led me to exclude some matches from the consideration of national team records:

Matches against local clubs, Zambia ‘B’ or Midlands/Copperbelt Select sides do not count as these are more of training matches.

In September 1973, Zambia sent a ‘B’ side to the CECAFA tournament in Uganda as the main team was preparing for the World Cup series against Morocco and Zaire.

Likewise, Zambia was represented by ‘B’ sides at CECAFA 1980 and the preliminary matches of the SADCC Cup in Maputo in 1990. The games involving the Zambia ‘B’ team have been left out as these are not recognized as “A” international matches.

Matches against foreign clubs do not count. The same for foreign Select sides as these do not have the status of their country’s national team.

Matches against foreign ‘B’ sides and other countries’ U-20 or U-23 sides do not count such as the two games Zambia played against Zimbabwe U-23 in January 2000 while preparing for CAN 2000.

According to FIFA, African Nations Championships (CHAN) matches also do not count as full international matches as they are not contested by senior national teams.

Matches which are designated as non-full internationals such as the Nigeria game in June 2010 and the match against South Africa in January 2012 which was termed a training match.

And as a general rule, all Olympic Games qualifying and finals matches are notregarded as full internationals by FIFA so this would affect Zambia’s most famous victory at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Although Olympics matches up to that point are regarded as official in Zambia, they do not count towards official appearance and goals records and FIFA have not even included them on their list of Zambia’s matches as the world football governing body only recognises matches played in the Olympic Football Tournaments and Olympic qualifiers as “A” international matches up to and including 1948.

This article therefore looks at players who have a claim to being record holders for Zambia in international games. Presently, the world record for appearances is held by Ahmed Hassan of Egypt who has featured 184 times as of June 2012 while Iran’s Ali Daei is the record goal scorer with 109 international goals in 149 appearances.

Although some of the information is from actual match reports, most of the information is based on newspaper reports, so corrections and clarifications are expected to be made to some of the records, which are presented as of November 2012.

Before independence, Zambia played a number of international games as Northern Rhodesia mostly against Southern Rhodesia and select sides from the Congo. Most of these games were made up of all white teams and played before segregated crowds. Details of these games are rather sketchy and only matches from the time of Zambia’s affiliation to CAF and FIFA have been considered.

The first match Zambia played was against Tanzania on 3rd July 1964 in Zomba when they travelled to Malawi for the Mufulu (Freedom) Cup which they won 3-0 with goals from Willie Kunda, Jackie Sewell and Ginger Pensulo. The victory qualified Zambia to meet Malawi at the Central Stadium in Blantyre in a match which was the highlight of the Independence celebrations. Zambia beat the hosts 5-0 to lift the Mufulu Cup.

Zambia then hosted an Independence tournament in October of that year and lost all three games 0-2, 2-3 and 3-4 to Uganda, Kenya and Ghana respectively. The tournament was won by Ghana though this was a second string side as the Black Stars were competing at the 1964 Olympics in Japan.

Most Capped Players

From the records available, 5 players were found to have made at least a hundred appearances on Zambia. These are Joseph Musonda, Alex Chola, Elijah Tana, Godfrey Chitalu and Efford Chabala.

Joseph Musonda

Golden Arrows Defender Musonda was born on 30th May 1977 in Kalulushi and incidentally shares the same name as another defender Joseph ‘Kanono’ Musonda of Mufulira Wanderers who played for Zambia in the sixties.

Musonda has played for Nkana FC, ZESCO United, Zanaco and Free State Stars and he made his international debut under coach Patrick Phiri on 06/07/2002 in a COSAFA Cup tie against Mozambique in Lusaka and has been a model of consistency for 10 years.

He has featured in 4 AFCON tournaments and was part of the victorious Zambian squad that won the trophy in February 2012 in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. In the final against Cote d’Ivoire he won his 100th game for Zambia though he had to go off with an injury after 11 minutes. However, one game against Nigeria on 06/01/212 appears not to qualify towards his overall appearances as it was termed a training match meaning Musonda has 101 full international appearances with his last coming against South Korea in a friendly match this year.

He is the most capped active player.

Alex Chola

‘Master Dribbler’ Alex Chola was born on 6th June 1956 and made waves at Mufulira Blackpool.

Nicknamed ‘The Computer,’ Chola was Zambian Footballer of the Year in 1976 and was a regular for Zambia till 1983. Not only was he a creative genius, he was also a great goal-scorer and many Zambian players listed him as their favourite.

In 1979, Chola left Blackpool for the emerging Kitwe side Power Dynamos where he would team up with Peter Kaumba to devastating effect.

In 1983 Chola and Kaumba left for professional careers with Africa Sports in the Ivory Coast but they returned after a year and Chola made a comeback in the national team when coach Brightwell Banda, needing a playmaker, called on him to help negotiate Zambia past Nigeria and qualify for CAN 1986. The ‘computer’ made his last appearance in Zambian colours in a 3-0 loss to Uganda at CECAFA 1985. That match was his 100th game for Zambia.

Upon retirement, Chola took up coaching and was voted 1992 Coach of the Year. Later that year, he was appointed Assistant National team coach and was in the team that perished in the Gabon disaster in April 1993.

Of Chola’s appearances, 13 were Olympics matches leaving him with 88 full international appearances

Elijah Tana

Elijah Tana was born on February 28, 1975 in Luanshya and first turned out for Roan United, before switching to Nchanga Rangers.

He made his debut for Zambia at the 1995 President’s Cup in South Korea against the hosts and then did not feature for Zambia until 1997. Although he was called to the Burkina Faso CAN team in 1998, he missed the tournament due to an ankle injury. His consolation was a league championship medal for that year with Rangers.

Tana was a permanent fixture under Ben Bamfuchile as Zambia qualified to the CAN 2000 with the best record and he made his second CAN appearance at Mali 2002 and also captained the team to CAN 2006 in Egypt.

His defensive abilities saw him signing for Mexican club Tolouca, Petro Atletico in Angola, Al Jazeera of the UAE and El Merreikh of Sudan. Tana then missed what would have been his fourth CAN tournament in 2008 when he was dropped for missing the flight to Ghana.

He returned to Nchanga Rangers before the 2009 CHAN tournament and was again late in joining up with his team-mates although this time he did feature for Zambia after which he was on the move again when he signed for another Angolan side Recreativo de Caala.

After the CHAN tournament Zambia coach Herve Renard did not call up Tana for the next game against Egypt in a CAN/World Cup Qualifier meaning Tana made a total of 107 appearances of which 5 were African Championship of Nations (CHAN ) matches leaving him with 102 full international appearances.

Godfrey Chitalu

Godfrey Chitalu was born on November 22, 1947 in Luanshya and is regarded by many as the greatest player in Zambian soccer history. Nicknamed ‘Ucar,’ Chitalu’s name is legendary in Zambian soccer circles his amazing feat of 107 goals in the 1972 season and he was voted Zambian Footballer of the Year a record 5 times in 1968, 1970, 1972, 1978 and 1979.

Chitalu joined Kitwe United in 1965 and made his full international debut in June 1968 in a 2-1 over Uganda in Lusaka and at the end of the year, he won the inaugural Footballer of the Year award. In 1971 he moved to Kabwe Warriors for the then record fee in Zambian football and two years later Warriors swept all the silverware on offer with Chitalu scored an outrageous 107 goals in all competitions – a record that still stands to this day.

Chitalu featured for Zambia at the 1974 Nations Cup and scored a goal against Egypt in a 3-1 loss. Zambia reached the final which they lost to Zaire after a replay. In April 1975, he was dropped from the national team and he watched the action from the sidelines for almost two years. He made a comeback when Lieutenant Colonel Brightwell Banda took charge of the team, coming off the bench to score two goals in a crucial World Cup tie against Uganda on February 27, 1977 in Ndola in a 4-2 victory.

He repeated the feat five months later in a Nations Cup Qualifier against Algeria with Zambia trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Algiers. He scored a brilliant brace to force a 2-2 draw and Zambia prevailed 5-4 on penalties. In the month when he turned 30, Chitalu scored 5 goals in the CECAFA Cup which Zambia lost in the final to Uganda on spot-kicks. His efforts were rewarded at the end of the year with the Sportsman of the Year award although he narrowly missed out on the Footballer of the Year award.

The following year, Chitalu made another impression at the CECAFA Cup in Malawi where he finished top scorer with 11 goals, including 4 in a 9-0 thrashing of Kenya. Zambia unfortunately lost to Malawi 3-2 in the final.

He became the first player to win the Footballer of the Year award in two consecutive seasons in 1978-79 and in 1980, he represented Zambia at the Moscow Olympic games, scoring a goal against the mighty Soviet Union in a 3-1 defeat.

After retirement, Chitalu coached Warriors and was crowned 1991 Coach of the Year. He became the national team coach in 1992 and was in charge when the entire team perished off the Gabonese coast in the horrific air disaster in April 1993.

Chitalu made 108 appearances for Zambia and is also the country’s record goal scorer with 78 goals. Of these, 5 were in Olympics-related matches in which he scored 4 goals leaving him with 74 goals in 103 full international appearances.

Efford Chabala

Efford Chabala was born on February 2, 1960 in Mufulira and first established himself at Mufulira Wanderers before succeeding Ghost Mulenga as number one in the Zambian goal.

His assured performances between the posts won him many admirers and were soon noticed by national team coaches who gave him his full national team debut on 10th April 1983 in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Sudan in Khartoum, which Zambia lost 2-1. From then on, Chabala was a permanent fixture in the Zambian goal for the better part of 10 years.

He was instrumental in Zambia’s first-ever East and Central Africa Challenge Cup success when he saved three penalties in Zambia’s 3-0 shoot-out victory over Malawi at the 1984 tournament after a 0-0 stalemate at full time. The following year, Chabala was named Zambia’s Sportsman of the Year.

His heroics against Ghana in January 1988 during an Olympic Games qualifier in Accra helped secure Zambia a slot at the Seoul Olympic Games. Leading 2-0 from the first leg in Lusaka Zambia travelled to Accra and weathered the Ghanaian storm with man of the match Chabala pulling out all the stops, including saving a penalty by Emmanuel Quarshie.

At the Olympic Games, Zambia recorded some impressive results with Kalusha Bwalya in devastating form, drawing with Iraq 2-2 and brushing aside Italy and Guatemala by 4-0 scorelines to make the quarter finals of the Olympic Games soccer tournament. Disaster struck in the quarter final match against West Germany when Zambia was trounced 4-0.

Chabala captained Zambia to a third place finish at the 1990 African Cup of Nations in Algeria and was voted best goalkeeper at the tournament by a panel of journalists. In 1991, he had a short-lived career with Argentinos Juniors but returned to Wanderers after a season. His last appearance at the CAN was in 1992 in Senegal where Zambia yet again underachieved, falling 1-0 to eventual winners Ivory Coast in extra time at the quarter-final stage.

When Zambia lost a World Cup qualifier to Madagascar 2–0 in December 1992, Chabala was left out of the team but soon regained his place and in April of 1993, he captained Zambia to a 3-0 win over Mauritius in Port Louis. From there, the team made its way to Senegal for the first of their World Cup qualifying games in the group stage but after refuelling in Libreville, their ZAF plane plunged into the sea on 27th April 1992 killing all 30 people on board including crew members and FAZ President Michael Mwape.

Chabala made a total of 120 appearances for Zambia. 12 of these were in Olympics related matches leaving him with a record 108 appearances for Zambia.

Other most capped players

Kalusha Bwalya has made 88 appearances and of the current team, Chris Katongo, Kennedy Mweene and Rainford Kalaba are not far from joining Musonda on a century of appearances.

Top Goalscorers

Below is the list of top 5 goal scorers for Zambia. Figures are as at 30th June 2012 and include goals scored in Olympics-related games.


Player Goals

1 Godfrey Chitalu 78

2 Alex Chola 43

3 Kalusha Bwalya 39

4 Bernard Chanda 28

5 Dennis Lota 22

As mentioned above, Chitalu’s tally of 78 includes 4 scored in Olympics matches while Chola scored 7 in Olympics matches. Bwalya’s 39 goals include 7 goals scored in Olympic Games matches.

Of the active players, leading scorers are Christopher Katongo on 18 goals and James Chamanga on 17 goals while Collins Mbesuma has 14.

Information sources:

Times of Zambia
Zambia Daily Mail


Zambia reports

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