Tough match it will be when the Super Eagles host Chipolopolo in a crucial Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier come October. The Zambians are masters in the art of staining Nigeria’s honour and must not be allowed to find a way round the home team.
The very first time the Eagles were disbanded by a Nigerian leader was on August 2,1973 following a 5-1 drubbing by the Southern Africans then known as Kenneth Kaunda (KK) Eleven. The Green Eagles had won the soccer gold medal of the Lagos ’73 All Africa Games and were preparing for a second appearance at the Nations Cup billed for Egypt in 1974.
The Zambians were unlucky not to win the Nations Cup eventually. They lost 2-0 to Zaire (Congo DRC) after the first match ended 2-2. That was the first time the grand finale would be replayed. The losers defeated defending champions Congo 4-2 after extra time in the semis. The Congolese paraded superstars like Francois M’pele, Minga Pepe and Moukila Paul.
Zambia also set record as only the only hattrick of the competition came through Chanda who hit Congo thrice. Those were the years of powerful central defender, Dick Chama. Zaire represented Africa at the West Germany ’74 Mundial.
Against cup holders Nigeria at the Libya’82 Nations Cup, Zambia meted out disgrace. On March 13, 1982 in Benghazi, the Eagles needed a point to qualify for the semi-finals. Group B leaders Algeria had six points from two matches. Nigeria and Zambia held on to three points apiece.
The Eagles had superior goals of plus two. Chipolopolo had none. Zambia led 1-0 at the end of the first half. In the 80th minute they made it 2-0. Then something crazy happened. Eagles, goalie Peter Fregene, deliberately kicked the ball into his own net to give the winners a 3-0 advantage.
It is instructive that just like in the present World Cup qualifiers, Nigeria, Zambia and Algeria were in the same group. And the Chipolopolo and Desert Foxes met twice. Zambia bettered all to win the bronze medal.
The Zambians never won any continental soccer trophy until Power Dynamos met defending champions, BCC Lions of Gboko in the 1991 Africa Winners Cup. The previous year, Nkana Red Devils had lost in the grand finale of the CAF Champions League to JSK of Algeria in Lusaka with President Kaunda as Special guest.
The same Nkana had beaten Iwuanyanwu Nationale home and away in the semi finals before confronting the North Africans. And they were blessed with two gifted players, Gibby Mbasela and Kenneth Malitoli. Edward Ansah just had to quit Nigeria after that loss.
On November 30, 1991, President Frederick Chiluba arrived the Independence Stadium, Lusaka full of confidence. He raised two fingers as the crowd cheered. He had kicked aside Kaunda as President. The shortish Bemba man from Luapula enjoyed popularity and shook hands with the Ball Boys.
I can tell this story because I sat behind him. Nigerian High Commissioner to Zambia, Chief Lawrence Agubuzu and his wife exchanged pleasantries with Chiluba. The diplomat had taken the Cement Boys to his office on Haile Selassie Avenue in the Long Acres Area of Lusaka where he gave them lectures on how to finish Power Dynamos. BCC came with a 3-2 first leg edge.
BCC extended the advantage in the 27th minute when Webby Chilufya scored an own goal. Chiluba was stunned. He held his neck. The Agubuzus were joyous. Then the Zambians woke up. Robert Watiyakeni, Richard Sikanyika and Wedson Nyirenda scored to give give the Copperbelt team a deserved 3-1victory. The Lions lost the cup.
Today Nyirenda is coach of the Chipolopolo. Then they held BCC in high esteem. Both teams stayed in the same Hotel Intercontinental, Lusaka. That was my home too at the time so we mingled. Power Dynamos captain Wisdom Chansa and Nyirenda wanted to know more about John Zaki. Right back John Soko and libero Watiyakeni talked so much about the Lion. Nyirenda asked me introduce him to Udoji United.Sad enough,Chansa, Soko and Watiyakeni died in the 1993 crash involving the Zambian national team off the Gabonese coast.
Nyirenda has been following Nigerian football for so long and the Zambians are capable of turning the tide. Eagles must not allow them to cause compatriots pain again.Agubuzu told BCC in Lusaka: “Zambians do not get tired”. That was 26 years ago. I am saying the same to the Eagles in 2017.