Surely most of you heard of a few legendary African football players that appeared in Europe about two or three decades ago, like George Weah, Roger Milla, Thomas N’Kono or Rabah Madjer. Still, a big name is quite neglect, even though he scored a hat-trick against Italy, at the Summer Olympics from 1988. And I am sure that this situation is cause by the fact that Kalusha Bwalya did not play for a squad like Nigeria, Cameroun, Tunisia, Ivory Coast or Egypt, but for less popular Zambia. He didn’t reach a World Cup with the national side, but helped it to play a African Nations’ Cup final in 1994, which they eventually lost against Nigeria, score 1-2. And all after less than the plane disaster from April 1993, when most of the Zambian footballers where killed in a plane crush.
Kalusha survived because he wasn’t in that aircraft and he helped a successful reconstruction of the national side. He is a true patriot because, comparing to other African players that had a career in Europe, he didn’t denied or refused to play for his country when he was needed. And it is reported that he gathered between 1983 and 2004 not less than 147 games and 100 international goals! More impressing is that Bwalya played most of these seasons in Europe (1985-1994) and Mexico (1994-2000).
Born on 16th of August 1963, in Mufulira, a town situated in the north side of Zambia, at the border with Botswana, Kalusha Bwalya begun his career in his native town. When he was only 22, Cercle Bruges from Belgium spotted and signed him, and the striker managed to score 30 goals in 95 appearances for this team. But in 1989, things change, as he was already a well known name after he contributed with three goals, in a historical 4-0 victory of Zambia in front of Italy, in the Summer Olympics from 1988. A team of Italy for which were playing, at that tournament, big names such were Tacconi, Ferrara, Tassotti, Rizzitelli or Evani. Plus, he was top scorer of the Belgian Championship in both 1986-1987 and 1987-1988 seasons.
So, he signed with Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven and stayed here five seasons, until 1994. He won two league titles in 1991 and 1992 and gathered 101 matches and 25 goals in the first division of Holland. And these weren’t small achievements if we consider, that PSV came after winning the European Champions’ Cup in 1988 and in the years in which Kalusha was playing for them, at the club were registered big names like Romario, Gerets or Kieft. When he reached 31 years, his time in Europe ended and chose to continue his career in… Mexico. Although he Bwalya had a lot of success in Holland he considered the spell in North America, to be the most beautiful of his club career, especially, when he played for Club America, until 1997. And this, because the Mexican squad had Estadio Azteca as the home ground, a pitch which Kalusha believed to be the best in the World. After this experience in which he played 88 games and netted 21 goals, he moved to Necaxa but didn’t stay there more than a few months. Next come a short experience in the EAU, at Al Wahda, in the first part of 1998, but the Zambian came to end his career in Mexico, playing his last games in 2000, at 37 years. His last matches at club level, because for the national team continued to appear until 2004, even though he also occupied the squad’s manager post starting with 2003.
He tried to qualify Zambia at the World Cup from 2006, but failed to end his intentions as he hoped to. The best proof of his value can be considered the match against Liberia, played on 5th of September 2004, in the preliminaries of the World Cup. With just a few minutes to go, the score was 0-0 and Kalusha took of his coach clothes and entered to help his nation, in front of 30.000 fans which were present on the Independence Stadium from Lusaka. He was 41 years, but still sealed the score board in the extra time with a free kick that brought a 1-0 victory, first place in the group and his 100 goal for Zambia. Unfortunately, they eventually finished on third spot and missed the World Cup, having just 4 points fewer than Togo, which made it to the tournament.