Monday, June 24, 2024

King Kalu dethroned as Ponga fails to highlight 2012 AFCON success

Hero of Zambian football enjoyed life at the top of the sport but brought down by greed writes former FAZ General Secretary Ponga Liwewe.

To his legion of worshipers, he is known as ‘’King Kalu.”

In Zambian football, his status is unchallenged as one of the top players in the country’s illustrious football history.

His resume is littered with stories of success: African Player of the Year 1988, Top Scorer 1996 Africa Cup of Nations. These are some of the accolades Kalusha Bwalya won during his years on the pitch.

Though his playing career didn’t reach the heights or win the recognition of George Weah, Abedi Pele or Roger Milla, he is considered a true legend of African football, ranking fourth in a poll of Africa’s greatest players of the 20th Century.

On August 10, 2018, the King lost his crown. The Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee released a press statement announcing a two-year ban and CHF100,000 fine for breaching FIFA’s code of ethics.

It was a bitter blow to the man whose career has centred around nothing else but football from the time he first kicked a ball professionally for the Mufulira Wanderers team where he would go on to become a local hero.

The FIFA decision was the culmination of an investigation that began almost as soon as the UK Sunday Times newspaper published an exclusive story on that highlighted the levels of corruption around the Qatar bid for the 2022 World Cup and race for the FIFA presidency.

An insightful article about Kalusha Bwalya

The lead player was Mohammed Bin Hammam, a one-time confidant of the man he was challenging for the position, FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

The Sunday Times Insight team carried out a comprehensive investigation that included gaining access to Bwalya’s emails. In it was the damning correspondence between himself and representatives of Mohammed Bin Hammam from whom he was requesting financial support for both himself and the Football Association of Zambia.

“As per our conversation, please Mr President if you could assist me with about 50 thousand Dollars for my Football association and personal expenditures. I hope to repay you in the near future, as the burden is little bit too hard for me at this moment.” The little bit too hard burden prompted him to make a further request in 2011 as he declared himself “a little thin on resources.”

This was followed by an additional payment of $30,000.

To understand how he got himself into this situation, it is necessary to go back to the beginning, to when his football journey began five decades ago in the dusty streets of the mining community of Mufulira in northern Zambia.

His father, Benjamin Bwalya, was a football official who went on to later become a committee member of the Football Association of Zambia.

The senior Bwalya earned a reputation for his stubbornness and no-compromise approach to many issues. Some say this where his son’s inflexibility and tendency perceive non-existent slights stems.

Kalusha’s football journey took him from the city council team Mufulira Blackpool to the more prominent mine-owned club, Mufulira Wanderers.

It was here that he flourished under the tutelage of the late Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndlovu and, while still in his teens, was wearing the colours of the Zambia national team.

In Mufulira, alongside his older and arguably more talented brother, Benjamin, they were the most exciting prospects in Zambian football. By 1985, at the age of 22, he had outgrown Zambian football and made a move to mid-level Belgian side, Cercle Brugge where he quickly became the club’s best player.

Three years later in 1988, he was leading the Zambian team at the Olympic Games in Seoul, where he emerged second highest scorer in the tournament with six goals, just one behind the fabulous Brazilian, Romario.

His performance in Seoul saw him signed on by the top Dutch side, PSV Eindhoven, where he initially struggled to make an impression before gaining more playing time under Bobby Robson.

After Robson’s departure, he was deemed surplus to requirements and was part of a purge of senior players when Aad de Moss took over.

At 30, the prospects of playing for another European club diminished and his next move took him nine thousand kilometres away to Mexico where he signed on for Club America, one of the most popular teams in the Mexican football league.

The change gave him a new lease of life and saw him become a cult hero to the fanatical Club America fans.

African icon Kalusha Bwalya has been banned for 2 years by FIFA

To fans in the terraces, he could do no wrong.

Off the field, however, relationships with his teammates and others were not as smooth sailing.

After his move to Europe, he became more distant from his teammates in the national team and began to make demands on the team management and association that were at best questionable.

He demanded a single room while all the other players paired.

On at least one occasion his wife Erica joined him in the team camp while in preparation for a crucial match.

Bwalya also insisted on receiving extra payment from the football association whenever he played for the national team for what he termed ‘’loss of wages,” even though the clubs he played for paid his salary when he was on national duty, as was the norm.

More disturbing was his antagonistic attitude towards the equally successful Charles Musonda who had followed him a year later from Mufulira Wanderers to Cercle Brugge as a 16-year-old precocious talent.

After one season Musonda transferred to the Belgian and European giants Anderlecht, leaving Kalusha in his wake.

This irked him and matters came to a head when the two differed in front of the nations’ cameras over whether the Zambia national team should continue to play matches after the horrific Gabon air crash which killed 18 players of the national team.

Musonda’s position was that Zambia should take a long break to rebuild and as he made his point he was sharply interrupted by Bwalya who retorted ” What do you mean we should stop? We have to go on!”

A persistent knee injury curtailed Musonda’s career, and as he sought treatment to get back on the field, his rival did nothing to halt the false impression that he didn’t want to play for the national team anymore.

Later, when Musonda returned from an injury-induced three-year break from active football to play for the national team, he was inexplicably left out of the starting line-up in a crucial World Cup qualifying match against South Africa in 1996.

Sources suggested that this was due to an ultimatum from Kalusha that either he or Musonda play but not together in the same team.

Zambia was held to a 0-0 draw at home and subsequently failed to qualify.

Two decades later, when Musonda’s three sons began to make an impression on the football stage, their reluctance to appear for Zambia’s junior team’s was linked back to the fractious relationship between the two, and with Bwalya as FA President, Musonda’s caution was understandable.

At the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, the Zambian team split apart over a dispute about bonuses when the Head of Delegation Major Richard Kachingwe inexplicably handed Bwalya $50,000 in cash for the players’ allowances.

Bwalya informed the local players that there would only be a bonus for a win and nothing for a draw or loss.

Having lost the first game and drawn the second, this meant that the players would receive no compensation at all.

He decreed, however, that the players who had come from overseas teams would be paid allowances and proceeded to share the $50,000 between five players, taking the largest portion for himself and leaving out the rest of the 23-man squad who earned a pittance in the local game.

This caused unrest within the team, leading to a player strike that was only averted at the last minute.

Goalkeeper Davies Phiri flatly refused to play and was replaced by the ineffectual Emmanuel Mschili who conceded twice in a 2-2 draw with Senegal.

Zambia left the tournament at the first hurdle.

After the match, Bwalya announced his retirement from international football.

At 36, the curtain had finally fallen on a career that spanned 19 years.

He would return for a brief cameo appearance in 2004, featuring in a World Cup qualifying match against Liberia in which he came off the bench towards the end and scored a thunderous free kick from forty metres away, bringing the excited crowd to its feet in jubilation.

All this would be undone a few weeks later when, in the final of the 2004 COSAFA Castle Cup against Angola, he was the only player to miss a penalty in the shootout, giving Angola a 4-3 win on Zambian soil.

For the first time in his extraordinary career, he was booed by disappointed fans as he left the pitch.

It was the last time he would kick a ball as a competitive player.

In 2003, he was drafted into the South African bid for the 2010 World Cup on the recommendation of this author who was serving on the board and who advised the then Chief Executive Officer, Danny Jordaan, that a Spanish speaker would be invaluable to cover the Conmebol countries of South America and other Latin American territories.

Jordaan promptly brought Bwalya into the fold as an ambassador but would pay a hefty price later when Bwalya turned against him.

Bwalya actively campaigned against Jordaan in his attempts to become COSAFA and CAF committee member respectively.

Bwalya’s disdain for Jordaan intensified when his outspoken wife Emy Casaletti was asked to leave her marketing role at the 2010 World Cup Bid Committee.

It would only be in 2017 that Jordaan would get into the CAF committee on the crest of the wave that swept aside CAF President Issa Hayatou from office.

After the successful World Cup bid that saw South Africa win the right to host the World Cup, Bwalya switched his attention to local football politics and was voted FAZ vice president in 2004.

His four-year term was characterised by open warfare between him and the association’s President, Teddy Mulonga.

The level of distrust was clear when Bwalya stood up to vote for himself as he bid for the Presidency of the southern African regional football body, COSAFA, breaking the norm of the vote being cast by the association’s president.

In 2008, Bwalya stood against Mulonga for the presidency and riding high on his popularity as a football legend, swept him aside in a near-landslide win.

Vote buying and intimidation characterised the election.

It was the beginning of an era that would see lack of accountability, factional fighting and downright incompetence in the running of Zambia’s football affairs.

Nothing personified this more than the ill-fated national team trip to play a friendly match against Ghana’s Black Stars in London when only eight Zambia national team players made the trip, forcing the coach to call up Zambian students living in London to make up the numbers.

He captained Zambia to the 1994 African Cup of Nations final

A few weeks earlier, the association had failed to procure tickets for referees coming for an Africa Cup qualifying match against Comoros, leaving thousands of fans waiting in the stadium for a game that wouldn’t take place on the day.

Football House became an arena of shenanigans and buffoonery.

Worse still was the blatant misuse of football resources for a lavish lifestyle of first-class travel and endless hotel stays, all at the expense of the association.

National team gate receipts were no longer made public, and it was not uncommon to see the associations’ executive committee members openly selling match tickets to fill their own pockets as part of their entitlement for their positions.

Revenues from international matches were unaccounted for as the Zambian team made trips to play Brazil, Chile, Kuwait, Japan and other teams abroad.

For the game against Brazil, sources revealed that the sum of $2m was paid as a match fee.

More telling was the absence of any entry in the FAZ books relating to the match.

Bwalya also involved himself in transfer deals involving players.

According to sources at Nchanga Rangers Football club, while still a player at the same club, he played a part in the transfer of Harry Milanzi to UAT Correcaminos in Mexico. To date, Nchanga Rangers is yet to see a penny of the transfer fee.

When Collins Mbesuma transferred from local club, Roan United, to Kaiser Chiefs in South Africa, Roan United again found themselves holding the short end of the stick.

The biggest transfer scandal involved the movement of Emmanuel Mayuka from Kabwe Warriors to Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.

Bwalya was subsequently summoned by the National Sports Council of Zambia to explain his role in the transfer and suspended for his refusal to appear before the council. He was also severely criticised in a parliamentary report looking into the matter.

With his grip on local football cemented, Bwalya turned his attention to CAF and FIFA where there would be even more money to be made if he played his cards right.

He quickly ingratiated himself to the then CAF President Issa Hayatou, acting as a bagman for Issa’s campaigns, going door-to-door, ‘’encouraging” delegates’ to make the right choice.

The big money spinner came when the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups began in earnest after the 2010 World Cup. Qatar’s Mohammed Bin Hammam and Bwalya had first become acquainted when Bwalya was appointed an ambassador for the South African bid, and over the years they had kept their acquaintanceship going for whenever one would need to call upon the other.

Sources say when Ahmad first stood for the position of CAF committee member in 2011, much of the financial support for the campaign had come from Bin Hammam.

It was this election when Bwalya had been playing an active role in the re-election of Issa Hayatou.

With Danny Jordaan and Ahmad, both from the southern African region, as candidates. Bwalya saw the opportunity to undermine Jordaan by fully backing and campaigning for Ahmad.

He was later heard saying gleefully after Jordaan’s loss, ‘’As long as I am around, Danny will never get into CAF. Over my dead body.”

In FIFA circles, Bwalya’s status as one of the few ex-players in an executive role endeared him to the FIFA top brass.

He was appointed to the prestigious Football Committee and worked in the technical study group for several tournaments.

It was this rubbing of shoulders with the key stakeholders and his desire for more power and prestige that saw him roped into the Bin Hammam quest to overthrow Sepp Blatter.

As Bin Hammam’s star grew with Qatar’s success in winning the bid for the 2022 World Cup, he was emboldened to go for broke. His fatal error was in the final days of the campaign for the FIFA presidency to offer $40,000 in cash to each of the CONCACAF president’s at their congress in Trinidad and Tobago.


Not all were prepared to destroy their reputations for the pieces of silver on offer, and they declined.

Chuck Blazer, the secretary general of CONCACAF, ever the Blatter man, and under intense pressure as a turned informer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, passed on the information to Blatter and Bin Hammam’s fate was sealed.

On 2011, the respected Sunday Times Newspaper broke the story of how Qatar bought the vote to win the bid for the 2022 World Cup, and in it, Bwalya’s name featured prominently with copies of emails he had made to Bin Hammam requesting financial resources for both the Football Association of Zambia and himself.

Bwalya’s domestic decline began with his loss to Andrew Kamanga, a successful businessman who had served as Chairman of Kabwe Warriors Football Club.

After a series of monumental blunders outlined above, the associations’ members had rallied behind Kamanga in 2011 to take over the helm of the association.

They were thwarted at the last minute by the withdrawal of a vote of no confidence motion when the sponsor – allegedly for the price of a large screen television – had it taken off the agenda.

Five years later, in 2016, Kamanga made another bid for the presidency and against overwhelming odds, defeated Bwalya by the slim margin of 163 to 156 votes.

It was the biggest upset in the history of Zambian football elections.

Bwalya, who had left the hall and returned to his hotel room before the final vote was counted, broke down and wept at the news of his loss, according to eyewitnesses present.

After an initial inquiry into the vote-buying allegations in 2012, FIFA concluded its investigations through the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee in April 2018.

Bwalya was found guilty and sanctioned four months later.

He received a two-year ban from all football activities and a substantial CHF30,000 fine.

The action effectively ended his tenure at the top echelons of football. Where he goes from here is unclear.

After the dizzy heights of playing football at the highest levels and becoming a household name in the African game, the road thereafter went downhill with one controversy after another.

Today public opinion is divided about whether to still view him as a hero or now as a villain after his fall.

It is yet another sad tale about how greed and corruption can eradicate a lifetime of work and achievement in an instant.

[City Press)

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  1. Yawn, yawn yawn!!! Could we have something new and relevant please. The guy has been banned we get it! For how long will this make headline news on zamfoot? You could do well to give us some info on weekend results (some of us outside the country have no clue on the weekend results). Kalu is human and therefore prone to make error just like anybody else. Ba Zamfoot please move on and give your readers something worthwhile.

  2. “who has not sinned may he be the first one to through a stone at her,they all ran away.And Jesus said where are they? Go and sin no more”.

  3. Boss mwalimupata great kalu ayi. All this effort just to produce a biased one sided write up without evidence fullu na malice. Anyway. Good night

  4. This article is so shallow. I know he did wrong, but still doesn’t warrant such a one sided opinion. A lot of the content is hear/say. I find it shocking that no where in the article is it mentioned that Zambia won her first African Cup of nations under the leadership of Kalu. All I am saying is it could have been better written.

  5. This sums up Zamfoot editorial team – shallow minded! Maradona is full of scandals but they don’t demonize him in Argentina. And yet here we are trying to burry alive Zambia’s greatest soccer export. And guess what when the guy is no more we will see a stupid article on zamfoot eulogizing the same great Kalu. Hypocrisy has reached alarming heights.

    • If you read every line, you will note that this article was not written by ZamFoot. This writing was even published in the City Press of South Africa.

      Even before Kalu is no more, ZamFoot will still publish the good works he has done and you will read them right here.

  6. How pathetic and low of you Ponga Liwewe. Your claim to fame is becuase of your last name without which you are a nobody. You have done nothing for Zambian football to try and pull down the legacy of a man who created a global brand for himself not because of his parents but becauase of the magic from his sweet left foot. Couldn’t believe this coming from you sir. Very disappointed and childish, just like your reason for running away from your FAZ job. Wreaks of hatred and a vicious desire to see Kalu fail because every time he succeeded it is now evident that he was stubbing a dagger to yout too inflated ego of self aggrandizement. You Mr. Ponga wanted to be Kalu and achieve achieve what Kali has achieved without your degrees. Unfortunately, you dont have the talent or skill to match this blessed son of Zambia. So the best you can do is skim amd plot for his down fall year after year to get somthing stick on him and now thst you finally have, here you are doing you little celebration dance. What a disgusting human being your are to rejoice in the unfortunate circumstance of a man who has worked so hard to be where he is when you yourself are not completely free from corrupt practices if your life was to be fully scruitinezed. Live the guy and his wife alone and find something else to write about

  7. Mark my words and make no mistake, two years is very short. Kalu can run and become FAZ president. He has his short coming but you cannot take away the respect that he has earned and the heart he has won in Zambia. When you talk Zambia abroad, it is Kalusha or Kenneth Kaunda. My respect for Kalusha is commitment for the national team when he played (No GREED). He came and gave it all.

  8. KB left a legacy as the best player ever to feature for Zed. Time after time he appeared for ZEd when OTHERS were injured/unfit etc.etc. KB was the one who hired Herve Renard saying he saw the same ambition in Herve and hunger that he also had.
    Let that be the endearing memory rather than this article that seems to be settling scores.

  9. Ponga….u are a low life …just like John and Stumpy. Yes Kalu messed up but he has contributed more to Zambian football than u and your father ever did. What a bum… do u fail to mention that Zambia won its only Afcon under Kalu incompetent administration ? Wendoshi

  10. I think Kalu had to try and get something from FIFA or the African continent after the hard work of leading the countries recovery from footballs worst disaster. It was a national team that perished. Its kalu we know who mopped our tears with a white Hand Kerchief. And he was so mature he never pointed blame or a finger at anyone until he led us to win the AFCON and the bid to host the Junior Africa cup which we won at home soil.
    Ponga cant stay home just like Kalu. They both like South Africa or places that are nice. In my view there is enough room for both in South Africa, they should jus co-exist. ‘Abapushi tabatemwana.’

  11. Ponga concentrate more on Malawi issues not zambia ones you having grown up, educated and holder of a green national card still does not make you Zambian inside outside yes,kalu messed up big time but bloody hell move on fatty so.


  13. Finally read this article: the whole thing lacks objectivity. This is clearly a negative piece written by Ponga. I do not fault him for it, I think he even forgot to mention that Kalu was African Footballer of the Year. This article met its purpose; what is sad is that you have two people who love Zambian football, but personal issues have curtailed what could have been a fruitful relationship for Zambia. Ah well, same old story ku Zed.

  14. Its Ponga & Kamanga and who wrote to Fifa claiming that Kalu did not remit the money to faz and yet they are claiming that the money was a bribe.How on earth would you want a bribe to appear in faz books ? Fifa has said it was a gift but kamanga & ponga have been calling it a bribe and they also want wanted the money to appear in Faz books.

    During Kalu s tenure at Faz,no belifs ever got faz properties, but for ponga and kamanga their have lost Faz properties.

  15. This yowa Ponga and his fellow cunts (your know yourselves) is very bitter and jealous. Should we also do a ka insightful about yowa background and where your father came from? Whether you like it or not Kalu will bounce back and you haters can go kill yourselves. Tili che pa half time apa.

  16. Maj Kachingwe has refused to have paid any money money to kalu.So what are you up to. You should be ashmed of yourself ponga and your friend.

  17. From this article, one is able to see and tell that Mr Ponga has some issues. Please leave your colleague alone and offer advise where its necessary and this Nation will appreciate You.

  18. From a distance I see that the writer is just bitter. There’s no truth in this write up. He also needs to be reminded that his short ‘success’ in South Africa was all about the ‘Ponga’ brand of the late legend Dennis Liwewe. He fell out of favour in SA and wanted to bring his shallow mindedness here but alas….Zambians have rejected him. Wanyala Ponga……He is and will remain King or Great Kalu

  19. what have you done ponga……..kalu has lived a race and you…shame…….see national team what dram happening and madness.. you posting these foolishness thing… Zambia is big than this thing you are posting… you who is holy you are still poor and can make sense to the country …. where is kalu…..

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