Great soccer stars of Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu’s pedigree come only once in a life time and their deeds are indeed not that easily replicated. It is for this reason that their memory has to be shared through biographical works like this one.
It is a definite huge plus for the author Jerry Muchimba – as said in journalism lingua – to scoop Godfrey Ucar Chitalu’s story. It has been long overdue but never too late. The fact that Ucar’s name refuses to die proves his enigmatic position on the world sporting stage.
The man ripped defences and drilled in fantastic goals in numerous classical performances. He cheered fans and was a man foes simply loved to hate. Always a target of tight marking and strong tackling from his opponents he gave defenders a taste of their own medicine but instead attracted more disciplinary charges. The media coined him the “Bad Boy of Zambian Soccer”.
Barely a year in the Zambian NFL he was named in one of the squads selected to play in a Congo invitational tournament in 1966. Two years later, he was crowned ‘Footballer of the Year’ and the season’s top scorer, amid public debate over his disciplinary record. The award stood and for sure no one could retract the 81 goals he scored for club and country. For three consecutive years he continued scoring an average of 40 goals a season until he struck the big one in 1972 – One Hundred and Seven (107) goals! They were actually 116 of which 9 were not considered because they were netted before the season kicked off in March, so the book reveals.
'Godfrey Ucar Chitalu' traces the great player’s career from early childhood in Luanshya where he was born from Lucian and Emeriah Chitalu in 1947. He started playing football in Roan Mine Township’s section ten and at 10 years old was already featuring in the Makoma Primary School team.
Bennie Evans – the well known Sports and Recreation Officer at Roan Antelope Copper Mines – recruited him at the Fisansa Youth Centre where he played soccer and boxing. Such centres groomed players for Roan United FC and other sportsmen/women from tender ages. Unfortunately for Chitalu family issues hindered his progression into the Roan senior team as did others like Emmanuel Mwape, Fordson Kabole, Sunday Kaposa and Boniface Simutowe. Instead he moved to Kitwe where he continued with boxing and soccer and was eventually spotted by Kitwe United.
The book candidly unveils Godfrey Ucar Chitalu’s true character and his thoughts as recorded by the media which always gave him a chance to rebut the many charges and allegations he received both on and off the pitch. For instance he had this to say about his hyped ‘Bad Boy’ character:
“I believe some of the disciplinary action has been very unfair. Some of the referees tend to favour certain teams and blow their whistle whenever I do hard tackling. They don’t know what hard tackling is in football and one thing they must know is that I am not a weakling when I am playing… I always play hard tackling. When they blow their whistles and I try to find out why they are against me… I am painted as a troublemaker.”
On his goal scoring prowess and tactics he said:
“A good player has to know how to control the ball. He has to know how to use his chest, head and both legs. He has to be tricky and speedy. Also, he must be a good dribbler. Myself, I don’t wait for others to pass the ball in order to score. I try to engineer passes to my fellow forwards and in this way, we open up defences. When defenders are fooled by our passes, they leave me unchecked. The ball comes straight to me and all I have to do is kick it into the net. It is the combination that counts.”
This book also documents some of the great soccer matches Chitalu played both for club and country. To accurately capture the mood of the era the author lets the newspaper match reports speak and one notices the seriousness given to sports reporting those days. So nostalgic are those reports from journalists like Lennie Katulushi, Sam Kamphodza, Sam Sikazwe, Humphrey Lombe and Danstan Chapema.
And then there’s the richness of the bibliography, clearly indicating the amount of effort the author put in the research to come up with this masterpiece of book. The main bone of contention and trigger for this book was to prove that Chitalu did score the hundred plus goals that brought his name back to life in 2012 when Lionel Messi was about to break Germany’s Gerd Muller’s record. Here again the author does the reader a great favour by painstakingly counting every recorded Godfrey Chitalu goal. The goals and matches are well tabulated and laid out for everyone to see.
While FIFA eventually excused themselves from the debate saying it is not their responsibility to honour such league achievements, Jerrry Muchimba’s research and eventually this book are a great additional honour to such a great man.
And in an era where Zambian strikers are failing to even cross the 20 goals mark on the Top Scorers chart, this book provides motivation and lessons on how the incredible goal king managed his unmatched feat. It is for sure a book for soccer fans, researchers, journalists, coaches, players, administrators and the general public at large.
Hurry, grab yourself a copy!
by Leonard Koloko