By Chris Zumani Zimba
On the 10th August, 2018, the independent Ethics Committee of FIFA banned Kalusha Bwalya-‘Great Kalu’, member of the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), former Zambian international footballer, national team captain and Coach for two years from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level. This was following ‘successful’ investigations launched in February 2017 when he was accused of financially benefiting from Mr Bin Hammam who ‘bribed’ some top soccer officials in many countries in his quest to contest and win the FIFA Presidency. While the 54 years old Mufulira born football icon was also fined an amount of CHF 100,000, ‘Great Kalu’ twitted on 11th August, 2018 that he was shocked with the ‘harsh decision’ as he was ‘very innocent’ in the matter. Hence, he announced that he had already engaged his legal team to appeal against the ruling to the FIFA Executive.
We are all factually aware and pretty convinced that ‘Great Kalu’ is not just Zambia’s football flagbearer to the world, but that he is also part of Africa’s distinguished soccer ambassadors team at global level. When it comes to lobbying at regional and international level on matters of football, Zambia and many other African countries have used and benefitted from this powerful personality brand called ‘Kalusha Bwalya’ in influencing decisions in their favor and win complex football agendas. For example, apart from the late Nelson Mandela-The Great, Kalusha Bwalya was another powerful personality that helped South Africa to win their case of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And when such a national and continental legend is falling for whatever reasons, the best we can do as a country and continent is to stand with him and show some brotherly solidarity as vicious beneficiaries of his ‘personal brand’ and ‘career name’ than to hastily abandon the brother as well as finish and bury him alive.
At national level, it is imperative to stress that even when this FIFA case implicates him alone, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), local footballers and all Zambian soccer fans are more indebted to stand with ‘Great Kalu’ today because he is too extraordinary to the growth of our great game in the country and the unmatched evolution of our national football team-‘Chipolopolo’. And when I was mistakenly detained at Addis Ababa Airport for 10minutes in Ethiopia on my way to Germany in 2011 over the skin of the slippers I was wearing, the name Kalusha Bwalya and Kenneth Kaunda made me smile. “How is Kalusha Bwalya and Kenneth Kaunda my brother?”, their senior wildlife official greeted me after discovering that I was Zambian. And even after verifying that my slippers were made of white goat skin as opposed to some prohibited wildlife, this man still insisted to know more about the two before I left. And as I sat on the big Lufthansa Germany machine swimming into the blue sky the whole night, I was touched to know that, ‘Great Kalu’ and Kenneth Kaunda were among our most powerful known human exports to the world.
Therefore, I believe that a good man or woman of such regional popularity as well as international stature must not be strangled by us if and when he/she errors especially if the act is not habitual. Instead, I think we must try to give them one of our shoulder to lean on when they are going through such political trials, legal challeges or social imprisonment. Once more, let us emphasize that ‘you will never walk alone ‘Great Kalu’ because many in Africa and Zambia are with you, for you and by you with or without the 2 years FIFA ban. And whatever happens with this FIFA case against him, we need to put it on record that many of us unconditionally surrender our spirited prayers and positive thoughts to ‘Great Kalu’ because he is the only current Leonel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Abedi Pele, Diego Mara Dona, Samual Eto, David Beckham, Didia Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayo, Zinadine Zidane and Mo Sarah of Zambian football.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant