WORLD’S GREATEST GOAL-SCORER IN ONE SEASON
Birth and roots
Like most of the biggest names in Zambian football, Emmanuel Mwape, Bernard Chanda, Joseph Mapulanga, Ginger Pensulo, Boniface Simutowe, Jim Mwale, Kaizer Kalambo and Jack Chanda among others, the one and only Godfrey Chitalu, as if by design, also launched his incomparable playing career in Luanshya, a mining town in the northern part of Zambia, unofficially dubbed School of Excellence.
Born Godfrey Kangwa Chitalu on October 22 1947, in Luanshya to Lucian Chitalu of Luwingu District and Emilia Chitalu of Mpika, the goal-king was keen on pursuing his football career with Roan United, the biggest football club to have ever emerged from this copper-mining town.
After being overlooked again and again at Kafubu Stadium, home to United between 1965 and 1966, frustrated and intensely ambitious on pursuing his career elsewhere, the young Chitalu packed his bags and headed for Kitwe where he was warmly received at local club Kitwe United, affectionately dubbed as Chingalika or Buchi Boys, at the time.
Chitalu proved to be an instant hit and hero with the Buchi Stadium faithful.
Style of play and nickname
Chitalu had this bulldozing manner of play and powerful running, almost impossible to stop playing style. More often than not, he would plough through defences and defenders, leaving them at sixes and sevens, battered and tattered as he wheeled away.
Once he had broken through any defence, there was simply no stopping him as he headed for goal and glory. Also, he had a power shot in either legs.
It was radio commentator Dennis Liwewe who gave the goal-king the nickname Ucar following his world record goal-scoring record of 107 goals in a single season in all competitions in 1972. Ucar was the long-lasting batteries manufactured by an American company by the same name – Union Carbide (Ucar). Because of his consistency and reliability as a goal scorer, the veteran commentator and television personality likened Chitalu to the American batteries’ behaviour, thus the birth of the nickname.
It would not be a matter of exaggeration to say that, be it as it may that Zambian football has had famous nicknames such as Chitapochimo, Zoom, Mupike, Muchofe, Ngungu, Kaziango, Shombo, Butcher, Bomber, Abaleya and Russian Tanker, Sekuru, among others, none of these compare with the fame and popularity of Ucar, Godfrey Chitalu’s nickname.
In his very first season for Kitwe united in 1967, The Buchi Boys, so named because of the location of the team in Kitwe’s Buchi Township, one of the most notorious in the 1970s on the Copperbelt, Chitalu contributed immensely to United’s respectable 6th finish, banging in more than 20 goals of the team’s 73 goals overall rattled in that term.
As if to prove that he was the new-born king of Zambian football, in his second season for his new club, Chitalu emerged Zambia’s top-scorer with an incredible 81 goals in all competitions, 11 of them for Zambia.
He was also named Zambia’s Footballer-of-the-Year. Clearly, a goal-scoring king had been born in Zambian football.
It wouldn’t have come as a surprise therefore that for the first time in the history of Kitwe United, the team finished in 4th position, the club’s highest finish ever since 1962 when the topflight was introduced in Zambia, with United as one of the 13 founder members alongside the likes of Bancroft North End (Konkola Blades), Broken Hill Warriors (Kabwe Warriors), City of Lusaka, Lusaka Queens Park, Mufulira Wanderers, Mufulira United, Nchanga Rangers, Nchanga Sports, Ndola Football Club Ndola United, Rhokana United (Nkana FC) and Roan United.
United’s 18 wins in 26 matches campaign, was the same as those of winners Kabwe Warriors (40 points) and third-placed Mufulira Wanderers (38 points). Only runners-up Ndola United won 19 matches, beaten to the title by Warriors on goal difference.
While Chitalu finished 4th on the top-scorers’ chart in 1969 on 45 goals overall despite being suspended for close to three months by the National Football League (NFL) for decent, he would score 41 goals the following season.
While with United, Chitalu helped the Kitwe based team win the 1970 Heroes and Unity Cup.
Chitalu’s crowning glory for United came in the 1970 Castle Cup final at Ndola’s Dag Hammarskjold Stadium when he scored the only goal of the match against Kabwe Warriors, the team he would join the season that followed.
Come April 1971, the man who would widely come to be known as Ucar crossed over to Kabwe Warriors for a record fee of K5, 000 – the value of a brand new Land Rover at the time in Zambia.
And as if to show that he was the real king of Zambian football, in his very first season for Warriors, he scooped the Golden Boot award with 51 goals in all competitions, 30 of them in the league alone. Only Ndola United’s Gibbon “Nigger” Chewe (33) scored more league goals than Chitalu that term.