A POCKET OF MAGIC FLYING WINGER
Birth and roots
The born-child of Matthews and Cecilia (nee Kasonde) Numba, Mwila Numba was born on March 18, 1972 in the industrial town of Ndola, home to Zambia’s Zesco United as well as Ndola United, a founder of the 13 teams that formed the National in March 1962.
And 10 years later, a future Zambia wing-wizard would be born and bred in the same month for that matter.
The first born in a family five boys and four girls, Mwila launched his early career first with Ndola Lime in 1985 and lasted up until 1988 when he switched camp to yet another Ndola-based team Vitafoam United United, one of the giant-killers of Zambian football.
At United, he showcased his silky skills for close to two years before making the giant step to join now 12-time Premier League winners Nkana FC in 1990 – a move that clearly redefined his career.
Style of play
The diminutive left-winger was so effective and efficient who was able to go forward and use his creative skills to support any insurgency.
That he was an instigator of real class and quality, would not be stretching the truth out of all proportion.
Mwila, a lively pacey winger, was also noted for the ability to face and beat any defender in his path and leave him without recovery and for dead – bringing nostalgia and close comparisons with his Zambia predecessors Peter “Abaleya” Kaumba, philemon “Shomba” Mulala (a predominantly right-winger) and of course, the magician of all magicians Kalusha Bwalya.
It remains to be seen if Zambian football will ever manufacture another Mwila Numba.
Twenty-five years down the line, there appears to be no imitation or ghost of the former Nkana wing-magician on the horizon.
Mwila’s choice to accept the Nkana Red Devils’ offer in 1990 proved to be the biggest break in his football career, to all intents and purposes.
The team not only provided him the biggest platform any young footballer of rich promise would have craved for, but also the chance and opportunity to be noticed early by national team selectors, given his undoubted talent and envious skill as a winger, the basis and fulcrum of attacking Zambian football for the large part of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s without exception.
And as if to justify his 1990 big move from giant-killers Vitafoam to real giants of Kitwe in particular and one of the big giants of Zambian football in general, Numba in his very first season for The Reds, emerged as a treble winner as the Wusakili township based side won the Charity Shield, the Heroes and Unity Cup as well as the big one – the Premier League crown.
Numba, in winning his first career honour, it was some coincidence that it had to come against his former club Vitafoam who Nkana beat 2-1 in the 1990 Charity Shield final played at Arthur Davies Stadium.
Victorious Nkana’s goals came through Zambia internationals Kenneth Malitoli and Gibby Mbasela while Harrison Tembo pulled one back for the losing-finalists.
Numba’s first Premier League trophy win came against town-rivals Power Dynamos who were relegated to second place.
The following season was yet another successful campaign for the young winger who won the double of the Charity Shield and Independence Cup (Mosi Cup) despite his team surrendering the league crown to Dynamos.
And in leading his team to scooping the 1991 season-opener, Numba’s Nkana dismissed Mutondo Stars 4-0 in the Nchanga Stadium-held Charity Shield final.
(Kenneth) Malitoli was once again the spearhead with a brace while Reuben Sakala and new boy Moses Chikwalakwala also registered their names on the goal-scorers’ sheet on the afternoon of March 3, 1991.
The Independence final of October 28, 1991 saw Numba collect his first Independence Cup winners’ medal when Nkana edged out Dynamos 5-4 on post-match penalties following a 1-1 draw in open play.
Beston Chambeshi scored for the victors while Wedson Nyirenda replied for the losing-finalists.
The year 1992 was a moment of crowning glory for Numba when he collected his second treble in three seasons – winning his second Premier League title as well as the Mosi Cup and the BP Top 8 Cup with the Reds.
In winning the 1992 Premier League title, Numba’s Nkana wrestled the reigns of power from Dynamos who had beaten them to the title the previous season.
Suffice it to say that Numba’s sweet victory that season came in the 5-1 murder of Forest Rangers on November 10, 1992 at Lusaka’s Independence Stadium.
Mwila was one of the three single scorers alongside skipper Dennis Kabwe and Abeauty Kunda. Regular goal-scorer Kelvin Mutale delivered a brace while Noel Nzunda scored Forest’s consolation on his team’s disastrous day.
And despite not being on the score-sheet in his team’s 3-2 BP Top 8 Cup win over Wanderers, Numba collected his first and last winners’ medal of the BP Zambia Plc-sponsored tournament.
Sensational this cup final was. With Wanderers2-0 at the interval through Moses Mutale and goal-poacher Paul Chellah, the Wanderers’ faithful and most neutral observers had jumped to the conclusion that the trophy was headed for Shinde Stadium – that the two first half goals Nkana had conceded were the last death nail drilled in their collective coffin as a team.
But what the Independence crowd of fans of different persuasion at club level and arm-chair critics seemed not to imagine is that Nkana’s battle was far from over – that the men in crimson were prepared to fight to the bitter end. It came to pass.
The second half witnessed one of the greatest fight backs in the history of the BP Top Cup finals as Numba and Co. would restore parity and ultimately emerge victorious through (kelvin) Mutale’s brace and leader-of-the-band Dennis Kabwe to render Mutale and Chellah’s first half goals as just another statistic or, to put it in sharp focus, an effort in futility.
Mwila’s last success script for Nkana came in the 1993 Charity Shield when The Reds narrowly beat Zamsure 1-0 in a final played at the Trade Fair Grounds in Ndola – a place, fittingly, where he was born and launched his career.