THE JOHN SOKO FACT-FILE

927

CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY

For whatever reason, 1992 turned out to be Soko’s first and last. He decided to make a quick switch across the Kitwe-Ndola dual carriageway by joining rivals Nkana the following season.

In what turned out to be Nkana’s most glorious seasons ever, Soko only won the 1993 Charity Shield with the Wusakili Township side.

In the final played at Ndola’s Trade Fair Grounds, Nkana barely beat Zamsure 1-0.

In the aftermath of the Gabon Air Disaster of April 1993 in which Nkana FC lost five of its players – Soko being one of them with the other four being Eston Mulenga, Moses Chikwalakwala, Timothy Mwitwa and Mwila Numba – Nkana, without the five, went on to win every piece of silverware that term, as if to pay special homage to the five fallen heroes of Nkana Football Club.

The domestic honours in question scooped by Nkana, are the Premier League title, the BP Top 8 Cup, the Mosi Cup, the Heroes and Unity Cup and the Champions of Champions Cup in addition to the Charity Shield already referred to above. A record-equalling clean sweep of domestic honours that equalled  Kabwe Warriors’ huge success story of 1972.

International career

Interestingly, as if it were the rule rather than the exception, out of the more than 15 right-backs to have played for Zambia since 1964, with the exception of two or three – have been members of the hard-men or butcher-men family and john Soko is a perfect chip off the old block.

Apart from Ndola United’s Edwin Mbaso, a right-back of incomparable skill and quality and Kalulushi Modern Stars’ Mwelwa Mupeta, cool, calm and collected, a right back who was smart in the tackle and a firm marker and John “Libya” Kalusa, a classic right-back of admirable defensive qualities, all the others, Soko inclusive, have, for lack of a better term, been a little dirty in their defensive duties.

And there is one trait former Zambia right-backs shared in equal measure as if by design. They have been hatchet-men of the highest order who would tackle with intent to harm, were overzealous and once beaten to the ball, would do anything ‘illegal’ to stop a member of the opposition from making further progress.

The list that answers to such description reads: Milton Muke and Laban Chishala (both Green Buffaloes), Bernard Mutale (Red Arrows), Happy Sichikolo and Clive Hachilensa (both Kabwe Warriors), Peter Mwanza and Laughter Chilembe (Nchanga Rangers). 

The rest are Nkana’s Mordon Malitoli, Zanaco’s Kingsley Musabula and Peter Chitila and South Africa-based Davies Nkausu.

Soko played for the senior Zambia national team between 1990 and April 1993.

First capped for Zambia in 1990, Soko is on record as the first Kalulushi defender to have ever played for country. After the Gabon plane crash, Mupeta would follow in Soko’s giant footsteps to become the second and last defender to the present to be capped for the Chipolopolo.

And as is well known, Soko played for both Power Dynamos and Nkana between 1992 and 1993 before the Gabon plane crash curtailed is blossoming national career.

Soko was a vital cog of both the Samuel Ndhlovu and Godfrey Chitalu-coached national teams that were campaigning for the joint 1994 Tunisia AfCON/US World Cup tournaments up until the fateful plane crash of April 28, 1993.

Soko last played for Zambia in the 3-0 demolition of Mauritius in an away fixture of the 1994 AfCON qualifier on April 25, 1993 in the town of Curepipe. Elsewhere, Soko made two AfCON appearances in 1990 and 1992, in Algeria and Senegal respectively.

At the former tournament staged in Algeria, Soko’s Zambia reaped bronze while in the latter championship, the team were ejected in the quarter-finals with Soko very much the claimant of the right back position which at one point, became more like personal-to-holder.

Legacy

In the history of Chipolopolo, very few defenders have held down the right-back position for more than two years. So for the former Dynamos and Nkana man to held the position like it were personal-to-holder for close to three years on the bounce, was an exceptional feat and it would appear that had it not been for the April 1993 Gabon Air Disaster, the non-nonsense right-back was to hold on to the position till kingdom come.

Personal life

Soko was a bachelor at the time of the plane crash in Libreville, Gabon.

But according to impeccable sources who included his young brother nicknamed “Shaka” who also played for Kalulushi Modern Stars after his brother died in the infamous Gabon plane crash, Soko, who was understandably courting a nurse, was arranging to say goodbye to bachelorhood several months upon his return from the Senegal where Zambia were headed to play that country’s national team in a 1994 Tunisia 1994 African Cup of Nations (AfCON) qualifier.

Advertisement

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here