SPEEDY, TRICKY WINGER
Birth and roots
Only 18 days separated Moses Chikwalakwala and Kenani Simambe in birth terms. Both were born in the same year and in the month – the latter being senior of the two.
Chikwalakwala was born on August 23, 1974 in Mufulira while Simambe was born 18 days earlier on August 5, 1974 in Kitwe,
Both were playing for Kitwe teams – Nkana FC and Power Dynamos respectively at the time they perished in the April 1993 Gabon Air Disaster.
Style of play
A merchant of real pace, this winger was a real menace to defenders when in full flight down the right wing, turning them inside out with regular impunity.
Once Chikwalakwala got past a defender or indeed his marker, his pace was like a whirlwind – leaving him for dead in his wake.
By and large, it was owing to the winger’s direct play allied to his admirable crossing service that made him an automatic choice in the Godfrey Chitalu-Alex Chola tandem tutored side.
In a way, Moses’ playing style brought about nostalgia with the natural wing play of the likes of former Rhokana United (Nkana FC) wing-master Moses Simwala, former Green Buffaloes’, Kabwe Warriors and Zambia wing-wizard Bizwell Phiri, former Mufulira Wanderers and Zambia flying wide-man Philemon “Shombo” Mulala and former Power Dynamos and Zambia wing-specialist Peter “Abaleya” Kaumba and Buffaloes’ Pele Kaimana from the old school.
The moment the 16-year old Chikwalakwala burst on the scene in 1991 with Chambishi FC, a team of the First Division tier then, the flying winger attracted a couple of suitors domestically who desperately wanted his signature on the dotted lines.
That same season, the young winger and Co, won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the history of the club of the little-known team alongside Zesco United from the northern region.
Playing for the first time in the elite league in 1992, Chikwalakwala’s side barely avoided relegation by finishing 12th on the 16-team log which had just been expanded from 14 to 16that season.
Chambeshi collected 33 points from 30 matches, twice what champions Nkana FC garnered that term.
Sadly for Zesco, harldy a season in the top-flight, they went down alongside Green Eagles, Nkwazi FC and Nitrogen Stars (from the Southern region) – another team like Chambishi, – that was making its Premier League debut.
Come the 1993 season, Chikwalakwala made the wise decision to join Nkana FC, by then, thankfully, the speedy, tricky winger had cemented his place in the senior Zambia team.
By sharp contrast, his former team got relegated, having finished second from the bottom.
While Chikwalakwala’s Nkana won the title posthumously, pipping arch-rivals Power Dynamos on goal difference (both teams garnered 60 points each), Chambishi, the 15th-placed team, collected 29 points and replicated the figure in the number of goals they scored – 29.
As if to prove the wise move the young man had made – of switching teams – from 30 matches, Chikwalakwala’s former team won a mere 5 (the joint lowest with tail-enders Ndola United), drew 14 times and lost 11 others and conceded 34 goals.
The other teams that got the chop alongside Chambishi and Ndola United, were the Lusaka duo of Profund Warriors (renamed NAPSA Stars), who finished on 13th, and Lusaka City Council (14th).
Luckily for him, in his very first campaign for Nkana, Chikwalakwala won the Charity Shield with the Kitwe giants when they narrowly defeated Lusaka side Zamsure 1-0 in a final staged at Ndoal’s Trade Fair Grounds.
Sadly, Chikwalakwala, alongside four of his Nkana club-mates – Eston Mulenga, John Soko, Timothy Mwitwa and Mwila Numba – perished in the Gabon Air Disaster that also decimated the lives of 13 other players and two coaches in the names of Godfrey Chitalu and Alex Chola, head—trainer and assistant coach respectively, in addition to 10 other passengers aboard a military Buffalo plane.
And as if to honour Chikwalakwala and his other four Nkana colleagues, Nkana , having already won the season-opener earlier in the year, made a complete sweep of all silverware, winning the Premier League title, the BP Top 8 Cup, the Mosi Cup, the Heroes and Unity Cup as well as the Champion of hampions Cup.
And by that special feat, Chikwalakwala’s surviving club-mates emulated Kabwe Warriors’ similar act of 1972 when they won all – the top-flight title and all domestic tournaments on offer at the time.
It is a rarity in Zambian football for a player to be playing for the senior national team when his club is plying its trade in the lower tier .
Yet Chikwalakwala was already an established player in 1992, be it as it may that his team Chambishi FC, was a member of the First Division (Northern region).
What is even praiseworthy for this pocket of magic of a right winger was the fact that despite the Chitalu-coached squad being a star-studded squad, Chikwalakwala quickly established himself as if he had been part and parcel of the team for decades.
Another noteworthy point about the young winger was that the moment he became a part of the already crème de la crème squad, unlike other players who become understudies to their seniors, in his case, he did not made an instant coup de grace of a kind by edging out the equally-deserving (Timothy) Mwitwa who, more often than not, would play second fiddle to Moses.
During the joint 1994 Tunisia African Cup of Nations (AfCON)/USA World Cup finals qualifiers, Chikwalakwala was an almost ever-present feature in the team.
Suffice it to say that Chikwalakwala was in Zambia’s last match she played before the horrific Gabon Air Disaster occurred.
When Zambia thrashed Islanders Mauritius 3-0 away on April 25, 1993 in Curippipe in the 1994 Tunisia AfCON finals qualifiers series, with Kelvin Mutale of Saudi Arabian side El- Ettifaq scoring all three goals, Chikwalakwala was in the starting XI alongside goalkeeper Efford Chabala, defenders John Soko, Whiteson Changwe and thee central defence pair of Eston Mulenga and Robert Watiyakeni, Derby Makinka and Mwila Numba among others.
Elsewhere, Chikwalakwala also played for the senior Zambia team at the 1992 regional CECAFA (Confederation of East and Central African Football Association) tournament held in Tanzania when Zambia won bronze.
Most memorably, Chikwalakwala scored in his team’s 3-2 group stage match defeat of Ethiopia by opening the scoring in the 7th minute before defender Samuel Chomba added a second four minutes later after the interval from the penalty spot.
Banda slotted in the winner on 63 minutes.
Chikwalakwala, the enterprising winger, also featured for Zambia in both the 1-0 defeat of his team by Malawi as well as the 8-0 capitulation of Zanzibar and the narrow 2-1 win over hosts Tanzania.
Had Zambia qualified for the 1994 Tunisia AfCON finals with the perished team, Chikwalakwala would have made his maiden appearance alongside six others in the names of kelvin Mutale, Kenani Simambe, Winter Mumba, Godfrey Kangwa Mwila Numba and (Patrick) Banda.
For a player who had not yet become 19 to have commanded a regular place in the Godfrey Chitalu-coached team was in itself an achievement worth a huge pat on the back of the young winger.
The 18-man team that perished in the April 1993 Gabon Air Disaster reads like Africa Select or the CAF Best XI Team of the Tournament: Efford Chabala, John Soko, Whiteson Changwe, Robert Watiyakeni, Eston Mulenga, Derby Makinka, Moses Chikwalakwala, Godfrey Kangwa, Kelvin Mutale, Kenani Simambe and Mwila Numba.
Yet, Chikwalakwala was one of the players, come rain or shine, who was assured of a place in the starting XI. The boy was only 18 years and 8 months when he perished together with his 17 team members in the infamous Gabon plane crash on April 28, 1993 en-route to fulfilling A USA World Cup finals qualifier.
In retrospect, a pretty flower had been crushed before it could reach full bloom.
Moses Chikwalakwala was a fully-paid member of the Bachelor’s club at the time of his death in the Gabon air crash alongside 17 other players and 13 other passengers aboard a military buffalo plane.