Mwanza’s Vitafoam, for the record, apart from missing from the penalty spot in the first half, had to come from a goal down to ultimately beat now Zambia’s winningest Premier League team whose head-coach at the time was Moses Simwala, a former Nkana and Zambia right-winger.
Having departed for Kabwe Warriors, Mwanza had his most successful club career at the Railway Ground (Godfrey Chitalu Stadium.
Having assumed the first-choice goalkeeper responsibility, Mwanza won a number of honours with the Kabwe side with the biggest of these being the 1987 Premier League title under the tutelage of Chitalu (Godfrey). Warriors narrowly beat Power Dynamos to the title by a single point (34-33) that term, the very first and last time the men in blue and white would ever conquer the top-flight in its present-day format.
Sadly, in sharp contrast, Mwanza’s former team Vitafoam were relegated to the First Division that year for finishing second from the bottom alongside tail-enders and town-mates Zesco United.
Elsewhere, Mwanza was a vital cog of the Warriors’ teams that won the 1988 and 1992 Charity Shields.
In the former year, Mwanza’ Warriors beat Mutondo Stars 2-1 at Independence Stadium through Timothy Mwitwa and Christopher Kunda’s goals.
In the latter final, a stupendous-performing Mwanza was a huge help in sending Warriors victorious through a 3-0 score-line in a match played at Lusaka’s Woodlands Stadium with three different players scorers in Maybin M’gaiwa and the duo of fellow Gabon plane crash victims Mwitwa and Whiteson Changwe.
Of pregnant interest is the fact that, in the 1992 Charity Shield final officiated by FIFA referee Willie Chikuka, of the starting 22 players on the pitch, 11 formed part of the 18 players and a coach who perished in the Gabon Air Disaster to bring the total tally to 12.
Those who lined up for winners Warriors and would one year later die in the plane crash of 1993 in Gabon, were Mwanza himself, defenders Changwe and Samuel Chomba, midfielder Gofrey Kangwa (who was a property of Moroccan side Olympique Casablanca at the time of the plane disaster), winger Mwitwa and forward Moses Masuwa. (Godfrey) Chitalu, Warriors head-coach, also perished alongside his six club players mentioned above.
And by some kind of mysterious fate, the three officials who presided over the 1992 Charity Shield final in February that year, have also passed on: referee Willie Chikuka and his two assistant referees Stephen Ziwa and Kasi Kalande, father to former Zanaco Fc and Zambia midfielder Kabamba kalande.
Elsewhere, Mwanza also won two BP Shell Challenge Cup (BP Top 8 Cup) with Warriors. He was in goal when Warriors decimated Red Arrows 6-1 at Independence Stadium in 1989 with hat-trick hero Mwitwa, brace-scorer Jolly Chambisha and Joseph Chilekwa being the other scorers on the big day for the former Vitafoam United goalie.
Joseph Musonda provided Arrows’ consolation goal.
While Mwanza & Co. collected a cheque to worth K120, 000 as champions, beaten-finalists Arrows received half that amount – K60, 000.
In the 1991 BP Challenge Cup final. Again, staged at Independence Stadium, Mwanza got a winners’ medal as his team literally murdered Konkola Blades 7-0. Leading the scorers was the unstoppable Mwitwa who hammered in a super hat-trick of four goals while Tenant Chilumba delivered a brace with M’gaiwa scoring the other.
Mwanza’s resplendent hat of honours with Warriors goes on…
He, while playing for the five-time top-flight champions, also scooped two Mosi Cups in 1984 and 1987, the latter title which arguably defined his most glorious performance at club level.
After helping Warriors overcome a determined Nkana 3-1 in the semi-final between the posts, with Maxon Mugala netting a brace and the amazing, ever-green Mwitwa registering his name once, Mwanza was the difference between victory and defeat for his team in the final against Power Dynamos at Independence Stadium.
It came as no surprise therefore that Mwanza was voted Man-of-the-match in the grand-finale as Warriors’ beat Dynamos 3-2.
Mwanza’s success streak with Warriors also saw him win the Champion of Champions trophy thrice in 1987, 1989 and 1991.
To cap it all, Mwanza also collected a 1992 Heroes and Unity Cup winners’ medal to rank among the most successful goalkeepers in Zambian football alongside Nkana’s Stephen Mwansa and fellow Gabon plane crash victim Efford David Chabala.
Though Mwanza was, for the most part of his Zambia career second-choice goalkeeper to Efford Chabala between 1987 and 1993, he was as reliable when called to stand between the posts for country.
He was part of the 1992 African Cup of Nations (AfCON) squad that got ejected in the quarter-finals, losing 1-0 to Cote d’Ivoire on January 20 in the Senegal-held tournament.
Aside him, there were three other Kabwe Warriors club-mates in the squad: Changwe, Chomba and Mwitwa.
Mwanza was also part of the Zambia team that reaped bronze at the November 1992-held CECAFA tournament. Zambia thrashed Malawi 4-0 in the third play-off in a match played in a town bearing the same name as his surname – Mwanza.
A year earlier, he was in the victorious Zambia team at the Uganda-staged tournament when his side beat Kenya 2-0 in the final in Kampala on December 7, 1991.
The Mufulira Wanderers’ duo of Philemon Kaunda and Francis “Diego” Chisenga scored a goal each.
The bulky Mwanza was as well an integral part of the 1988 Zambian squad to the Seoul Olympic Games in South Korea at which gathering his team went out in the quarter-finals. But most memorably, the Warriors’ goalkeeper and his colleague, be it as it may that he was on the bench, was the 4-0 thrashing of Italy in the group stage. Victory was celebrated by both the players who were in the starting line-up as well as those who were on the substitutes’ bench for the whole duration of the match.
Winning his first major domestic trophy aged 22 with Vitafoam United, going on to collect multiple honours with Kabwe Warriors and being a dependable shot-stopper, giving his all at every turn, gives Richard Mwanza a very special place at both club and national level.
Richard Mwanza was married at the time of his death in the Gabon Air Disaster in April 1993.