Sunday, May 1, 2011

Alex Chola -- Greatest winger of all-time.

A few days ago marked the 18th anniversary of the tragic plane-crash that took down the whole Zambian National Football Team. Also to lose his life on that tragic journey was the assistant coach, Alex Chola. Now for those who don't know any better, or are just too young to know, let me tell you who Alex Chola was, and just how good he was as a football player.

As a young boy living in Zimbabwe in the early 80s I never missed any of the big football matches that would be served up at Rufaro Stadium. Matches against our Zambian neighbours (and rivals) were always well-attended, and the stadium would be packed to the rafters. Even club games against the top Zambian teams like Green Buffaloes, Nchanga Warriors, Power Dynamos & Mufulira Wanderers, would fill stadiums to capacity.

Now there was one game I attended in the early 80s that featured one of the greatest Zambian teams ever put together. KK's 1st eleven(as the team was then known) boasted players like Michael Kaumba, Peter Kaumba & Pele Kaimana playing up front, with the defence marshalled by Jones Chilengi and Fighton Simukonda. But the best player of all had to be the winger, Alex "Computer" Chola. His wing-play was just out of this world: feints, flicks, darts-up-the-middle, hazy dribbles, deft-touches. His play was mesmerizing! I remember the Zimbabwean crowd being stunned into silence whenever Alex Chola got the ball. It's as if there was a collective, "what is he gonna do now", running through everyone's mind. Had he played in the modern era, I'm sure he would have been playing for the Real Madrids and Barcelonas of this world. That's how good he was.

So, I salute Alex Chola, and all the other Zambian footballers who were lost on that tragic late-night of April 27th, 1993. They gave me such great pleasure as a young boy, and may they rest in eternal peace.