Zambia’s Goal King Godfrey Chitalu had an exceptional year in 1972. Even before the Zambian season started on February 27th 1972 Chitalu’s record-breaking boots were laced and ready for action.
Lesotho’s champions, Majantja, were the first to receive a striking lesson as Chitalu warmed up with a brace in Maseru’s National Stadium on January 23rd. A fortnight later, Zambia’s Goal King decided it was time to rewrite the record books with seven – an African Cup of Champions Clubs record for one match that still stands to this day, almost half a century later.
Strangely, it passed without fanfare. It should not have. There aren’t many who set continental records before their season has even started.
On February 27th Zambia’s season started – the ‘official’ beginning of Chitalu’s assault on the record books. Zambia’s Charity Shield was a personal triumph. After an acrimonious transfer from Kitwe United in 1971, Kabwe Warriors started their season with a 1-0 win. It had to be Chitalu netting the winner – the first of his acknowledged 107 goals.
Actually, it took him to double figures for the year on the first official day of the Zambian season.
The records took a battering from Chitalu in 1972. As individual years go – his teams could not keep pace – Zambia was already out of the 1972 AFCON and Kabwe Warriors, Zambia’s champions retained their title but exited the African Cup of Champions Clubs at the quarter-final stage to Accra Hearts of Oak. Ghana’s champions sent Zambia’s packing 9-3 on aggregate in October.
Few players have ever had a year like Chitalu’s 1972. With Zambia already eliminated from Cameroon’s 1972 Africa Cup of Nations by the 4-2 aggregate loss to Zaire in June 1971, Chitalu had to take out his annoyance on club competition.
And he did that with a vengeance. Chitalu won every domestic title available in Zambian football.
Before the Zambian season officially started, Chitalu was the difference in the Charity Shield, scoring the only goal of the match against his former club, Kitwe United. By the end of the year he had added the Castle Cup, the Chibuku Cup and the Shell and BP Challenge Cup to the Charity Shield.
For good measure Kabwe Warriors won the league too. There was not a single Zambian competition that Chitalu played in that he and his team did not triumph in.
And on the African stage, Kabwe Warriors were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Accra Hearts of Oak. Chitalu scored in both legs. Having played just six matches, Chitalu had amassed 13 goals.
Chérif Souleymane, of Guinean champions Hafia, netted just four in ten matches. But Hafia were the utterly dominant side in Guinea in that decade. They won the national league every year from 1971-79 inclusive, two African Cup of Champions Clubs and reached the final twice more in the 70s.
Souleymane and Hafia had a fantastic 1972, but did even that compare to the incredible year Chitalu had? After setting two African Cup of Champions Clubs records, two world records, and winning the Charity Shield of Zambia, three Zambian Cups and the Zambian League, surely Chitalu was an absolute shoe-in for the new African Player of the Year Award. Apparently not
A Potty Robbery
“It sometimes amazes me how our history has always been hidden or distorted from a number of truths that has been buried in the annals of Black history and achievements,” Howard Gayle, the first black man to play for Liverpool said.
“And here is another case for us to deliberate and make known to the world and in particular the footballing community.
“A European magazine decided who African’s best were, and the Francophone bias was appalling.
“Godfrey Chitalu was a Zambian Football icon. His goal scoring record in African Football is phenomenal.
“To score 116 goals in a calendar season can only be described as world class. But why has Godfrey Chitalu’s record not been recognised by the footballing authorities?”
But 1972 was a very odd year in African football. The African Player of the Year Award is now run by CAF through FIFPro. While controversy happens, the process is much fairer than it was in 1970.
Back then it was run by France Football Magazine. It led to bizarre decisions. 1972 appears to be the worst robbery in its history. Reputations counted more than achievements. Examination of the performances in 1972 show that.
“It’s time for the footballing community to honour and recognise what is an outstanding achievement in goal scoring so that his name and his country can finally be added to the Halls of Fame of footballing greatness,” Gayle said. In fact, it was considerably worse than Gayle or Ghanaian great Ibrahim Sunday say – far worse. Godfrey Chitalu did not feature at all in the vote for the African Player of the Year for 1972 despite having one of, if not the, best year any top footballer ever had.
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