Written by on February 21, 2019



Birth and roots

Born and bred in the mining town of Mufulira, it was no surprise whatsoever that Efford Chabala, like every ambitious boy in his time, nursed and cherished the ambition that one day, he would play for Mufulira Wanderers, Zambia’s overall most successful team.

Born January 28, 1960 and having initially played for the reserve side, Chabala would go on to become the longest serving shot-stopper for both club and country. – eclipsing the careers of both his predecessors Tolomeo Mwansa and Abraham Nkole of the 1970s fame.

Style and nickname

A goalkeeper noted for his fearlessness and razor-sharp reflexes, he was also well known for stupendous saves – both from point blank as well as from afar or indeed from sudden-shooting situations which more often than not, catches most goalies with their pants down.

Chabala was in a league of his own: he was the epitome of alertness and possessed a sense of anticipation like no other.

Elsewhere, the affable Chabala was incomparable with regard to improvisation – a practice that was in evidence throughout his illustrious career, especially using his legs – at which he was master par excellence – bringing close comparisons with former Roan United and Rhokana United ((Nkana FC) and Zambia net-minder Emmanuel Mwape, former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and indeed 1982 World Cup winning captain Dino Zoff.

His name of Fitumba was not known widely, but only among his Wanderers’ fellow club-mates at Shinde Stadium, a moniker whose origin is shrouded in secrecy and ambiquity.   

Other Wanderers’ goalies of fame have had nicknames too. Mwansa was fondly called Juva while Nkole was dubbed Gordon Banks after the former Stoke City and England goalkeeper extraordinary.

Club career

Having started his club career proper with the Wanderers ‘B’ team around 1978, chabala would soon win the confidence and trust of the then head-coach Dickson Makwaza (1977-1982 that the mercurial Chabala was elevated to the first-choice goalkeeper in 1980 – virtually taking over from Bernard Kabwe.

Together with Ashious Melu, a new recruit from Konkola Blades and the Bwalya brothers – Benjamin Jr and Kalusha who joined the team in 1981 from neighbours  Butondo Western Tigers in addition to the other set of brothers named Philemon Kaunda and Philemon Mulala and Frederick Kashimoto – Chabala and Co. would prove a formidable squad in the Zambian top-flight.

Though Chabala missed on the prestigious individual national award of Zambia Footballer-of-the-Year between 1983 and 1987 when his team-mates Melu (1983 and 1987), Kalusha (1984) and Johnson Bwalya (1986), Chabala would however find solace and consolation by being voted 1984 Sportsman of the Year.

The closest Wanderers came to winning the league title with Chabala as a player was runners-up four times: in 1984 (beaten to the title by Power Dynamos by a single point – 33-32); in 1985 (beaten to the title by Nkana by yet a single point – 29-28 in a 2-points-for-a-win awarding system then); and 1989 and 1992 – on both occasions denied the coveted title by the same foe – Nkana FC.

In pursuant of other domestic honours with Wanderers (1980-1992, Chabala won the BP Top 8 Cup twice in 1984 and 1986 but would fuel controversy when, in the 1992 final, with Wanderers seemingly headed for success, leading comfortably 2-0 at the interval, allowed the Kitwe giants to crawl back and eventually turn the tables and run away 3-2 winners through fellow Gabon Air Disaster victim Kelvin Mutale’ brace and skipper Dennis Kabwe providing the other.

To hit the nail on the head, Chabala was accused of letting in preventable goals especially the two goals by Mutale. The charge that he was slapped with was that he was bought. He denied the charge.

The accusation was so serious from both the Wanderers’ faithful and team management that the legendary goalkeeper was briefly banned for both club and country duties as punishment for his ‘transgression’.

Whether Chabala actually betrayed his club colleagues or not, was not established for certain. His restoration at Wanderers and at national level followed swiftly.

Elsewhere, Chabala was in the Wanderers team that won the 1988 Mosi Cup, thrashing Roan United 3-0 at Independence Stadium. Two years earlier, Chabala’s Wanderers, lost by the same margin to bitter rivals Nkana at the same venue who were hugely-inspired by an in-form Beston Chambeshi who went on to win the 1988 national top-scorer award that year with 38 goals in all competitions..

Chabala’s most successful cup haul at Wanderers was in the Heroes and Unity Cup as well as the Champion of Champions Cup tournaments which he won three times each.

In the former showpiece, previously known as the Chibuku Cup, he was victorious in 1985, 1987 and 1988 while in latter championship, then sponsored by Colgate Palmolive, a Ndola based company, the celebrated goalkeeper emerged triumphant with Wanderers the trinity avenue in 1985, 1988 and 1992.

The only two domestic honours Chabala failed to win with his childhood club was, of course, the Premier League crown and the less prestigious Charity Shield.


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