- Capital: Lusaka
- Official Languages: English
- Nicknames: Chipolopolo (The Copper Bullets), Copper Queens
- Association: Football Association of Zambia (FAZ)
- FIFA Code: ZAM
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Men): WINNERS (2012)
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Women): Quarter Finals (1995)
- Best CECAFA Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1984, 1991)
- Best COSAFA Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1997, 1998, 2006, 2013, 2019)
- Best COSAFA Cup Result (Women): Finalists (2019)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 15th (February-May 1996, August 1996)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 92nd (December 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 102nd (February 2011)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 126th (March 2012)
- Most Capped Player: Kennedy Mweene – 121 caps [as of Mar 2021]
- Top Scorer: Godfrey Chitalu – 79 goals
The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country situated in the southern part of the African continent and is bordered by seven countries (in a clockwise direction); DR Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola. Originally known as Northern Rhodesia when it was part of the British Empire, its football association was established in 1929 and then became a FIFA member in 1964 when the country also gained its independence from Britain.
Although they have yet to qualify for a World Cup, Zambia have been far more successful in the African Cup of Nations throughout its history. Appearing in their first ever AFCON in 1974, the Chipolopolo reached the final where they faced Zaire and needed a replay after a 2-2 draw, before Zaire subsequently won the second game 2-0. They would have a strong period in the 1990s when they achieved two third placed finishes (1990 and 1996) and reached the final of the 1994 AFCON, but lost 1-2 to Nigeria although the fact they reached the final was a story in itself. The 1990s also saw the biggest tragedy in Zambian and African football when the whole Zambian national team was killed in an air crash off the coast of Gabon as they were travelling to Senegal for a 1994 World Cup qualifier. Following such a heartbreaking event, the fact that the Zambian side reached the 1994 final was an incredible achievement for a country who had been devastated by the loss of a superb generation of players.
It would be in Gabon nearly 20 years after the air crash where Zambia would achieve its greatest ever result in its history. Under the emotional backdrop of its history, the Copper Bullets managed to get to the final of the tournament, beating Sudan and Ghana in the knockout stages, to face the favourites Côte d’Ivoire. After a tense 120 minutes, and a long penalty shootout, they eventually became African champions by winning the shootout 8-7, with four of its team being named in the tournament XI.
Alas since their 2012 victory, Zambia failed to progress beyond the group stage in 2013 and 2015, and even failed to qualify for the 2017 and 2019 AFCONs. They have also recently failed to qualify for the 2021/22 edition having finished third in their group and just one point behind Zimbabwe in second position. Their situation being confirmed with a game to go, although they frustratingly ended their campaign with a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe in a performance of ‘what could have been’. However the future is looking bright for Zambian football, with a number of its young players playing very well in the European leagues, such as Patson Daka (who scored both goals against Zimbabwe), Enock Mwepu and Fashion Sakala, it could be that the Chipolopolo may become one of the stronger teams in African football once again, and potentially qualify for a future World Cup…
Talking about a side who were finally crowned as African champions under the emotional backdrop of history in 2012, and look to have an exciting future after a short spell of poor results and performances, we interviewed the excellent Zambian Soccer Updates. They are a reliable account who reports on all things involving Zambian football, whether it is domestically and its national leagues, abroad via its players playing overseas, or on its national teams. To find their social media accounts and YouTube account, follow the links below:
Adding their opinions to the Zambian national teams, and focusing mainly on the Copper Queens, is the excellent Zambia WNT – Copper Queens Twitter account. They are a fan account which reports on all news involving the Zambian women’s national team and its players who either play in the domestic or foreign leagues. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @Copper_Queens
Key: ZSU = Zambian Soccer Updates; CQ = Copper Queens
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
ZSU: The best player and manager Zambia has ever produced I would say is Godfrey Ucar Chitalu. His playing career with the Zambian national team saw Chitalu score a record 79 goals in 111 international matches and currently puts him on the top 5 all time international goalscorers, with the ‘Goal King‘ being named Zambian player of the year 5 times during his playing career. In 1972, Chitalu scored a record 107 goals in a single calendar year although FIFA has not yet recognised his achievement.
His managerial career didn’t last long with the national team, the country was on the verge of qualifying to their first ever World Cup in 1994, unfortunately tragedy happened when the plane carrying players and officials crashed in Gabon in 1993 killing all the members onboard including Godfrey Chitalu.
I think that’s why I consider him the best player and manager we have ever produced.
CQ: Male player: Kalusha Bwalya; Female player: Barbra Banda
The reason for choosing Kalusha is because of what he managed to achieve and what he did on the pitch, whilst Barbra [forward playing for Chinese side Shanghai Shengli] maybe only be 21 years-old but she has a legacy that’s unmatched.
Manager: Hervé Renard, as he won Zambia the AFCON in 2012, the only title so far.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
CQ: This is tough, Kalusha Bwalya for his commitment even after the Gabon disaster, Chris Katongo for his leadership and captaining Zambia to win an AFCON title.
From the current squad, it’s easily Patson Daka.
ZSU: No other than Kalusha ‘King Kalu‘ Bwalya. I feel he is regarded as the hero because of his great playing skills and free kick skills in crucial matches with the national team. In 1988 during the Seoul Olympics, he scored a famous hat-trick as Zambia made worldwide headlines after defeating a strong Italy 4-0 in their Group B match. Later that year he was named the African player of the year. His contributions to the national team continued as he was heavily involved in the rebuilding of the new national team following the 1993 tragedy.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Zambia national side currently?
ZSU: Currently the best player is Patson Daka [23 year-old forward at Red Bull Salzburg], his contributions to the team is well appreciated by all football lovers in Zambia.
CQ: Enock Mwepu [23 year-old midfielder currently at Red Bull Salzburg also] is the most talented of the bunch.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
CQ: The men’s side is shambolic, pathetic, and beyond unacceptable for a country like Zambia. However the women’s NT is currently very good.
ZSU: The team has been in an up and down kind of performance since the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations victory, failed to qualify to the tournament 2 times, but with the new generation coming up the likes of Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu, Kings Kangwa, Fashion Sakala, etc, there is hope for another AFCON title.
Q. Are there any Zambian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
ZSU: There are a good number of exciting young talented players in Zambia, at the moment I think you should keep an eye on the likes of Enock Sakala Jr [19 year-old striker currently at ZESCO United], Abraham Siankombo [23 year-old forward playing at Zanaco FC], Derrick Bulaya [18 year-old striker at FC Lusaka Dynamos], and Prince Mumba [20 year-old right-winger currently at Kabwe Warriors] who are really doing great with their clubs.
CQ: At the moment, a male player to watch out for would be youngster Joseph ‘Sabobo’ Banda [an attacker currently with the Barca Academy in Lusaka], whilst the female player would be Evarine Susan Katongo [attacking midfielder currently playing at Luyando Foundation].
Q. Looking at Zambia’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
CQ: For the men’s NT, it was certainly winning AFCON in 2012, whilst for the women it is edging Cameroon last year to qualify to the upcoming Olympics [beating Cameroon on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate scoreline over two legs].
ZSU: The best performance for the Zambian national team will always be during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations when the ‘underdog’ team went all the way to lift the title, beating Ghana in the semifinals and the tournaments favourites Ivory Coast in the final which had the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya & Kolo Toure, Cheick Tiote (RIP), Wilfried Bony and so many quality players.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
ZSU: The lowest point for the team is the lack of qualifying to major tournaments, like the World Cup, since 2015, something which the fans haven’t taken lightly.
CQ: Failing to qualify for the AFCON three times in a row (2017, 2019, 2021).
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Zambian national team?
CQ: The best is the pride that comes with them winning a game and the happiness is unmatched, Like February 2012, the AFCON triumph was amazing, March 2017 and the U-20 AFCON triumph, and March 2020 when the Copper Queens qualified to the first Olympics.
ZSU: The best thing about being a fan of the national team is the excitement and pride of putting on a national team kit and going to the stadium to support the team, being able to unite with fans of different clubs.
The worst part is the fact that most national team games are not played on a weekly basis, this makes fans wait for months for them to be able to watch their team play again.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
ZSU: Yes, there are a lot of songs dedicated to the national team that fans usually listen to before, during and after the matches. These songs are also played on radio stations across the country especially during match day.
CQ: Yes, “Iyee Chipolopolo“.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
CQ: The 2012 jersey – it’s special not only was it nice but it also reminds us of winning the AFCON.
ZSU: The iconic shirt is the 2012 Nike green kit Zambia used in the final when they defeated Ivory Coast to win the Africa Cup of Nations. Great memories that will live forever.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Zambian national team?
ZSU: Everyone’s hope in Zambia right now is to see the team qualify to the World Cup for the first time, with the current squad we have at the moment, the target is to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
CQ: I hope that we can quickly reorganize and get back qualifying for AFCON, the pain of missing on three occasions is too much.
A massive thank you very much to the superb Zambian Soccer Updates and Copper Queens accounts for answering our questions on the Chipolopolo. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.