Secondary schools and welfare centres played a pivotal role in helping to identify, develop and nurture sports talent. In fact, many Zambian top athletes were groomed in schools and welfare centres.
For example, many players who came through these structures caught the attention of coaches who drafted them into national teams to represent the country in various competitions, including the All-Africa, Commonwealth and Olympic Games as well as some regional competitions.
The list of athletes who were trained by expatriate coaches is long and rich. It includes Benson Mulomba, Raymond Lweendo and Ambrose Miyanda (Neil Champion), Grace Munene, Jane Chikambwe, Charity Himabulo (John McLaughlin). Others are Beatrice Lungu (Nigel Cairns), Audrey Chikani, Jessie Chikoko (Peter Dann), Carol Mumbi (Sylvia Chesterman)and Jessyman Wishkoti (expatriate Zambia Army coach).
There were exceptions too, as some athletes such as Dave Lishebo, Charles Lupiya, Batwell Tembo, Dick Kunda, Violet Mulobeka, Amon Nyaundi, Janet Lubwika, Beauty Banda, Thelma Finchman and Imasiku Sitali who became national champions were coached by Samson Mubangalala, a local trainer.
In badminton, Sean Gallagher, a sportsmaster and geography teacher at Ibenga Girls Secondary School near Luanshya on the Copperbelt helped develop local talent by organising tours to then West Germany, Denmark and England for badminton teams.
Some names of great badminton players such as Christine Nyahoda, Theresa Koloko, Naomi Shamatutu, Louisa Mukangwa, Anne Machupa, Angela Chilando, Annette Nkamba, Olga Mundonga, Maggie Chinyama, Mary Mukangwa and Angela Chilando came from Ibenga.
In fact, for Christine Nyahoda she was voted Zambia’s sportswoman of the year in 1977 in an award sponsored by Rothmans of Pall Mall Zambia Limited.
During this period, Louisa Mukangwa won the Copperbelt Open, Copperbelt Closed (twice), the Midlands Open and Zambia women’s singles.
In the doubles’ competitions, Mukangwa and her partner Annette Nkamba won the Zambia Closed, Copperbelt Open and the Copperbelt Closed titles. Mukangwa attributed the success to Gallagher, describing him as a driving force behind all the success.
Zambia’s boxing journey started immediately after the country’s independence in 1964, when the European Amateur Boxing and theAfrican Amateur Boxing Associations unified to form the Amateur Boxing Association of Zambia, now the Zambia Boxing Federation.
When amateur boxing was thriving in Zambia on the Copperbelt and the Midlands, weekly tournaments from club invitations and monthly tournaments, provincial zones and inter-provincial tournaments were a common feature.
The welfare centres under the mining companies and municipalities were the venues for boxing tournaments where Zambia’s professional boxers were groomed.
The professional boxers went on to represent Zambia in various competitions in the All-Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games, including regional championships.
In the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth in New Zealand, boxing legend Lottie Mwale fighting as a light-middleweight became the first Zambian sportsman to win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.
Ten years later in the United States of America, Zambia won a bronze medal through Keith ‘Spinks’ Mwila of Green Buffaloes ABC, making it the first medal won by Zambia in the Olympics.
Former Zambia Boxing Federation (ZBF) President Dr Kennedy Mubita, attributed the fall of boxing to the collapse of the mining industry, because during that time sponsorship was readily available.
“We had community halls where we used to train from and transportation to other divisions over the weekends,” he said.
An experienced sports administrator, Dr Mubita started his boxing at Nchanga Amateur Boxing Club (ABC) in Chingola on theCopperbelt.
He had his first fight in 1967 before moving to Lusaka in 1970 where he joined Nkwazi ABC in Sikanze Camp.
It was at Sikanze where he lost to Winfred Kabunda. Among his trainers was Bornwell Mombelela.
Dr Mubita said the chairman of ABAZ during that time was Jack Pace. “Unfortunately, in 1975, I had to bid farewell to boxing because I was selected to Hillcrest Secondary School,” he said.
Most football stars were groomed in schools. In 1966, Howard Mwikuta of Broken Hills Warriors (now Kabwe Warriors), Emment Kapengwe (Kitwe United) and Freddie Mwila (Rokana United) were signed to playin America for Atlanta Chiefs. Later Mwila and Kapengwe joined Aston Villa in the United Kingdom.
Earlier in 1963, Ken Banda and Ginger Pensulo of Roan United were Zambia’s first soccer exports to Leeds FC in United Kingdom where they attended trials for one month in English League.
In 1966, Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu of Mufulira Wanderers was attached to Blackpool in the United Kingdom for three months.
In 1974, when Mufulira Wanderers won the Castle Cup, the team had players such as schoolboy international Robertson Zulu.
Former President Kenneth Kaunda presented the Castle Cup to Mufulira Wanderers captain Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu. Mufulira Wanderers beat Rokana United 2 - 1 in Ndola.
In his speech, the President declared that from 1975 the Castle Cup would be called Independence Cup and Chibuku Cup was renamed Heroes and Unity Cup.
Main photo: Athlete Musonda Ngwira