Bwalya: “I would like to take Zambia back to where it should be”
A legend of the African game in the 80s and 90s, Kalusha Bwalya is President of the Football Association of Zambia and travelled to Zurich in that capacity to meet FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on 19 September. Although a star performer with a number of European clubs, Bwalya never graced the FIFA World Cup™ finals with his country, and his main objective as Zambia’s new footballing chief is to help the Chipolopolo reach the big stage for the first time in their history. After his meeting with the FIFA President, he was kind enough to grant FIFA magazine an interview.
Kalusha Bwalya, can you tell us why you have come to visit FIFA?
Kalusha Bwalya: ! have been a member of FIFA’s Technical and Development Committee since 2004 and that’s the main reason why I’ve come to visit FIFA today. I have taken the opportunity to meet with President Blatter because first and foremost I am the President of the Zambian Football Association, a post I have held for six months now. This is the first time since I became President that I have made an official visit to the governing body of world football.
As the head of the Zambian FA what is your goal?
Bwalya: I would like to take Zambia back to where it should be. In the mid-90s Zambia was the highest-placed African side in the FIFA rankings, but if you ask people to name the best five sides on the continent today, we wouldn’t get a mention.
What needs to be done to help Zambian football develop? Bwalya: We need to be working hand in hand with the decision-makers, whether it’s government or big business. We are more determined than ever to put Zambian football back on the map, but everything starts on the pitch. We have to make sure that our teams qualify for major events so we can get some experience. We don’t have any teams in the (CAF) Champions League this season or in the Confederation Cup, and it’s been a while since any of the youth teams took part in a global tournament. We need to change all that.
What would qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ mean to you?
Bwalya: The 2010 FIFA World Cup™ is the ultimate challenge, a dream for every Zambian. In Herve Renard we have a very good coach, plus we have a strong core of players who have been together for four years now. Some of them are doing well in Europe, like the Katongo brothers Christopher at German club Arminia Bielefeld and Felix at French club Rennes] and Rainford Kalaba in Portugal, for example.
Do you think you can qualify?
Bwalya: Our chances of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the first time are entirely in our own hands. I played in qualification competitions during my career and I would give all my experience to help us get there now. I can tell you that we at the Zambian FA are 200 per cent committed to achieving that goal and I am sure the players are too.