Chabala burst onto the international scene way back in 1983 when he took over from Red Arrows; Ghost Mulenga who sadly passed on that year after suffering from a bout of malaria.
Since then, the man who endeared himself overly to the Zambian football family, kept his place for country with such command that only the Gabon Air Disaster would prevent him from extending his unrivalled longevity and reign between the national team sticks.
The man they nicknamed Fitumba is on record as the longest-serving Zambi goalkeeper ever, having stood between the sticks for country for a decade – virtually consigning his No.2 Richard Mwanza to the bench for that long – serve for the period when Chabala was suspended owing to the 1992 BP Top 8 Cup final already referred to.
Elsewhere, Chabala had been to three AFCON finals in 1986, 1990 and 1992 and was destined to make it fourth in 1994 but for the horrific Gabon plane crash that claimed 17 of his colleagues and two coaches and 10 others aboard the ZAF Buffalo plane.
Chabala’s highest honour at the three AfCON outings was of course minting bronze during the 1990 Algeria-held championship when Zambia beat Senegal 1-0 with a Webster Chikabala lone goal in the third play-off at Algiers’ Stade 5 Julillet 1962 on March 5, 1990. Chikabala would also be named in the CAF Best Team of the Tournament alongside team-mate Samuel Chomba.
The other honour Chabala was associated with is that he was part of the historic 1988 Seoul Olympics Zambia team that was eliminated in the quarter-finals after having earlier demolished Italy 4-0 in the group stage.
When all is said and done, David Efford Chabala’s place in Zambian Hall of Fame is a certainty and his name will forever be written in gold letters because he belongs to the supremely great, the likes of Godfrey Chitalu, Bernard “Bomber” Chanda, Kalusha Bwalya, Emmanuel “Mannix” Mwape, Boniface “Chitapochimo” Simutowe, Ackim Musenge, Dick Chama, Dickson Makwaza, Edwin Mbaso and Kelvin “Malaza” Mutale among a select band.
Chabala’s stature is so huge that of the succeeding goalkeepers for Zambia after his death, no one – repeat, no one – has managed to fit the oversized football shoes.
First, he is the most featured goalkeeper for Zambia with 108 caps (1983-1993).
Second, Chabala is on record as the second goalkeeper to have ever won the Sportsman-of-the-year award after Emmanuel Mwape’s honour in 1974.
Third, Chabala is also on record as the only shot-stopper to have ever saved three penalties for Zambia in any post-match shoot-out at a tournament – regional or continental. He saved three penalty shots during the 1984 CECAFA tournament against Malawi to help his country win its first major championship title since being affiliated to FIFA in 1964 although of course the feat would be dwarfed by the Christopher Katongo –captained 2012 AfCON winning team.
Fourth, Chabala like his predecessor Abraham Nkole, is a striker-turned-goalkeeper – the best of both worlds so to say. One of his most memorable match, playing as a top-man for Wanderers’ was the 1988 quarter-final match against Second Division side Zanaco Fc at Lusaka’s Queens Mead Stadium, when, with Wanderers down 3-2, he stepped up to thunder in a free-kick from some 30 yards to beat a bewildered Evans Mukotoka to restore parity (3-3). Sadly, wanderers would concede a late goal to lose 4-3 as Chris Sichone (late) honed in.
Chabala married the Mpika-born Joyce in 1981 and together they had five children – a girl and four boys.
The first-born, Trasida, is now 35, a nurse working at Mufulira’s Ronald Ross Hospital, is a proud mother of four.
The quartet boys, in order of birth, are Efford (2nd), Freeman (3rd), Kingsley (4th) and David Chabala Jr. (5th). Uniquely, all four boys are university graduates.
The Chabala family: 25 years after the Gabon Air Disaster
Twenty-five years after the Gabon Air Disaster, Chabala is outlived by two wives named Joyce and Petronella Mwamba Mulenga.
With Joyce, he had five children – all well-educated, alive and kicking.
Trasida, the first-born child, 10 at the time of the plane crash, is a nurse by training. She is married and a proud mother of four. Efford Jr is an Electrical Electronics engineer graduate while Freeman, another university graduate, is a medical doctor at Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital.
Over and above in a like father-like son fashion, Freeman is the only one who has followed in the giant footsteps of his father by playing football at the highest level. He once played for Premier League side Nkwazi between 2005 and 2008 – not as a goalkeeper, but as a midfielder.
Kingsley is an Electrical Mechanic and Engineering graduate.
With his second wife Petronella Mwamba-Mulenga, Chabala fathered a son fondly named Kalasa David Efford Chabala.