TEXT BOOK GOALKEEPER
Birth and roots
Born on May 5, 1969 in Luanshya, a predominantly copper-mining town, Richard Mwanza started playing while at school where he was a net-minder from the word go.
Style of play
Unlike other goalkeepers who have courted showmanship between the posts playing for Zambia – the likes of Roan United’s Vincent Chileshe (the first goalkeeper to win the coveted national Footballer-of-the-Year award in 1977), Green Buffaloes’ and Power Dynamos’ Kenny Mwape, Red Arrows’ Johnston Katowando, not to mention David Efford Chabala (the first goalkeeper to win the national Sportsman-of-the-Year honour in 1984), and Kennedy Mweene of the 2012 African Cup of Nations (CAF) winning squad.
In sharp contrast with Richard Mwanza, his goalkeeping duties were characterized by true text book performance, never one to exaggerate in carrying out his duties. Simply put, Mwanza exemplified a true sportsman in keeping with goalkeeping tenets, the more reason why he was always a good friend of the referees and his assistants and match commissioner alike.
If he caught the ball, he would immediately start play by either hooking it up-field or throwing it to the nearest free player to start play.
Similarly, if his team, whether at club or national level were in the ascendancy, he would not employ delaying tactics but simply resume play. And he was not one to feign injury or any such time-wasting tactics awash with other goalkeepers before or after him.
In a way, Richie’s business-like goalkeeping style of play brought about similarities with Emmanuel Mwape (Roan United and Rhokana United), Mufulira Wanderers’ Abraham Nkole, Nchanga Rangers’ bulky figure John “Golden Fingers” Kaunda and Red Arrows’ Ghost Mulenga among others.
Elsewhere, Mwanza’s style of net-minding could also be bear comparisons with former Arsenal and England goalie David Seaman and former Juventus’ and Italy legend Dino Zoff of the 1982 Spain World Cup victorious Azzurris’ squad.
What a text-book shot-stopper Mwanza was!
Mwanza launched his big-time club career with Ndola side, Vitafoam United in 1978, in the reserve team.
At the start of the 1979 season, Mwanza was elevated to the senior team and played a crucial role in the team gunning for promotion to the first Division, Zambia’s top-flight tier then.
In Mwanza’s first top-flight experience in 1980, his Vitafoam young side did remarkably well to finish 8th in the expanded 18-team team log while fellow Ndola town-mates, Strike Rovers, who were playing in the top-flight for the first time that term, escaped by the skin of their teeth by finishing two places above the drop zone in 16th place. Mwanza was only 21 at the time.
What was even more soothing for the young Vitafoam side is that Mwanza and company finished above four of the biggest teams in domestic club football.
Nkana Red Devils, as Nkana Football Club were called at the time, finished in 11th place with 34 points. In 12th and 13th places, came Roan United and big brother and town-mates Ndola United, respectively.
The following season Mwanza and his Young Turks finished a place lower than the season before, collecting 43 points in 34 matches – a break-even statistic.
Again, like in 1980, the Abram Mokola-bankrolled squad finished ahead of their town colleague, Ndola United, who completed the season right below them on 33 points.
To put that episode behind them, Mwanza and his ever-ambitious colleagues had other ideas up their sleeves as they stubbornly went all the way to collect one piece of silverware in the 1981 campaign. They were crowned 1981 Independence Cup (Mosi Cup) champions against all odds to send a cold chill down the spines of all teams in the country – big or small.
In what turned out to be an all-Ndola town-mates’ Independence Cup final, United beat Rovers 2-1 in a match played at Dag Hammarskjold Stadium in Ndola.
Both the victors’ goals were scored by Man-of-the-Match Kim Musonda who scored in each half while Isaac Khondowe replied for the runners-up late in the second half.
With Richard Mwanza between the posts at only 22, aside veteran Adrian Chota (aged 30), all the 10 others for the Moses Kabaila-coached team averaged 18-20 years. In essence, this Kabaila-shepherded Vitafoam team is the youngest ever in Zambian football to have ever won any domestic trophy since the inception of league football in the country.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW