IMPROVISED, EXCELLENT LEFT-BACK
Birth and roots
The improvised Zambia left-back was another of the eight footballers out of the 18 Gabon plane crash victims who was born in the mining town of Kitwe.
Changwe was born on October 19, 1964, five days before Zambia attained political independence from its British colonial masters on October 24, 1964.
Style of play
Changwe, who had a pretty successful playing career at Kabwe Warriors, was what may be described as a square peg in a round hole for he was a natural right-footer, but owing to a dearth of natural left-backs at both club and national level, he was converted to the left side of the flat four of the defence and proved to be one of the most successful conversions in Zambian football, falling in the same bracket as Ackim Musenge (from midfielder at Butondo Western Tigers to become a central defender at nine-time top-flight champions Mufulira Wanderers, to arguably become the best central defender Zambian football has ever produced).
Other cases of transformation from their natural positions to something else, involved Ashoius Melu who was an out-and-out forward at Konkola Blades but was switched to central defender at Mufulira Wanderers by head-coach Samuel Ndhlovu to become one of the best defenders of his era and ranks among a few classic examples of high-profile conversions in Zambian football at the highest level.
A hard tackler and man-to-man marker of the highest quality, Changwe was of the overlapping breed of defenders and loved to go forward when the occasion presented itself.
Almost impossible to dispossess, despite being a defender, he had one of the surest timely crosses in the game.
Like former Wanderers’ forward-turned defender Melu, Changwe was lethal and a frequent goal-scorer from free-kick situations, let alone, impeccable from the penalty-spot where, with the goalkeeper expecting him to use his left foot, he would convert with aplomb and precision with his cultured right foot – usually sending the goalie in the opposite direction or would leave him deeply-rooted to the ground as the ball thundered against the net.
While at Kabwe Warriors, Changwe won 11 honours as a player, making him one of the most successful players of the five-time top-flight league winners – alongside Boniface Simutowe, Sandy Kaposa, Gibby Zulu and Edward Musonda – all five who won 16 honours each between 1968 and 1973.
Changwe was part of the glorious Warriors team of 1987 who won the Premier League title, edging out second-placed Power Dynamos by a single point (34-33) in the 2-points-for-a-win awarding system then in the 14-log Premier League which saw Zesco United finish as tail-enders with 13 points – winning only four matches and drawing 5 and losing a whole world of 17 from 26 that term.
In marked contrast, Changwe’s Warriors, from as many matches, won 13 (the most that season by any team), drew 8 and lost 4, scored 46 goals (averaging 2 per match) and conceded 31.
In that treble-winning season of 1987, Changwe also picked two more winners’ medals – one in the Independence Cup and the other coming in the Champion of Champions Cup.
In emerging victorious in the Independence Cup, as the Mosi Cup was called then, Changwe’s Warriors beat Power Dynamos 3-2 with Maxon Mugala and Linos Chisanga among the scorers.
And in the Heroes and Unity Cup, formerly called the Chibuku Cup that same year, Changwe played a key role in his team’s 2-1 defeat of Nkana Red devils with the pocket of magic Noel Chama and Matthews Njovu sharing the spoils in a final in which the losing-finalists defender Mordon Malitoli was banished from the field for ungentlemanly play and behaviour. T
Earlier, Changwe’s Warriors had ejected Nkana out of the 1878 Mosi Cup in the semi-final through a 3-1 thrashing in October before nailing Power to the cross in the November-held final.
Changwe’s other honours with Warriors came in the season opener, the Charity Shield – twice when his team beat Mutondo Stars 2-1 in 1988 and went on to thrash Dynamos 3-0 in the final at City of Lusaka’s Woodlands Stadium.
Changwe scored the third and winning goal with Maybin M’gaiwa and Timothy Mwitwa netting the first and second goals in that order.
And by scoring in the 1992 Charity Shield final, Changwe set an individual feat and record as the only Warriors’ defender to have ever scored in his team’s 7 overall wins since 1969.
Of the twelve different players to have scored Warriors’ 15 goals as winners of the season-opener aside Changwe – a defender – the rest have been either midfielders or forwards or strikers or wingers.
The group of 11 of non-defenders’ breed to have ever scored in Warriors’ 7 Charity shield wins in between 1969 to 1992 (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1987 and 1992), are forwards Freddie Ngulube, Sandy Kaposa, Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu, Maybin “Sharp Razor” M’gaiwa, Matthews Njovu and Christopher Kunda.
The others are midfielder/wingers Boniface “Chitapochimo” Simutowe, wingers Liver Musonda, Noel Chama and Timothy “Tiger” Mwitwa and midfield-governor Sandford “Thunderbolt” Mvula.
Changwe also won the BP Challenge Cup and Champion of Champions Cup in 1989.
Come 1991, Changwe yet again, won another double of the BP Challenge Cup as well as the Champion of Champions Cup – in both cases – as a First Division team.
To put the icing on the cake, Changwe also won another double of the Charity Shield and the Heroes and Unity Cup in 1992.
Changwe will surely go down in history as one of several Zambian left-backs who was predominantly right-footed defenders (alongside Musenge, Kalambo and Aggrey Chiyangi) but who was converted to left-back due to a shortage of natural left-backs in the country to play at the highest level and made him even a more finished product in the flat-four of the Zambia team during Samuel Ndhlovu and Chitalu’s reigns between 1988 to April 1993.
During this time, Changwe made two AfCON appearances – at the 1990 Algeria finals and 1992 Senegal showpiece together with Warriors’ club-mates of goalkeeper Richard Mwanza, fellow defender Samuel Chomba and winger Mwitwa – all three who perished with him in the 1993 Gabon plane crash alongside 14 other players and two coaches – (Godfrey) Chitalu and his assistant Alex Chola, together with 10 others.
Elsewhere, Changwe was part and parcel of the Zambia teams to the 1991 and 1992 CECAFA tournaments held in Uganda and Tanzania respectively with his country emerging victorious in the former showpiece, beating Kenya 2-1 in the final.
In the latter tournament, Changwe and colleagues won bronze in the third play-off after thrashing Malawi 4-0.
And during the joint 1994 Tunisia AfCON and the USA World Cup qualifiers – Changwe was a permanent feature of the fabulous four of right-back John Soko, and twin central defenders Robert Watiyakeni and Eston Mulenga, appearing in each and every match. A Mr. Ever-present he proved to be, similar to what former Arsenal and England left-back Ken Sansom was at one time during his heyday with the Gunners and the so-called Three Lions in the 1980s.
In the 1994 AfCON qualifiers, with Zambia put in Group 5, Changwe played in all of his country’s four matches up until April 25, 1993.
He was the incumbent when Zambia beat Mauritius 2-1 in Lusaka on August 16, 1992 and would reclaim his place in the starting XI when Chitalu’s team narrowly beat South Africa 1-0 in their own backyard on August 30 that same year.
In the third match in the series against Zimbabwe in Lusaka in a surprise barren stalemate, Changwe was in the traditional back four of Soko and the twin central defence towers of Eston Mulenga and Robert Watiyakeni.
And in the fourth and ‘ultimately last match’ by a twist of fate for the ill-fated team, on April 25, 1993, in an away fixture against Mauritius, Changwe was the undisputed choice at left-back. Zambia won 3-0 with all three goals scored by the unstoppable scoring machine named Kelvin “Malaza” Mutale of Saudi Arabian side El-Ettigaq, a team he had been with for less than six months following his switch from Nkana FC earlier that year.