Gambian FA President Kalusha Bwalya believes Godfrey Chitalu’s goals should be respected regardless of any Lionel Messi comparisons.
The story of Chitalu has been given a lot of attention within the Spanish Press since Barcelona forward Messi broke German legend Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year, with many claiming that in fact the record holder was Chitalu, who allegedly scored 107 goals in 1972.
The quality of football - and record keeping - in Zambia, have both been treated with scepticism since the story came to light.
Bwalya, a former PSV winger, is the Zambian national side’s second top scorer behind Chitalu. He was part of the team when it was coached by Chitalu in the early nineties, but was not on the plane that crashed en route to a World Cup qualifier in 1993, killing Chitalu and 17 players. Bwalya himself would later go on to Coach the Chipolopolo, and has served as President of the Zambian FA since 2008, overseeing their Africa Cup of Nations win earlier this year.
“Chitalu was a striker, he played on the left and the right, or behind the strikers, but always scored a lot of goals,” Bwalya explained in an interview with AS.
“As a kid I remember my father’s favourite was Chitalu. He was very strong and very fast, a little faster than Cristiano Ronaldo in my opinion. He had the ability to control the ball in midfield and run at the opposition goal with pace.”
The 49-year-old concedes that the standard is lower in Africa, but does not think his compatriot’s deeds should be played down.
“It is difficult to compare. One played in Europe and one in Africa. But the truth is that Chitalu scored 107 goals. I respect all players and all goals in the world. The merit of people is the same. You cannot compare eras, but you must have respect for the goals of Chitalu in Zambia. We do not want to contend with anyone, not with Messi, that does not interest us.
“Chitalu was a Coach and an idol. To work with him was amazing and an honour.”