The incessant, rhythmic African drumbeat seemed to give Power Dynamos more impetus as they pushed forward against a foe as deadly as any in Zambian football. This was it – the final battle for the ultimate prize in Zambian football – the first division title. In their path stood a Mufulira Wanderers team brimming with talent and with a penchant for scoring late goals.
Both teams could easily have put out a starting eleven that would beat most national teams in the region without batting an eyelid. With Alex Chola, recently back from Cote d’Ivoire, pulling the strings of the most expensively assembled team in the country and backed by the ever-industrious Wisdom Chansa, chasing down every ball and redistributing it into wide areas before moving into an attacking role, this team meant business.
But they were facing an opponent ranked the most popular team in the land, with their own eye on the title. Among their number they included Kalusha Bwalya, the football genius who had taken Zambian football by storm with his breathtaking dribbling skills. On the opposite flank was the blazing fire power provided by Philemon ‘Shombo’ Mulala, whose form had catapulted him from a full-back role to recognition as the sharpest right-winger in the league and into the senior national team. Behind them, Frederick Kashimoto, a survivor of the 1980 Olympic Games football tournament in Russia, determined not to cede control in the middle of the park, knowing that it was here that the match would be won or lost, and fates sealed after 90 minutes.
By the end of a night of end-to-end football, the outcome eventually tilted in Power Dynamos’ favour after an avalanche of goals, despite Wanderers’ spirited resistance and attempt at a fight back. The 4-1 win and rapturous support from the terraces under the glare of the Arthur Davies stadium floodlights, gave the home team its first-ever league title and crowned the decade-long perseverance of Arthur Walter Davies. He had taken the team from a rag-tag collection of amateurs to the summit of Zambian football in an almost-unbelievable journey of trail-blazing glory.
Yet, even before the first league title had been secured, the Independence Cup of 1979 was Power Dynamos’ taste of top flight success. They faced a Green Buffaloes side that had dominated Zambian league football, winning the league title three seasons in a row in 1977, 1978 and 1979. It was at this match that the famous ‘Baby born with Teeth’ banner had been unfurled and caught the public’s attention. Power Dynamos’ 4-2 win against the much-vaunted Army side was to be the opening gambit for further glory to come. The team was received by rapturous crowds when they got back to their Ndeke base.
The feat was repeated a season later in 1980 when they retained their Independence Cup crown. In a sign that the balance of power was shifting in the domestic game, Green Buffaloes’ dominance was again challenged in the second Independence Cup final in a row when they suffered a 2-0 loss to their nemesis, a Power Dynamos team rampaging across the land, upsetting the historical form book in the process. The year included victory in the 1980 Champions of Champions Cup via a 3-0 win over Mufulira Wanderers.
The team was on the up. The mix of players included Blackwell Chalwe, Edwin Kanyanta, Abel Mwelesho and Francis Mutembo from the lower ranks. In had come Bizwell Phiri, Alex Chola, Kenny Mwape and a young Peter Kaumba to bring panache to a team bristling with confidence.
Arthur Davies had loosened the purse strings and set off on a buying spree to strengthen an already fast-achieving team.
What was noticeable with time was that Power Dynamos’ cup successes tended to be clustered around their league title wins. When they won their first title in 1984, they followed it up with victory in the 1984 Champions of Champions Cup with a 2-0 victory over Mufulira Wanderers, adding insult to injury after having beaten them earlier in the season to win the league.
Though the league title eluded them in 1990, their success in winning three cup competitions in a single season, with the Independence Cup, the BP Cup and Champions of Champions trophy in the bag, brought an unprecedented year of glorious wins. Their second league title win in 1991, was further heightened by their historic lifting of the Africa Cup Winners Cup.
Winning Zambia’s first-ever continental title would see the end of an era at Power Dynamos with the players who had won the first league title either already retired or having left. Peter Kaumba had been the victim of a reckless challenge in 1984 even before the title was sealed. Alex Chola was also the victim of a similar incident in the 1985 Champions of Champions Cup final that ended his brief return from semi-retirement. He had dazzled well into his thirties, showing that class was permanent. The same year, he had been recalled to the national team to take them through to the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations Cup. He had produced two scintillating displays that rolled back the years as Zambia battled against Nigeria’s Green Eagles to win by a 1-0 aggregate score over two legs. Wisdom Chansa left at the end of 1992 to join Dynamos in South Africa where he took the club, alongside Robert Watiyakeni and Samuel Chomba, to an unprecedented second on the league table before their lives were sadly lost in the Gabon air crash.
The new-look Power Dynamos team continued in the tradition they had inherited. In 1994 they took their third league title having rebuilt the side over two seasons. Three years later they were again crowned Champions in 1997 and included the former Independence Cup, now called the Mosi Cup in their haul for the season. The team continued with its reputation for keeping possession, quick passing of the ball and much movement. Gibson Shikilwa, Kellys Mwaba and Mike Kaira provided the goalscoring prowess. Behind them, Linos Makwaza, now approaching veteran status, was driving the team from a deeper role. At the back, Zifa Nkoma took no prisoners.
This trend would continue over the years with an eventual bounty of six Independence/Mosi Cup victories, four Champions of Champions Cups, two BP Cup trophies and six Charity Shield titles. These were clustered mainly around further league successes in 2000 and belatedly in 2011 after the club’s decade-long drought without a league title. This domestic haul has seen the club equal, and even overtake rivals that have existed twice as long, allowing Power Dynamos to nail its colours in the Zambian football history mast.
Today, almost four decades after the 1984 league title was won, the drums continue to beat behind the northern goalpost with the same intensity they did then. Football giants once ran out of the tunnel onto the lush green surface in the manner favoured by rugby teams today. That sight alone brought thousands to their feet in joyous anticipation. The new generation of players that don the yellow shirt today have plenty to live up to if they are to make us dream again.
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By Ponga Liwewe, Times of Zambia, Friday, 11 June 2021