The Kalaba Vote Snub: A Journalist’s Critical Perspective

kalaba-mazembe1With the dust yet to settle over how Chipolopolo skipper Rainford Kalaba missed out on the CAF African Footballer of the Year based in Africa, seasoned sports journalist Augustine Mukoka has weighed in strongly on why the TP Mazembe star’s missing out on the prize amounts to day light robbery. Mukoka reckons voting for Kalaba on the back of a meritorious show in TP Mazembe colours counted for more than vouching for a fellow countryman.

Below is what veteran scribe wrote:


Rainford ‘Master’ Kalaba’s failure to win the African Footballer of the Year award for players based in Africa has dominated football discourse the last three days or so.

What has even fuelled this debate is the revelation that Zambia’s golden son Kalusha Bwalya denied his Mufulira native the vote.

Kalusha, according to the voting pattern availed by CAF, favoured Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat who he apportioned 5 votes. His second choice was the eventual AFOYBA award winner Uganda and Sundowns goalie Dennis Onyango who was allocated 4 votes while Kalaba was recipient of three votes.

As a soccer fan who has trooped to various stadia for local and international fixtures from a very tender age, I was without question rooting for Kalaba. But as a sports scribe, I had to go a little further to arrive at that decision.

I delved into the performance of all three finalists during the period under review and was self-assured Kalaba was to become only the third Zambian after Kalusha and Clifford Mulenga to win a continental honour. Boy, was I not disappointed?

On both fronts, I still believe Kalaba was robbed.

And here is why.

The AFOYBA award was introduced in 2012 when Zambia won her maiden Nations Cup title. In that year TP Mazembe also reached the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League.

Two Zambians, Kalaba and defender Stophilla Sunzu, made the final shortlist but the eventual winner was Mohammed Aboutrika. Aboutrika helped Al Ahly win their seventh CAF Champions League title that year and accounted for six goals in the campaign.

Aboutrika was also one of the three overage players that represented Egypt at the London 2012 Olympics. He was on target for Egypt at the Olympics in their 3-2 defeat to Brazil.

At the senior national team level, the Pharaohs were absent at the Nations Cup. They failed to qualify. He still emerged winner of the award ahead of two players who had guided their country to a first Nations Cup title and club to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

In 2013, Aboutrika again won the AFOYBA after guiding Al Ahly to their eighth CAF Champions League title.

Fast forward to 2015, the AFOYBA was awarded to Tanzania’s Mbwana Ally Samatta. His club mate DR Congo goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba and Algerian Baghdad Bounedjah on the cards of Etoile du Sahel were the other two finalists.

Of interest in the 2015 decision was how Samatta edged Kidiaba for the award. Both Kidiaba and Samatta had helped TP Mazembe reach the final of the Confederations Cup after being eliminated from the Champions League in the second round.

Kidiaba went a step further by helping the DR Congo reach the semi-finals of the 2015 Nations Cup where they lost to the then Herve Renard coached Ivory Coast.
It’s not in dispute Tanzania were not at the Nations Cup in 2015. Not sure if they have ever been.

On record, Kidiaba had a better season than Samatta at both club and country, but CAF thought it wise to award the latter with the 2015 AFOYBA award largely because of his individual contribution to TP Mazembe and Tanzania.

In 2016, Kalaba had an explosive season for Mazembe scoring 7 goals in the CAF Confederations Cup. He emerged top scorer.

Conversely, Billiat scored only three goals in the Champions League one behind Zesco United midfielder Jackson Mwanza and striker Jesse Were.

In fact, Zesco United’s Idriss Mbombo was third best scorer in the Champions League with 5 goals, four behind golden boot winner Mfon Udoh of Enyimba, Nigeria.

As for Onyango, he had a decent run with Uganda keeping a near clean sheet in the AfCon qualifiers. He conceded only two goals in six matches, yet he was not the best in the series. Egypt and Morocco goalkeepers were the overrall best performers conceding only a goal apiece.

Going by the criteria and individual performance of the 2016 AFYOBA finalists, Kalaba put up a decent performance to deserve the crown. The problem arises when we want Kalaba to compete against himself. He is not the Kalaba of 2012, but in a head-to-head face off with Billiat and Onyango during the 2016 season, he was still a better player than the other two finalists.

The argument that Zambia’s failure to qualify to the Africa Cup cost Kalaba is very weak and can’t hold based on how winners of this award are selected. Until I’m convinced Samatta won the 2015 AFYOBA award because Tanzania was better than DR Congo that year, or Aboutrika beat Kalaba and Sunzu that year because Egypt were better than Zambia in 2012, our man was robbed.

Given the chance to vote, I would have picked Kalaba not because he is a fellow Zambian but he demonstrated great leadership inspiring his club where he is vice captain to the Confederations Cup title which many teams fail to win when dropped from the ‘superior’ Champions League.

If in doubt about how tough the Confederations Cup is, ask Zesco United or any team that has dropped from the Champions League to chase this title.

That’s why Kalaba’s achievement can’t be downplayed. Voting for Kalaba was never going to be a favour given that he had as good, if not better, a season as would any prospective winner. I rest my case.


  1. Katete Kakoma

    So why did kalu do what he did?
    He wants to be the only Zambian of international repute.
    This is the man who whistle blowed on a Zambian over age player. Worse still, he discouraged our boys by saying another country will win the cup going into the tournament in Angola. What nationalist can do that?
    The man is not Zambian.
    By the way! He could have been bought. That I think is the main reason why he did what he did. He just goes where he smells the dollar.
    He has no morals or integrity.

  2. Bos bos

    Kalaba was playing a confed cup if he had won the caf champions League and still failed to qualify the chipolopolo to afcon definitely we was going to win.the exmples you have given all who won where playing in caf champions League but failed at national level no one played in confed.again no one has won it from confed(Europe)no one wins only champions League boss

  3. Kagwa

    Augustine Mukoka you call yourself a journalist but peddling false information. You say you wanted Kalaba to become the third Zambian after Kalusha and Clifford Mulenga to win a continental award. Chris Katongo won a continental award and you don’t know about it. You ignore the fact that Onyago was pivotal in Uganda’s qualifying for afcon and in Sundowns winning the more prestigious champions league not second tier confederation cup. Is it because he relegated your countryman mweene to the bench for the entire year?

  4. Kalaba Rainford Snr

    Ur Analysis Augustine Sums It All, My Son Was Surely Robbed But Let Him Remain Focussed En Aim High Coz Gods Time Is The Best, It Will Be Of No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk.

    • Legendary Northen Kicks

      You are right sir, let them that are selfish remain that way. Time will be wasted if people talk about this issue which is now history. Kalaba Rainford jr will still be my Hero!


    kalaba was eligible quito went off nw lets think is he goin to help us qualify to 2018 world cup?bsid de great kalu did nt dan gud thing.

  6. Cc

    Comment ifintu tafisa ngaameno yamukanwa. Kalu has already broken his silence on this very issue, he has advised Kalaba to forge ahead. I wonder why Mukoka chose to tell unbalanced story, instead of encouraging Kalaba.

  7. Triple M

    Kalu is a selfish man who do not want other people to be above him.He wants to make Kamanga’s job difficult by all means.

  8. CB

    I think Kalu weighed his options based several factors on the three players, apart from giving first priority to a fellow Zambian, he still gave more points to a Zimbabwean fellow Southern African. Zimbabwe will be representing Southern African so our support will shift to Uncle Bob.


    kagwa! Christopher katongo was not continental it was BBC award so mr mukoka is right don’t support kalusha blindly

    • Vizungu

      What is continental? katongo won the BBC African repeat AFRICAN footballer of the year. Is that National? Is that global? Nefishili fyakutalika.

    • Big Bigger Biggest

      Africa=Continent. Asia=Continent. Europe=Continent North America=Continent. Zambia=Country France=Country
      Africa footballer of the year=African continent’s footballer of the year. BBC or CAF

  10. kalusha galu

    Galu kalusha doesn’t want any zambian to compete with his legacy. Jealous bi*ch

  11. TJ

    “Kalijo” and unpatrotic kalusha

  12. Malama Musumbulwa

    Question? Had Kalusha given his maximum votes to Rainford,would the outcome have been different?

  13. Tito

    Ala mwabantu don’t eve waste your precious time to discuss such matters Ala kalusha bwalya na edgar lungu fisoso

  14. more fire

    PHD mentality

  15. IGWE

    Great Galu


    Thats a great analysis ,i suggest this be a platform and basis for FAZ to petition CAF to have a clear formatt for selecting a “wishy washy”approach will destroy our game in Africa,football is a massive business and a uniting factor.As for Kalusha if the COSAFA whistle blowing allegations are true and possibly votes otherwise to ensure Kamanga does not get credit .Then thats Absurd and unpatriotic ,The MINISTER must check this and reconcile the two for the sake of nation,as he legacy might be robbed as well not to mention at expense of nation.

  17. mwamba Mulenga

    Much as we would have liked a Zambian to be a winner of the CAF Award and that kalusha Bwalaya should have voted for a Zambian, we should first understand the system of voting by the CAF Executive Committee Members.

    Caf, or FIFA Comittee members dont vote because of their Nationality or for their nationality. They have a standard and procedure for awarding someone a trophy.

    The CAF committee members vote on behalf of CAF not on behalf of their countries. this is unlike whennations vote for a representative to sit on the CAF comittee.

    therefore, we may, first of all , want to hear or know from Kalusha himself why he did give the votes as he did.

    what kind of candidate was CAF looking for? was the winner supposed to be from a team that has defied all odds to qualify to the AFCON? or from a team that will not even make an appearance there? Just what qualities where they looking for? im sure the CAF comittee members sat down and deliberated on these issues and even before they cast their vote, already knew whom they would give the award to.

    Much as im a patriotic zambian, Kalaba did not do anything extra ordianry in the year of the award, to be given that award.

    if there was a year a zambian was supposed to win it, it was the year they took the AFCON.

    so it may not be Kausha as an individual or as a Zambian, but it may have been based on principle that he cast his vote in that way.

    zambians must raise and up their game, just as in the case of Kalu himself in 1988 when he won the Africa footballer of the year. He defied all odds and the whole continent of Africa and the world chanted only one NAME in that particular year: KALUSHA BWALYA.

    Kal;usha Bwalaya has done more than any zambian, to promote and put the nation of Zambia in football, on the world map and im sure he will continue doing so, on principal and code of conduct, not because he is a Zambian from mufulira.

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